Negotiating the German Public Sphere: Workers, Soldiers, and Women in Photobooks of Weimar Germany
Kick, Verena R
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This dissertation focuses on the intersection of non-fiction writing and visual culture, specifically on the montage of texts and photos as an approach to examine the changing public sphere in Weimar Germany. “Negotiating the German Public Sphere: Workers, Soldiers and Women in Photobooks of Weimar Germany” shows how photobooks employ montage strategies associated both with 1920s Soviet Cinema and Walter Benjamin’s concepts of montage and experience to specifically address workers, soldiers, and women. An analysis of Walter Benjamin’s EinbahnstraÃ e (1928), Kurt Tucholsky’s and John Heartfield’s Deutschland, Deutschland Ã¼ber Alles (1929) and Ernst Friedrich’s two volumes of Krieg dem Kriege! (1924/1926) reveals how these photobooks offer an alternative to the biased portrayals of these social groups in Weimar Germany’s mass media. At the same time, particularly Tucholsky, Heartfield and Friedrich demonstrate to these groups, as the intended readers of their publications, the possibility of creating an effective consciousness to combat impending fascism. This work engages with the larger discussion of the representation of social classes in German literature and media, and it furthermore contributes to the scholarship on photobooks by elucidating previously uninvestigated uses of photographs and montage strategies. Chapter one focuses on Benjamin’s EinbahnstraÃ e, a collection of essays and aphorisms, which form, as I argue, modern emblems. In turning not only his short texts, but also all of EinbahnstraÃ e, including its cover image and dedication into an emblem, Benjamin deconstructs and at the same time reconstructs writing practices and, by extension, reading processes, adapting them to the changes in literary culture at the time. This analysis of Benjamin’s work serves as a framework for the next two chapters that employ certain montage techniques (similar to an emblematic structure) to both de- and re-contextualize workers and soldiers. Chapter two focuses on the working class in Tucholsky’s and Heartfield’s Deutschland, Deutschland Ã¼ber Alles, and examines the structural importance of the photobook’s text-image combinations as, what I call, “functional montages.” Their horizontal dimension on the photobook’s page, combined with a vertical dimension that forms the experience of these montages for the implied readers, enables particularly working class readers to develop a critical view of their representation in the media. Chapter three also employs the idea of the “functional montage” and analyzes the representation of WWI soldiers in Ernst Friedrich’s two volumes of Krieg dem Kriege!. Instead of showing the soldier as a fighting hero at the frontline, Friedrich uses montage methods to show him as a son and a father, as a pet owner, as a “timeless concept” in his miniature toy form, and as a witness, both of the events during the war and for the public after the war. Finally, the coda addresses the photobook’s portrayal of women. Although women constituted a big part of the readership at the time, they were often only represented stereotypically in mass media, for instance, as mothers or as objects of desire. Revisiting the representation of women and womanhood in the photobooks analyzed in previous chapters of my dissertation, I show that they offered a possibility for women to develop a self-awareness that goes beyond mass media’s black and white view of them.
- German