SLL40360 Precarious Perceptions

Academic Year 2023/2024

*** Not available in the academic year indicated above ***

Photography, the telephone, cinema, the gramophone, the motorcar, the tram, the aeroplane, and electric lighting – these are some of the pivotal technological innovations in the second machine age, heralding the modern speed politics. While the car, tram, train and plane revolutionized modern transportation and speeding up everyday life, photography, cinematography and phonography made possible the recording and transmission of images and sound. Together these technologies created radically new matrixes of perception, disrupting established notions of coherence, context and familiarity in favour of the not-yet-seen and the not-yet-heard. While this revolution of perception gave rise to a new desire for immediacy, it also caused a crisis of knowledge: the X-Ray is a good example of a technology that showed that the naked human eye was no longer a guarantor of in-depth perception. As seeing became separated from knowledge, it made way to abstraction in art and literature.

Engaging with this revolution of perception in the period from 1900 to 1930, this module explores the ‘senses of modernism’ in essays, literature, photography and film. We will ask how social commentators, writers, and artists addressed the urgent question whether and how the modern subject would cope with the rate of change and the experience of social and technological acceleration. We will also discuss contemporary debates about human attention and distraction and their aesthetic manifestation in short prose, novellas, modernist novels, and silent film. All texts will be discussed in English translation. However, readers of German are encouraged to use the German originals.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students will have an in-depth understanding of how modernist literature, art and film engaged with and responded to new technologies of perception.
They will have a historically embedded knowledge of the psychological debates on attention and distraction around 1900 in the context of modernity.
They will have the ability to critically debate and analyse select cultural theories.
They will have the ability to engage in close reading and contextual critical analysis.
They will have in-depth knowledge of the primary sources.
They will have enhanced oral presentation skills.
They will have enhanced critical writing skills.

Indicative Module Content:

Engaging with the revolution of perception in the period from 1900 to 1930, this module explores the ‘senses of modernism’ in essays, literature, photography and film. We will ask how social commentators, writers, and artists addressed the urgent question whether and how the modern subject would cope with the rate of change and the experience of social and technological acceleration. We will also discuss contemporary debates about human attention and distraction and their aesthetic manifestation in short prose, novellas, modernist novels, and silent film. All texts will be discussed in English translation. However, readers of German are encouraged to use the German originals.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities

60

Autonomous Student Learning

120

Seminar (or Webinar)

20

Total

200

Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Close textual analysis of essays, literature, photography and films that engage with the transformation of perception in the period from 1900 to 1930.
Students will be expected to prepare select secondary texts for class discussion.
All students will be required to prepare ungraded short presentations on select topics.

 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
 
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Essay: One 4000 word essay (80% of the mark) and one in-class presentation on the essay topic (20%). Unspecified n/a Graded No

100

Yes

Carry forward of passed components
Yes
 
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Primary Sources:
Photography and Film:
Berlin. Sinfonie der Großstadt. Director: Walther Ruttmann. Production: Karl Freund. Deutsche Vereins-Film AG/Fox Europa 1927.
Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt, ed. Elizabeth Otto. Berlin: Jovis, 2006.
Hannah Höch, ‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany,’ (1919-20).
Hannah Höch, ‘Das schöne Mädchen’ (1919-20)
Hannah Höch, ‘Russische Tänzerin. Mein Double’ (1928)
Hannah Höch, ‘Marlene’ (1930)
Literary works
Kafka, Franz, Betrachtung (2012). In: Gesammelte Werke in zwölf Bänden. ed. Hans-Gerd Koch. Bd. 1: Ein Landarzt und andere Drucke zu Lebzeiten. Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1994, pp. 11–36.
Kafka, Franz, ‘Contemplation’. In: Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis and Other Stories. Trans. by Michael Hofmann. London etc. Penguin Classics, 2007.
Kafka, Franz, ‘The Metamorphosis’ (1912). In: Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis and Other Stories. Trans. by Michael Hofmann. London etc. Penguin Classics, 2007.
Keun, Irmgard, Das kunstseidene Mädchen (1932). Berlin: List, 2013.
Keun, Irmgard, The Artificial Silk Girl. Trans. by Kathie von Ankum London etc.: New York, Other Press, 2011.
Walser, Robert, Jakob von Gunten. Ein Tagebuch (1908). In: Sämtliche Weke in 20 Bänden, ed. by Jochen Greven. Vol 11. Frankfurt a. M. Suhrkamp, 1985.
Walser, Robert, Jakob von Gunten. Trans. by Christopher Middleton. New York: New York Review of books 1999.
Walser, Robert, Der Spaziergang. (1916) In: Sämtliche Werke in Einzelausgaben, ed. Jochen Greven, vol. 5: 7–77. Zurich, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986.
Walser, Robert, The Walk. In: The Walk and Other Stories, trans. by Christopher Middleton, London: Serpent’s Tail, 1992.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Ed by Stella McNichol. London etc: Penguin Classics, 2019.

Essays:
Simmel, Georg, “Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben.” In: Gesamtausgabe, ed. by Rüdiger Kramme, Frankfurt a. Main: Suhrkamp, 1995, vol. 7: pp. 227–42.
Simmel, Georg, 'The Metropolis and Mental Life.' In: Simmel on Culture, ed. David Frisby and Mike Featherstone, London, New Delhi: Sage, 1997: 174—85.
Kracauer, Siegfried. “Der Kult der Zerstreuung” (1926). In: S. Kracauer, Das Ornament der Masse. Essays, Frankfurt a. Main. Suhrkamp, 1977: 311–17.
Kracauer, Siegfried, '‘The Cult of Distraction: On Berlin’s Picture Palaces.’ In: The Mass Ornament, translated and edited by Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988)
Marinetti, Filippo Tommasso, 'The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism.' In: Futurist Manifestos, edited by Umbo Apollonio, pp. 19–24. London: Thames and Hudson, 1973.

Select Secondary Sources:
Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography, trans. by R. Howard. New York: Vintage Classics, 1993.
Biro, Matthew. Hannah Höch’s New Woman: Photomontage, Distraction, and Visual Literacy in the Weimar Republic. In: Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco (eds), The New Woman International. Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2011: pp. 115-134.
*** Boa, Elizabeth. Observations on Time and Motion: Kafka’s Betrachtung and the Visual Arts Around 1900. In: Fuchs, A and Long, J.J. (eds), Time in German Literature and Culture, 1900-2015: Between Acceleration and Slowness. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016: 93-112.
*** Boa, Elizabeth. The New Woman and Satirist or Butt of Satire. Oxford German Studies 46/1 (2017): 25-41.
Bragaglia, Anton Giulio .“Exerpts from Futurist Photodynamism.” In: Photography in the Modern Era. European Documents and Critical Writings, 1913-1940, edited by Ch. Phillips, 287–95. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, 1989.
***Crary, Jonathan. Suspensions of Perceptions. Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge/Mass: MIT Press, 1999.
***Danius, Sara. The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception, and Aesthetics. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2002.
Debord, Guy. The Society of Spectacle. Detroit: Black & Red, 1970.
*** Duttlinger, Carolin. Attention & Distraction in Modern German Literature, Thought and Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2022.
Duttlinger, Carolin. “Kafkas Poetik der Aufmerksamkeit von Betrachtung bis Der Bau.” In Kafka und die kleine Prosa der Moderne/Kafka and Short Modernist Prose, edited by Manfred Engel and Ritchie Robertson, 79-97. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010.
*** Fritzsche, Peter. Reading Berlin 1900. Cambridge/Mass: Harvard UP, 1996.
***Fuchs, Anne, Precarious Times. Temporality and History in Modern German Culture. Signale Series. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019.
Fuchs, Anne. “On Unbecoming Human and the End of Genealogy in Kafka’s Die Sorge des Hausvaters.” Germanistik in Ireland: Yearbook of the German Studies Association of Ireland. 17 (2022): 117-127.
Fuchs, Anne. “Posthumane Figurationen von Beschleunigung, Tempo und Bewegungseuphorie in Kafkas Betrachtung.” In: Alexander Kling und Johannes F. Lehmann, Kafkas Zeiten. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2023, pp. 57-76.
***Fuchs, Anne and J.J. Long (eds), Time in German Literature and Culture, 1900-2015: Between Acceleration and Slowness. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Fuchs, Anne. “Why Smallness Matters. Smallness, Attention and Distraction in Franz Kafka’s and Robert Walser’s Short Short Prose.” In: Kafka und die kleine Prosa der Moderne/Kafka and Short Modernist Prose, edited by Ritchie Robertson and Manfred Engel, 167–79. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010.
***Göttsche, Dirk (ed.). Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture. Oxford etc.: Peter Lang, 2016.
Hake, Sabine. “Urban Spectacle in Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin, Symphony of the Big City.” In Dancing on the Volcano: Essays on the Culture of the Weimar Republic, edited by Stephen Brockmann and Thomas W. Kniesche, pp. 127-37. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 1994.
Hillard, Derek. “Walter Ruttmann’s Janus-Faced View of Modernity: The Ambivalence of Description in Berlin Die Sinfonie der Großstadt.” Monatshefte 96/1 (2004): 78-92.
***Huyssen, Andreas. “Modernist Miniatures: Literary Snapshots of Urban Spaces.” PMLA 122/1 (2007): 27–42.
Huyssen, Andreas. “The Vamp and the Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.” New German Critique vol. 24/25 (1981/82): 221-37.
***Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918. Cambridge/Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.
La, Kristie. Mass Media, Gender and Colonialism. The Weimar Photomontages of Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch. In: Laura Muir (ed.), Object Lessons: The Bauhaus and Harvard. Edited by Laura Muir. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums: pp. 115-130
Lavin, Maud. “Androgyny, Spectatorship, and the Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Höch.” New German Critique 51 (1990): 62-86
Long, Jonathan J. “Photography/Topography: Viewing Berlin, 1880/2000.” New German Critique 116 (Summer 2012): 25–45.
***McBride, Patrizia. Weimar-Era Montage: Perception, Expression, Story-telling. In: The Chatter of the Visible. Montage and Narrative in Weimar Germany. University of Michigan Press, 2016: 14-40.
Mitchell, W. J. T. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representations. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16.3 (1975), 6-18.
Osborne, Peter. The Politics of Time. Modernity and Avantgarde. London, New York: Verso, 1995.
Otto, Elizabeth. A ‘Schooling of the Senses’: Post-Dada Visual Experiments in the Bauhaus Photo-Montages of László Moholy-Nagy and Marianne Brandt. New German Critique 107 (2009): 89-131.
Otto, Elizabeth. The Secret History of Photomontage: On the Origins of the Composite Form and the Weimar Photomontages of Marianne Brandt: In: Kathleen Canning, Kerstin Barndt Kristin McGuire (eds), Weimar Publics/Weimar Subjects Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s. New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2010: 66-92.
***Tomlinson, John. The Culture of Speed. The Coming of Immediacy. London: Sage, 2007.
*** Uecker, Matthias, Icons of Speed – Icons of Crisis. Acceleration Effects in Weimar Culture. In: Fuchs, A and Long, J.J. (eds), Time in German Literature and Culture, 1900-2015: Between Acceleration and Slowness. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016: 113-129.
Virilio, Paul. Negative Horizon. An Essay in Dromoscopy, trans. Michael Degener. London: Continuum, 2005.
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar and Strauß 1977.
***Ward, Janet. Weimar Surfaces. Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany. Berekelxy and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.