The Mass Ornament: Weimer Essays

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1995 - Literary Collections - 403 pages
3 Reviews

Siegfried Kracauer was one of the twentieth century's most brilliant cultural critics, a daring and prolific scholar, and an incisive theorist of film. In this volume his finest writings on modern society make their long-awaited appearance in English.

This book is a celebration of the masses--their tastes, amusements, and everyday lives. Taking up themes of modernity, such as isolation and alienation, urban culture, and the relation between the group and the individual, Kracauer explores a kaleidoscope of topics: shopping arcades, the cinema, bestsellers and their readers, photography, dance, hotel lobbies, Kafka, the Bible, and boredom. For Kracauer, the most revelatory facets of modern life in the West lie on the surface, in the ephemeral and the marginal. Of special fascination to him is the United States, where he eventually settled after fleeing Germany and whose culture he sees as defined almost exclusively by "the ostentatious display of surface."

With these essays, written in the 1920s and early 1930s and edited by the author in 1963, Kracauer was the first to demonstrate that studying the everyday world of the masses can bring great rewards. The Mass Ornament today remains a refreshing tribute to popular culture, and its impressively interdisciplinary essays continue to shed light not only on Kracauer's later work but also on the ideas of the Frankfurt School, the genealogy of film theory and cultural studies, Weimar cultural politics, and, not least, the exigencies of intellectual exile.

In his introduction, Thomas Levin situates Kracauer in a turbulent age, illuminates the forces that influenced him--including his friendships with Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and other Weimar intellectuals--and provides the context necessary for understanding his ideas. Until now, Kracauer has been known primarily for his writings on the cinema. This volume brings us the full scope of his gifts as one of the most wide-ranging and penetrating interpreters of modern life.

  

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The mass ornament: Weimar essays

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Kracauer, a leading cultural critic in the Germany of the turbulent 1920s and early 1930s, shows himself in these essays to be a wide-ranging and penetrating interpreter of the everyday life of this ... Read full review

Review: Das Ornament Der Masse: Essays: Weimar Essays

User Review  - Blair - Goodreads

For me this is an underr-recognized work in the development of the Frankfurt School. Kracauer applies once-lofty and intellectual notions to the "common" art of the time, like stage dancing and plays ... Read full review

Contents

I
1
II
31
III
33
IV
37
V
41
VI
45
VII
47
VIII
65
XVII
187
XVIII
189
XIX
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XX
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XXI
225
XXII
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XXIII
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XXIV
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IX
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X
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XI
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XII
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XIII
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XIV
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XV
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XVI
173
XXV
281
XXVI
291
XXVII
307
XXVIII
323
XXIX
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XXX
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XXXI
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About the author (1995)

Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966) was the author of Theory of Film, From Caligari to Hitler, and many other works on historical, sociological, and cultural topics.

Thomas Y. Levin is Associate Professor of German at Princeton University.

Bibliographic information