Critical destructions: Kracauer and Benjamin’s Weimar writings on architecture, film, and the cultural public sphere


This study looks at Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer’s insight that film was a revolutionary break with traditional culture, arguing it is better understood by framing it within their political relationship to the emergence of Weimar’s new urban publics. Building on Miriam Hansen and Susan Buck-Morss, this essay differs from much scholarship on Benjamin and Kracauer’s work on film and publics by identifying urban architecture as an illuminating counterpart to new experiences and configurations accompanying the rise of cinema culture. Architecture was a site for transformations of the Weimar public sphere, and connects their work on film to hope for a popular modernism that could experience the city as more than a repository for capitalist labour and consumption. Using close readings of primary texts and secondary sources, this thesis clarifies the context of their authorship to invite a more precise understanding of its relevance for present concerns in media studies

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