Technology in Weimar: Monstrosity or Savior?

Web-Based Version of the Course

Course Description

The Weimar Republic has been described by many historians as the crucible in which the roots of National Socialism were forged. Although characterized by economic depression, political factionism and social decline, Weimar Germany also experienced a profound cultural growth. At the heart of this cultural growth was technology, both as mode of artistic production in the form of film and photography, and as object of critical response from liberal and conservative commentators alike.

With artistic trends like Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, Dada and Bauhaus, artistic techniques such as photomontage, cabaret, mechanical music and serialized novels, and a panoply of ideologies marking each segment of the political landscape, the position of technology in the Weimar Republic was as multifarious as the artistic, political and economic arenas that used it as its example. Using examples from the worlds of literature, art, film and politics, we will investigate the role of technology in Weimar culture, and seek to understand its positioning as a political and artistic tool. A few guiding questions for the seminar are:

  1. In what ways is technology viewed politically and artistically in Weimar?
  2. How do conservative and Marxist attitudes towards technology converge?
  3. Why is technology so prevalent as a theme within the many art trends in Weimar?

Source Material

Literary and Theoretical Background Texts
W. Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
A. Feenberg, Critical Theory of Technology
M. Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art"
M. Heidegger, "Creative Landscape: Why do I Stay in the Provinces?
H. v. Hofmannsthal, "Literature as the Spiritual Space of the Nation"
E. Jünger, The Storm Of Steel
A. Kaes, et. al. The Weimar Republic Sourcebook (Excerpts)
F. Kafka, "In the Penal Colony"
O. Spengler, Man And Technics : A Contribution To A Philosophy Of Life

The Golem, dir. C. Boese
M, dir. F. Lang
Metropolis, dir. F. Lang,
The Last Laugh, dir, F. W. Murnau,
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, dir, W. Ruttmann
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, dir. R. Wiene

Artists and Art Movements
Raoul Hausmann, Dada, Bauhaus, George Grosz, Oskar Schlemmer, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Ernst, Neue Sachlichkeit

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Daniel Gilfillan
School of International Letters & Cultures
Arizona State University
PO Box 870202
Tempe, AZ 85287-0202

dgilfil (at) asu (dot) edu
T: (480) 965-8245
F: (480) 965-0135

School of International Letters & Cultures
Arizona State University
PO Box 870202
Tempe, AZ 85287-0202
T: (480) 965-6281
F: (480) 965-0135