The Cabinet of Dr. Kracauer

The Cabinet of Dr. Kracauer

SIEGFRIED KRACAUER: AN INTRODUCTION by Gertrud Koch translated by Jeremy Gaines Princeton University Press, 2000 137 pp $14.95

SOMETIME IN the early 1990s, while I was a graduate student in Germany, I stumbled across a small paperback at one of the makeshift stands that sellers set up in front of university cafeterias. The book was called StraPen in Berlin and anderswo (Streets in Berlin and Elsewhere) and its author, Siegfried Kracauer, was somebody I knew of only from his psychological history of Weimar cinema, From Caligari to Hitler—written in English and published in America, where he was in exile, in 1947—and from his personal ties to the more renowned members of the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Leo Lowenthal, and others. What Streets in Berlin revealed in its assortment of rich, luminous essays, nearly all of them first published as articles in the 1920s, was that Kracauer had in fact enjoyed a very distin- guished career before his flight from Nazi Ger- many in 1933. Throughout the Weimar years, Kracauer published his writing—a kind of Kulturkritik, a philosophical and cultural criticism infused with analytical rigor, elegant style, and heterodox politics—in the left-liberal Frankfurter Zeitung. As a writer and editor for the newspaper’s illustrious arts pages, the so-called feuilleton section, he filed close to two thousand pieces, among them were his serial- ized examination of Weimar Germany’s rising white-collar consumer class, Die Angestellten (“The Office Workers,” 1930). Kracauer’s critique of mass culture in his essays on photography, dance, literature, cinema, and commerce

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