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Weimar ThoughtA Contested Legacy$
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Peter E. Gordon and John P. McCormick

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691135106

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691135106.001.0001

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Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Weimar Criticism

Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Weimar Criticism

(p.203) 10 Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Weimar Criticism
Weimar Thought

Michael W. Jennings

Princeton University Press

This chapter offers a careful exposition of themes and debates in Weimar Kulturkritik, or cultural criticism, focusing on its two greatest exemplars, Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer. At first tentatively, and then beginning in 1926 with a new focus and resolve, Benjamin and Kracauer set out to reinvent German cultural criticism as a form. Their writings do not simply mirror the new set of preoccupations and circumstances that characterize cultural criticism in the Weimar Republic: no other writers were so instrumental in setting its agenda and defining its formal means and strategies. Kracauer and Benjamin virtually invented the criticism of popular culture. In books and essays such as One Way Street and “Surrealism” (Benjamin) and “The Mass Ornament” and “Photography” (Kracauer), the two writers reinvent cultural analysis as a specific form of the critique of the new urban metropolis. And in doing so, they formulate what is arguably the most compelling theory of modernity ever to arise from cultural criticism.

Keywords:   Weimar Republic, Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, cultural criticism, cultural analysis

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