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Siegfried Kracauer

Siegfried Kracauer

Graeme Gilloch

ISBN: 978-0-745-68949-4 March 2015 Polity 248 Pages




This major new book offers a much-needed introduction to the work of Siegfried Kracauer, one of the main intellectual figures in the orbit of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. It is part of a timely revival and reappraisal of his unique contribution to our critical understanding of modernity, the interrogation of mass culture, and the recognition of both the dynamism and diminution of human experience in the hustle and bustle of the contemporary metropolis. In stressing the extraordinary variety of Kracauer’s writings (from scholarly philosophical treatises to journalistic fragments, from comic novels to classified reports) and the dazzling diversity of his themes (from science and urban architectural visions to slapstick and dancing girls), this insightful book reveals his fundamental and formative influence upon Critical Theory and argues for his vital relevance for cultural analysis today.

Kracauer’s work is distinguished by an acute sensitivity to the ‘surface manifestations’ of popular culture and a witty, eminently readable literary style. In exploring and making accessible the work of this remarkable thinker, this book will be indispensable for scholars and students working in many disciplines and interdisciplinary fields: sociology and social theory; film, media and cultural studies; urban studies, cultural geography and architectural theory; philosophy and Critical Theory.

Our Companion Introduced: An Intellectual Schwejk
Part I From Inner Life: Sociological Expressionism
Chapter 1 Small Mercies: The Spirit of our Times
Chapter 2 Portraits of the Age
Part II From Our Weimar Correspondent: The “Newest Germany” and Elsewhere
Chapter 3 On the Surface: The Dialectics of Ornament
Chapter 4 Berlin Impromptus
Part III From the Boulevards: Paris of the Second Empire in Kracauer
Chapter 5 Offenbach in Paris
Chapter 6 Orpheus in Hollywood
Part IV From the New World: Monstrous States, Mental Images
Chapter 7 The Caligari Complex
Chapter 8 Re-Surfacing Work
Part V From the Screen: Redeeming Images, Remembered Things
Chapter 9 Film, Improvisation and “The Flow of Life”
Chapter 10 Film, Phantasmagoria and the Street
Inconclusive: Penultimate Things

"Our Companion in Misfortune is an evocative and engaging portrait with much fresh insight into Kracauer’s wide-ranging and imaginative work as theorist and critic of media and metropolitan experience. Gilloch successfully captures Kracauer’s distinctive voice in its mix of melancholy and sharp wit. Much more than an introduction, this book gives its due to Kracauer as a major figure in the orbit of Frankfurt School Critical Theory."
Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

"Kracauer may “rest a while in peace”, but only for a while. Gilloch’s magisterial study, forces a return to Kracauer. Music, film, the city and his own literary attempts tie Kracauer to the modern. The book reveals a thinker who, in responding to the demands of his own time, writes and thinks in a way that addresses the contemporary. There is an acuity of thought that allows Kracauer to engage our modernity. Gilloch’s own power as a writer and a thinker is to stage that engagement. This is an invaluable book whose presence should be both welcomed and celebrated."
Andrew Benjamin, Monash University