ISBN: 067455163X / ISBN-13: 9780674551633
The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays
Siegfried Kracauer was one of the 20th century's major cultural critics, a prolific scholar and a theorist of film. In this volume his writings on ... Show synopsis Siegfried Kracauer was one of the 20th century's major cultural critics, a prolific scholar and a theorist of film. In this volume his writings on modern society are translated into English. This book is a celebration of the masses - their tastes, amusements, and everyday lives. Taking up themes of modernity, such as isolation and alienation, urban culture and the relation between the group and the individual, Kracauer explores a kaleidoscope of topics: shopping arcades; the cinema; bestsellers and their readers; photography; dance; hotel lobbies; Kafka; the Bible; and boredom. For Kracauer, the most revelatory facets of modern life in the West lie on the surface, in the ephemeral and the marginal. Of special fascination to him is the United States, where he eventually settled after fleeing Germany and whose culture he sees as defined almost exclusively by "the ostentatious display of surface". With these essays, written in the 1920s and early 1930s and edited by the author in 1963, Kracauer was the first to demonstrate that studying the everyday world of the masses can bring great rewards. This work remains a tribute to popular culture and its interdisciplinary essays continue to shed light not only on Kracauer's later work but also on ideas of the Frankfurt School, the genealogy of film theory and cultural studies, Weimar cultural politics, and the exigencies of intellectual exile. In his introduction, Thomas Levin situates Kracauer in a turbulent age, illuminates the forces that influenced him - including his friendships with Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and other Weimar intellectuals - and provides the context necessary for understanding his ideas.