Cinema and Experience

Cinema and Experience : Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno

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Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno - affiliated through friendship, professional ties, and argument - developed an astute philosophical critique of modernity in which technological media played a key role. This book explores in depth their reflections on cinema and photography from the Weimar period up to the 1960s. Miriam Bratu Hansen brings to life an impressive archive of known and, in the case of Kracauer, less known materials and reveals surprising perspectives on canonic texts, including Benjamin's artwork essay. Her lucid analysis extrapolates from these writings the contours of a theory of cinema and experience that speaks to questions being posed anew as moving image culture evolves in response to digital technology.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 408 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 28mm | 544g
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 0520265602
  • 9780520265608
  • 301,626

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"Like a careful gardener, Miriam Hansen planted and interwove traditions of Frankfurt critical theory, modern film history, and her own critical passions and curiosity. She is an important transatlantic bridge for the traditions of enlightenment and film art. She was not only a theoretical mind, but someone who also exerted a strong, practical influence on filmmaking. Because of her, the Minutenfilm saw a rebirth, as well as film projected onto multiple screens, the Max Ophüls renaissance, and much more. We auteurs listened to her. She was--as she sat in her Chicago office and worked, occasionally glancing over the lake--our prophet."

--Alexander Kluge, Berlin Journal



"Cinema and Experience is a doubly poignant book: simultaneously a soulful investigation into the complex fate of experience in a mass-mediated modernity and the posthumous publication of the culminating masterwork of one the master scholars of cinema studies. Rich and probing insights resonate from every page of this wonderful volume."

--Dana Polan, author of Scenes of Instruction: The Beginnings of the U.S. Study of Film



"Miriam Hansen's brilliant analysis of the cinematic experience combines a democratic respect for mass culture with the highest standards of scholarly excellence. Mickey Mouse, slapstick comedy, the photographic image and filmed reality become her keys to deciphering the philosophical differences between Adorno and Benjamin, and the philosophical significance of Kracauer's journalistic eye. The present--new media, social networking, drone warfare--is never out of her sight. For the beginning student and the advanced scholar in multiple disciplines, Hansen's writing is a gift, and a roadmap to every relevant scholarly debate. This is an indispensable book by an irreplaceable author. We shall miss her."

--Susan Buck-Morss, author of The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project



"Miriam Hansen's study is the first comprehensive reconstruction of the complex theoretical frames in which Adorno, Benjamin, and Kracauer set their philosophical thoughts on film and cinema. Hansen's profound knowledge of the complete works of these influential thinkers allows her to relate questions of film and cinema aesthetics to the core thoughts of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School in manifold and sometimes surprisingly new ways. This study will establish a new look at the Frankfurt School as well as on film theory in general."

--Gertrud Koch, author of Siegfried Kracauer: An Introduction



"In her posthumous book, Miriam Hansen offers novel readings, both subtle and robust, of Kracauer, Benjamin, and Adorno's reflections on cinema as experience, weaving often disconnected threads into a tapestry of common concepts and concerns that highlights closeness and distance between these writers in unexpected ways. What emerges is yet another Frankfurt School: Critical Theory as media aesthetics and theory of experience.

The triangulation of Adorno and Benjamin with Kracauer permits her to think beyond the annoyingly persistent accounts pitting the Eurocentric mandarin against the progressive film and media theorist. The inspirational role of Kracauer for Benjamin is finally acknowledged and Kracauer is freed from the misunderstanding of his work on photography and film as a naïve realism. And who but Miriam Hansen would have been able to link Benjamin's notion of aura--explicated in a much broadened discursive and political context--to Adorno's aesthetic of natural beauty? Thinking with Adorno beyond Adorno in modernist aesthetics, with Benjamin beyond Benjamin in media theory, with Kracauer beyond Kracauer on mass culture, she keeps the legacy of Critical Theory alive for an analysis of human experience and cultural practice in our age of digital media."

--Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University
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Table of contents

Preface Acknowledgments Abbreviations Part I. Kracauer 1. Film, Medium of a Disintegrating World 2. Curious Americanism Part II. Benjamin 3. Actuality, Antinomies 4. Aura: The Appropriation of a Concept 5. Mistaking the Moon for a Ball 6. Micky-Maus 7. Room-for-Play Part III. Adorno 8. The Question of Film Aesthetics Part IV. Kracauer in Exile 9. Theory of Film Notes Index
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Review quote

"This magisterial book is a gift... There is no other study like it." Artforum [Hansen's] reader is amply rewarded by the rich suggestiveness and expansive quality of her insights... A crowning achievement." Bookforum "A crowning achievement in its own right." -- Noah Isenberg Bookforum
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About Miriam Hansen

The late Miriam Bratu Hansen was Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago and the founding chair of what is now the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Her publications include Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film and numerous essays in international film history and film theory.
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40 ratings
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3 12% (5)
2 2% (1)
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