Final Projects

I’ve received all of your essays and am in the process of grading them.  Meanwhile, you’ll be happy to know that your Wiki projects have all been posted to the Yale Modernism Lab.  You can check them out via the links below.  Thanks for a great semester, and happy holidays to all!


The Last Laugh


The Storyteller

All Quiet on the Western Front


Doctor Faustus


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Riefenstahl in Hollywood?

Here are the links to the clips I showed at the end of class:

“Triumph of a New Hope” mash-up:

Triumph of the Will dedication ceremony:

Star Wars IV Yavin medal ceremony:

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Really a Triumph of the Will? Yea, I think so

Having never actually seen a Nazi propaganda film before, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, especially not from Triumph of the Will, perhaps the most famous of them all.  I went in with what I think is the typical American view, forged from watching about 5-10 second clips on documentaries and histories shows of Hitler right when he hits the climax of his speeches and sounds, to most Americans how don’t know German, like a raving lunatic.  However, I was a bit surprised at the presentation of the film and I did notice a few major themes, which were basically constant throughout the entire film.  The two biggest ones I noticed were the theme of unity and order, and the theme of religion.

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Posted in Crises of Authority, Videos | 1 Comment

End of Semester Deadlines

Here are the dates and deadlines for the rest of the semester.  All assignments should be submitted to me by email.

Thursday, December 1 @ 7pm in 201 DeBartolo: film screening of Triumph of the Will

Friday, December 2 @ 5pm: final draft for wiki assignment due

Thursday, December 8 @ 7pm: proposed date for dinner at my house

Wednesday, December 14 @ 5pm: final paper due

Friday, December 16 @ 5pm: final paper due for graduate students and those who have not yet taken their optional extension.

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“The Artificial Silk”

Before reading “The Artificial Silk Girl”, I really had no idea what to expect. Described as a novel hailed by feminists and censored by the Nazis, I was very intrigued at the notion of reading a novel with such polar reactions.  Throughout the first chapter, I continued to associate and draw connections between the burlesque young woman depicted in Keun’s novel with Wedekind’s Lulu. While there seem to be striking differences between the two, namely that the artificial silk girl is not a murdering sociopath, there seem to many connections between the two.

First and foremost, both Lulu and the artificial silk girl openly embrace their sexuality in blatant attempts to gain something desirable, or to climb the social ladder. In Wedekind’s “Lulu”, the reader is transported through various scenes in an attempt to emulate Lulu’s climb up the social ladder; namely, he moves from plain artist’s room to a palatial estate, thus showing Lulu’s successful attempts at using seduction to gain social stature. Likewise, in the “Artificial Silk Girl”, the young women vividly describes acting seductively to get out of a job, or in hopes of finding a new man. For example, one night in the office, she does not want to write any more letters for the “pimple-faced” attorney. In order to get out of it, she acted seductively, stating “so I put on my Marlene Dietrich face as I go inside his office, like I’m making those big eyes at him like I can’t want to jump into bed with him” (Keun, 16). This plan ultimately backfires, much like many scenes with Lulu in Wedekind’s play. Ultimately, in both works, the acts of seduction lead to a false impression of the main character, leading them into trouble. In both cases, the women’s overt attempts at seduction convince the targeted man that the women are interested in them, not that they are being manipulated for ulterior motives. Moreover, these misconceptions lead to a comic effect in both of the works.

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Posted in Big Cities and Changing Social Dynamics, Crises of Sexuality, Student-Generated | 2 Comments

Peer Review Groups

On Tuesday, we’ll spend about half of the class period conducting peer review exercises. Here are the peer review groups:

Group 1:
Codi (Nosferatu)
Michael (The Last Laugh)
Marcus (Metropolis)

Group 2:
Alex (“Dora”)
Leo (“The Storyteller”)
Patrick (All Quiet on the Western Front)

Group 3:
Jerry (Lulu Plays)
William (Doctor Faustus)

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Dada and Mechanical Reproduction

We’ll spend most of time on Tuesday discussing Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera.  Be sure to read Marcus’ blog post as well as my own guide to Weill’s music, which I put up last week.

During the first 20 minutes or so, however, I want us to briefly return to Benjamin’s essay on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” and specifically to section XIV, which we never got around to discussing in class.  In it, Benjamin discusses the rise of the international art movement called “Dada” during and after the First World War, and makes the following somewhat cryptic statements:

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The Threepenny Opera

I find it particularly striking in the Threepenny Opera how much Macheath’s and Mr. Peachum’s day-to-day ‘business’ operations revolve around and are focused on cheating in some form. Macheath’s cheating is perhaps the more obvious of the two; he makes a living as a bandit. He’s stolen much of what he has, if not indeed all of it, through various methods and by both his own agency and that of the ‘employees’ who work under him. He does not pretend to have any particular moral qualms about what he does, and in some ways glorifies himself in his position as the head of a gang of miscreants. Beyond that, even, he uses his connection with the chief of police to not only get tipped off about impending raids but also to ensure that the government isn’t able to keep a file on him.

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Giving Weill His Due

For Tuesday, you will be reading the first two acts of The Threepenny Opera (for Thursday, you should plan to read the final act as well as Brecht’s production notes, which are printed in the appendix to the Penguin edition).

Although the cover of your English edition lists Bertolt Brecht as the sole author, it is important to remember that The Threepenny Opera is indeed an opera, or at least a piece of musical theater.  Kurt Weill wrote the roughly two dozen musical numbers that made The Threepenny Opera such a hit, and his impact has been every bit as big as Brecht’s, although it manifests itself very differently.  Brecht revolutionized modern theater, and the impact of his methods is still felt on contemporary stages around the world.  But with the exception of The Threepenny Opera, Broadway never really took to his plays (just as he never took to Broadway), and I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have never heard his name.

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The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

For Thursday, we’ll be reading Walter Benjamin’s essay on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (German original title: “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner mechanischen Reproduzierbarkeit” – what would a more accurate English translation of this be?).

This is a complex piece, but also an exciting one, which probably ranks among the top ten most influential essays written in the humanities during the twentieth century.  As you read it, try to come up with concrete examples that prove or disprove what Benjamin is talking about.

And by the way, if any of you want to learn more about the history of graphic reproduction techniques, which Benjamin briefly talks about at the beginning of the essay, then I recommend this excellent site created by the Museum of Modern Art.

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