Academic journal article German Quarterly

Framed Visions. Popular Culture, Americanization, and the Contemporary German and Austrian Imagination

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Framed Visions. Popular Culture, Americanization, and the Contemporary German and Austrian Imagination

Article excerpt

Gemunden, Gerd. Framed Visions. Popular Culture, Americanization, and the Contemporary German and Austrian Imagination. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P 1998. 240 pp. $19.95.

Gerd Gemunden analyzes the work of seven German and Austrian creative artists with an eye to understanding both the complex process of Americanization and its ongoing implications. As an integration of film and literary studies with cultural studies, Gemunden's investigation has produced a thoughtful contribution to our understanding of the fluid boundaries between high art and popular culture, and it offers insights as well into the varied usefulness of the concept of postmodernism in understanding contemporary American and German/Austrian cultural directions.

In Framed Visions, Gemunden traces the dialogic relationship between German-language texts and American popular culture by using Adorno's critique of mass culture as a counterweight to his own observations. Gemunden contrasts Adorno's polemical vision of modernism with specific challenges to traditional culture that have been posed by American popular culture and mass media and examines in particular the manner in which individual artists have responded to those challenges. He begins with the example of Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks and the reaction to its composition and framing by artists who, instead of still images, use either words or moving pictures or both. It is a well-chosen springboard for the ensuing discussion of the "framed visions" that have been set up for Germanlanguage writers and filmmakers by the postwar prominence of American culture. The analogy allows Gemunden on the one hand to elaborate the limitations imposed by the influx of American popular culture and on the other hand to redeem popular culture by demonstrating its potential to be creative and discerning. Popular culture and concomitant Americanization have been historically useful as means, as mask, and as mirror in the German search for self identity In his introduction, the author, who terms himself an "Americanized German," adds a personal dimension to his historical and theoretical emphases by citing his own indebtedness to American popular culture (a candid homage to Frank Zappa's lyrics) in support of the idea that the "frame" can be liberating.

Organizing his book into a triadic structure, Gemunden first elaborates the interconnectedness between the historical German and Austrian avant-garde and popular culture in essays entitled "From Andy Warhol to Rolf Dieter Brinkmann" and "Watching Television with Elfriede Jelinek. …

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