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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29693

Title: The Negative Church of Modernity: Siegfried Kracauer, Secularization, and Cultural Crisis in Weimar Germany
Authors: Craver, Harry
Advisor: Eksteins, Modris
Department: History
Keywords: Kracauer, Siegfried
German History
Issue Date: 30-Aug-2011
Abstract: In this study I investigate the early work of the German writer Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966) in relation to contemporary discourses of religious revival and secularization. Kracauer was one of the most renowned journalists of Weimar Germany. By the time he fled to Paris in 1933, he had written hundreds of articles for the Frankfurter Zeitung and other periodicals; he also had written sociological works and a novel. In this variegated collection of writing, Kracauer outlined a critique of mass culture that in some respects anticipated both the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and the concerns of cultural studies in our own day. His subsequent work, written after his emigration to the United States in 1941, contributed to the early development of film studies, and it is for this work that he is primarily known. My dissertation explores the prehistory of Kracauer’s critique of mass culture, in particular, the origins of this critique in his writing prior to 1926. In this period, he closely observed and participated in contemporary philosophical debates on questions of religion and secularism. I argue that these issues occupy a position of fundamental importance in Kracauer’s idea of criticism. Between the collision and collusion of discourses concerning the religious and the profane, Kracauer defined a space for critical practice, a space that accepted a theologically influenced view of the secular age as an age of crisis. Even after Kracauer turned, later in his career, towards a more positive valuation of secular modernity, the modern remained for him a crisis-ridden state that required the mediating efforts of the critic. His critical practice, moreover, was informed by his attempt to secularize theological concepts, in terms of both substance and rhetorical strategy. Messianic and Gnostic traditions within Judaism influenced Kracauer, but his approach to this issue was ultimately eclectic, responding to a wide array of sources including the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard. Though previous studies have pointed out that metaphysical impulses informed Kracauer’s work, an extensive analysis of his engagement with contemporary religious movements is still needed. This dissertation situates Kracauer within these movements and discusses how his criticism evolved in relation to the claims of these competing discourses. Using Kracauer as a case study, I argue that the confrontation between the religious and the profane was a common reference point for intellectual debate, and that this conflict was pervasive in the bitterly contested cultural politics of the Weimar Republic, preparing the ground for National Socialism.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29693
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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