The curious humanist : Siegfried Kracauer in America

Von Moltke, Johannes, 1966- author

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  • Creator Johannes von Moltke
  • Format Books
  • Publication Oakland, California : University of California Press, [2016] ©2016
  • Physical Details
    • xi, 317 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
  • ISBNs 9780520290938, 0520290933, 9780520290945, 0520290941, 9780520964853
  • OCLC ocn923795984


  • "Siegfried Kracauer is today considered one of the key thinkers of the twentieth century. During the Weimar Republic, he established himself as a trenchant theorist of film, culture, and modernity, now often ranked alongside his friends Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno. When he arrived in Manhattan aboard a crowded refugee ship in 1941, however, he was virtually unknown in the United States and had yet to write his best-known books, From Caligari to Hitler and Theory of Film. In this study, Johannes von Moltke details the intricate ways in which the American intellectual and political context shaped Kracauer's seminal contributions to film studies and shows how Kracauer's American writings helped shape the emergent discipline in turn. Through archival sources and detailed readings of Kracauer's work, von Moltke reconstructs what it means to consider Siegfried Kracauer as the New York Intellectual he became when he settled in Manhattan for the last quarter century of his life. Here, he found an institutional home at the MoMA film library, contributed to communications and propaganda research under the aegis of the Rockefeller Foundation, and published in the influential "little magazines" of the New York Intellectuals. Adopting a transatlantic perspective on Kracauer's work, von Moltke demonstrates how he pursued questions that animated contemporary critics from Adorno to Hannah Arendt, from Clement Greenberg to Robert Warshow: questions about the origins of totalitarianism and the authoritarian personality, about high and low culture, about liberalism, democracy, and what it means to be human. From these wide-flung conversations and debates, Kracauer's own voice emerges as that of an incisive cultural critic invested in a humanist understanding of the cinema."--Provided by publisher.


  • Includes bibliographical references (pages 221-302) and index.


  • Introduction: Siegfried Kracauer and the politics of film theory -- Metropolitan contact zones: Kracauer in New York -- Totalitarian propaganda -- Nazi cinema -- Freedom from fear? -- From Hitler to Caligari: spaces of Weimar cinema -- Authoritarian, totalitarian -- Reframing Caligari: the politics of cinema -- Theory of film and the subject of experience -- The curious humanist -- History and humanist subjectivity -- Epilogue: Siegfried Kracauer and the emergence of film studies
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