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Siegfried Kracauer (1889 - 1966)
Lifespan: 1889 - 1966
Related: theory of boredom - Walter Benjamin (friend) - Frankfurt School - Weimar culture - film theory - film criticism
Kracauer analyzed and critiqued the phenomena of modern mass culture. He built up a general theories based upon dozens of smaller examples. His attention to detail lends itself to an inductive method. He was one of the first to treat the cinema seriously; in it he saw a mirror of social conditions and desires. [Aug 2006]
Siegfried Kracauer (February 8, 1889, Frankfurt am Main, Germany - November 26, 1966, New York) was a journalist, sociologist, and film critic.
Between 1907 and 1913 Kracauer studied architecture, eventually obtaining a doctorate in engineering in 1914 and working as an architect in Osnabrueck, Munich, and Berlin until 1920.
From 1922 to 1933 he worked as the leading film and literature editor of the Frankfurt newspaper in Berlin, where he worked alongside Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch, amongst others. Between 1923 and 1925, he worte an essay entitled Der Detektiv-Roman (The Detective Novel), in which he concerned himself with the everday life phenomenom of modern civil society.
Kracauer contined this trend over the next few years, building up theoretical methods of analyzing circuses, photography, films, advertising, tourism, city layout and dance, which he published in 1927 with the work Ornament der Masse (Ornaments of the Masses).
He became increasingly critical of capitalism (having read the works of Karl Marx) and eventually broke away from Frankfurt newspaper. About this same time (1930), he married Lili Ehrenreich.
In 1933, Kracauer emigrated to Paris, for political reasons. However, Nazism continued to spread and so he, in 1939, immigrated to the USA.
From 1941 to 1943 he worked in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, supported by Guggenheim and Rockefeller scholarships for his work in German film. Eventually, he published From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film,, (1947) which traces the birth of National Socialism from the cinema of the Weimar Republic as well as helping lay the foundation of modern film criticism. (ISBN 0691115192)
In 1960, he released "Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality," which argues that realism is the most important function of cinema. (ISBN 0691037043)
In the last years of his life Kracauer worked as a sociologist for different institutes, amongst them in New York as a director of research for applied social sciences at Columbia University. He died there, in 1966, from the consequences of pneumonia.
Kracauer analyzed and critiqued the phenomena of modern mass culture. He built up a general theories based upon dozens of smaller examples. His attention to detail lends itself to an inductive method. He was one of the first to treat the cinema seriously; in it he saw a mirror of social conditions and desires.
Theodor Adorno viewed Kracauer as one of the major contributors to his work. Another alcolyte is Kurt Tucholsky, who admired Kracauer's scientific approach to writing. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siegfried_Kracauer [Aug 2004]
Theory of Film (1960) - Siegfried Kracauer
- Theory of Film (1960) - Siegfried Kracauer [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
"Kracauer's profound theoretical investigation revealed film as the form that best captured the new modes of experience that characterize modernity. Miriam Hansen's brilliant introduction chronicles the work's genesis and transformation through Kracauer's conversations with Adorno and Benjamin, his flight from the Nazis, and his uneasy assimilation into the Cold-War United States." --Tom Gunning, University of Chicago
Siegfried Kracauer's classic study, originally published in 1960, explores the distinctive qualities of the cinematic medium. The book takes its place alongside works in classical film theory by such figures as Bela Balázs, Rudolf Arnheim, and André Bazin, among others, and has met with much critical dispute. In this new edition, Miriam Bratu Hansen, examining the book in the context of Kracauer's extensive film criticism from the 1920s, provides a framework for appreciating the significance of Theory of Film for contemporary film theory.
From Caligari to Hitler (1947) - Siegfried Kracauer
- From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film (1947) - Siegfried Kracauer [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
A landmark, now classic, study of the rich cinematic history of the Weimar Republic, From Caligari to Hitler was first published by Princeton University Press in 1947. Siegfried Kracauer--a prominent German film critic and member of Walter Benjamin's and Theodor Adorno's intellectual circle--broke new ground in exploring the connections between film aesthetics, the prevailing psychological state of Germans in the Weimar era, and the evolving social and political reality of the time. Kracauer's pioneering book, which examines German history from 1921 to 1933 in light of such movies as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel, has never gone out of print. Now, over half a century after its first appearance, this beautifully designed and entirely new edition reintroduces Kracauer for the twenty-first century. Film scholar Leonardo Quaresima places Kracauer in context in a critical introduction, and updates the book further with a new bibliography, index, and list of inaccuracies that crept into the first edition. This volume is a must-have for the film historian, film theorist, or cinema enthusiast. --Princeton University
The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (1995) - Siegfried Kracauer
The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (1995) - Siegfried Kracauer
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
The Mass Ornament is a collection of essays first published in 1995. It features a 1924 essay entitled Boredom.
"People today who still have time for boredom and yet are not bored are certainly just as boring as those who never get around to being bored."
"Boredom becomes the the only proper occupation, since it provides a kind of guarantee that one is, so to speak, still in control of one's existence... [O]ne flirts with ideas that even become quite respectable in the process, and one considers various projects that, for no reason, pretend to be serious. Eventually one becomes content to do nothing more than be with oneself, without knowing what one actually should be doing... And in ecstasy you name what you have always lacked: the great passion."
Anne Galloway writes:Kracauer writes about boredom as a way of resisting constant distraction or, in other words, defying Debord's spectacle and Lefebvre's colonisation of everyday life by the commodity. But [Ben] Highmore suggests that Kracauer also shares an affinity with 1970s punk: "to declare yourself bored is not a mark of failure but the necessary precondition for the possibility of generating the authentically new (rather than the old dressed up as the new)." --http://www.purselipsquarejaw.org/2005/02/in-favour-of-boredom.php [Oct 2006]
See also: boredom - Siegfried Kracauer - 1924
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