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Siegfried Kracauer:
An Introduction
Gertrud Koch
Translated by Jeremy Gaines

Paperback | 2000 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691049922
200 pp. | 6 x 9 | 1 line illus.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400823642 |
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Siegfried Kracauer has been misunderstood as a naïve realist, appreciated as an astute critic of early German film, and noticed as the interesting exile who exchanged letters with Erwin Panofsky. But he is most widely thought of as the odd uncle of famed Frankfurt School critical theorists Jürgen Habermas, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and Max Horkheimer. Recently, however, scholars have rediscovered in Kracauer's writings a philosopher, sociologist, and film theorist important beyond his associations--and perhaps one of the most significant cultural critics of the twentieth century. Gertrud Koch advances this Kracauer renaissance with the first-ever critical assessment of his entire body of work.

Koch's analysis, which is concise without sacrificing thoroughness or sophistication, covers both Kracauer's best-known publications (e.g., From Caligari to Hitler, in which he gleans the roots of National Socialism in the films of the Weimar Republic) and previously underexamined texts, including two newly discovered autobiographical novels. Because Kracauer's wide-ranging works emerge from no rigidly unified approach, instead always remaining open to unusual and highly individual perspectives, Koch resists the temptation to force generalization. She does, however, identify recurring tropes in Kracauer's lifetime effort to perceive the basic posture and composition of particular cultures through their visual surfaces. Koch also finds in Kracauer a surprisingly contemporary cultural commentator, whose ideas speak directly to current discussions on film, urban modernity, feminism, cultural representation, violence, and other themes.

This book was long-awaited in Germany, as well as widely and well reviewed. Now translated into English for the first time, it will fuel already growing interest in the United States, where Kracauer lived and wrote from 1941 until his death in 1966. It will attract the attention of students and scholars working in Film Studies, German Studies, Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, Cultural Studies, Philosophy, and History.


Koch does an admirable job of providing a greater sense . . . of Kracauer's life and work. Implicit in her reevaluation is the understanding that readers, especially on this side of the Atlantic, still have much to discover."--Noah Isenberg, Dissent


"Gertrud Koch has written a most lucid and much-needed analytical introduction to the diverse work of Siegfried Kracauer. Her study is brief yet comprehensive, both precise and incisive, deferent to previous scholarship yet never derivative. Koch's book is decidedly original in its sensitivity to recurrent metaphors (especially spatial images) that provide crucial points of orientation and focus throughout Kracauer's complex oeuvre."--Eric Rentschler, Harvard University

"Gertrud Koch's probing, sensitive, and demanding study of the work of Siegfried Kracauer is the first such sustained analysis of the wide range of Kracauer's writings in any language. The book represents the state of the art of scholarship on Kracauer, fully conversant with the extensive published works, the fascinating unpublished archival holdings in Marbach, and the wide range of secondary Kracauer literature in both German and English."--Thomas Y. Levin, Princeton University

Table of Contents:

Preface vii
Time Line of Kracauer's Life ix
CHAPTER 1 The Early Days: A Biographical Sketch 3
CHAPTER 2 The Early Phenomenology of Modernity and Mass Culture:
Of Hotel Lobbies and Detective Novels 11
CHAPTER 3 Surface and Self-Representation: "The Mass Ornament" and Die Angestellten 26
CHAPTER 4 Autobiography and Social Biography: Ginster, Georg, and Offenbach 48
CHAPTER 5 Continuity and Mentality: "From Caligari to Hitler" 75
CHAPTER 6 Space, Time, and Apparatus: The Optical Medium "Theory of Film" 95
CHAPTER 7 At the End: A Philosophy of History and Historiography 114
Notes 121
Bibliography 131
Index 133

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