The legendary correspondence between the critic Walter Benjamin and the historian Gershom Scholem bears indispensable witness to the inner lives of two remarkable and enigmatic personalities. Benjamin, acknowledged today as on of the leading literary and social critics of his day, was known during his lifetime by only a small circle of friends and intellectual confreres. Scholem recognized the genius of his friend and mentor during their student days in Berlin, and the two began to correspond after Scholem’s emigration to Palestine. Their impassioned exchange draws the reader into the very heart of their complex relationship during the anguished years from 1932 until Benjamin’s death in 1940.
This special issue of New German Critique explores the art of Dada and photomontage in transnational contexts. Dadaism, an art movement cultivated during World War I, questioned traditional aesthetics and eventually led to the formation of surrealism. Focusing on Dada’s achievements in building a network of artists in Europe and America, this issue examines photomontage as an integral part of the movement, as well as its relationship to mass media, photography, propaganda, constructivism, and left-wing politics in the Soviet Union and western Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.
The central figure of the issue is John Heartfield, a Dadaist who influenced much of the art world in Europe after World War I. The collection investigates Heartfield’s lesser-known early work with cinema in the service of the German High Command. Believing that photographic cinema was akin to war propaganda, Heartfield rejected live-action war footage in favor of American cinematic animation to promote an honest discussion about the horror and realities of war. One essay explores Heartfield’s photomontages while turning to film theory as a way of interpreting the politics of his work, demonstrating how his photomontages retain the organic and traditional nature of photography even as they produce cognitive dissonance and satire. Another essay on Heartfield’s role in Soviet discussions of the 1930s offers fascinating insights based on new archival research. The issue also looks at the relationship between Heartfield and the illustrated German magazine Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung and how that magazine influenced photomontage across Europe.
This issue examines the legacy of Nazi-looted art in light of the 2012 discovery of the famous Hildebrand Gurlitt collection of stolen artwork in Germany. When the German government declassified the case almost two years later, the resulting scandal raised fundamental questions about the role of art dealers in the Third Reich, the mechanics of the Nazi black market for artwork, the shortcomings of postwar denazification, the failure of courts and governments to adjudicate stolen artwork claims, and the unwillingness of museums to determine the provenance of thousands of looted pieces of art. The contributors to this issue explore the continuities of art dealerships and auction houses from the Nazi period to the Federal Republic and take stock of the present political and cultural debate over the handling of this artwork.
Special topic contributors. Konstantin Akinsha, Meike Hoffmann, Andreas Huyssen, Lawrence M. Kaye, Olaf Peters, Jonathan Petropoulos, Anson Rabinbach, Avinoam Shalem, Julia Voss, Amy Walsh
This issue explores how intellectual theories migrate from Germany to the United States, asking what makes one theory compatible with and successful in the new society while others have little impact. Avoiding the obvious successes (from Marx to the Frankfurt School) and failures (authors whose translated works have had no effect on intellectual life in the United States), contributors investigate complicated cases in which the US reception was not particularly intense. The examples of Hans Blumenberg, Friedrich Kittler, Reinhardt Koselleck, Siegfried Kracauer, Niklas Luhmann, Alexander Mitscherlich, and Gershom Scholem prompt questions about the importance of clear translations, the effects of the publishing business on dissemination, the transformations that theoretical work undergoes as it moves from its original contexts to new ones, and the role of disciplines and interdisciplinarity in shaping a theory's reception.
Contributors. Yaacob Dweck, Philipp Felsch, Paul Fleming, Dagmar Herzog, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, Andreas Huyssen, Martin Jay, Anna Kinder, Joe Paul Kroll, Anson Rabinbach, William Rasch, Johannes von Moltke, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Robert Zwarg