Annexation Effects: Cultural Appropriation and the Politics of Place in Czech-German Films, 1930-1945
Johnson, Kevin B.
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The dissertation maps various points of cultural transfer in Czech-German films of the 1930s and 1940s. Specifically, it examines the representation and performance of ethnicity and the layered connections between geographic space, national identity, and mass culture. My work illustrates that Nazi cinema's appropriation of Czech culture was informed and, more importantly, legitimated by the Austro-Hungarian legacy. This analysis provides a framework for understanding the German film industry's stake in the Czech lands and its people. The dissertation further demonstrates the peculiar position within the German cinematic imagination occupied by Prague and the Czech territories. At once "familiar" and "foreign," these cinematic spaces become settings for ethnic confrontation and for the negotiation of German identity. Each chapter examines the intersection of German and Czech cinema from a different thematic or historical perspective. Chapter One deals with questions of authorship and transnationalism in films by Czech-German directors. Chapter Two looks at the staging of female bodies and the performance of ethnic masquerade by Czech actors in German films. Chapter Three explores the affinities between genre, geography, and concepts of Heimat in the context of German, Austrian, and "Bohemian" cinema. Chapter Four investigates the politics of place and identity in Czech-German multiple language version films (or MLVs) of the 1930s. Chapter Five examines the special role of "Prague" in the German cinematic imagination. Chapter Six analyzes films produced in occupied Prague within the larger context of Third Reich cinema. The study offers detailed analyses of various discourses relevant to German-Czech cultural transfer and appropriation in Third Reich cinema. It employs a broad base of resources including newspapers, film journals, unpublished correspondence, as well as films and advertising materials. My research combines close readings of films with background information (biographies, production notes, distribution and reception history, etc.) relevant for their cinematic and cultural contextualization. The dissertation integrates individual film analyses into larger discourses on popular film, genre, authorship, and national cinema. By addressing various sites of intercultural confrontation, the project contributes to the understanding of Third Reich cinema's national and transnational imagination.
- German