Event Title

Shock Therapy: Horror Aesthetics in German Modernism

Presenter Information

Sean Lambert, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 335

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-28-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 2:50 PM

Abstract

This senior Honors project examines the connection between two movements in German culture during the 1920’s: the spread of art and literature that horrifies, shocks and disorients, and the parallel development of German modernism. It attempts to answer the questions, why is Weimar culture so saturated with horror aesthetics, and how do the goals of horror intersect with those of modernist art? By looking at examples of German literature, film, visual art, and philosophy, this project interrogates the way that the uncanny functions as a political response to the material conditions of Weimar Germany. In writing against thinkers such as Siegfried Kracauer, who have dismissed the horror elements of works from this time as apolitical or politically ineffectual, my study recuperates the usefulness of the uncanny in diagnosing and coping with a fraying democracy. Studying the politics of aesthetics in the German interwar period has particular relevance today: as America moves from its own costly war and subsequent economic recession into political instability, we might ask ourselves, what value do horror aesthetics have for representing our own political moment?

Keywords:

German literature, aesthetics, horror, modernism

Notes

Session I, Panel 5 - German | Aesthetics
Moderator: Steven Huff, Professor of German

Major

Comparative Literature; Creative Writing

Advisor(s)

Elizabeth Hamilton, German Language & Literatures
Dan Chaon, Creative Writing

Project Mentor(s)

Gabriel Cooper, German Language & Literatures

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Apr 28th, 1:30 PM Apr 28th, 2:50 PM

Shock Therapy: Horror Aesthetics in German Modernism

King Building 335

This senior Honors project examines the connection between two movements in German culture during the 1920’s: the spread of art and literature that horrifies, shocks and disorients, and the parallel development of German modernism. It attempts to answer the questions, why is Weimar culture so saturated with horror aesthetics, and how do the goals of horror intersect with those of modernist art? By looking at examples of German literature, film, visual art, and philosophy, this project interrogates the way that the uncanny functions as a political response to the material conditions of Weimar Germany. In writing against thinkers such as Siegfried Kracauer, who have dismissed the horror elements of works from this time as apolitical or politically ineffectual, my study recuperates the usefulness of the uncanny in diagnosing and coping with a fraying democracy. Studying the politics of aesthetics in the German interwar period has particular relevance today: as America moves from its own costly war and subsequent economic recession into political instability, we might ask ourselves, what value do horror aesthetics have for representing our own political moment?