Looking for something good to read? Here are some suggestions for fans of Louise Brooks and early film – be it the silent era, pre-code, or golden age of Hollywood. Fans of Louise Brooks will also want to check out the “Best 2012 releases for the Louise Brooks Fan” which appeared earlier on rootshed.com. It includes newly released books, e-books and DVDs. Also, a “Best Film Books of 2012” appeared on the Huffington Post. It includes books on Mae Murray, Thelma Todd, Mary Pickford, Lupe Velez and other noted individuals from the silent era.
As just about every Louise Brooks fan knows, the actress made two films in Germany, Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl (both 1929). Each were made against the backdrop of considerable artistic ferment and social change. All, it seemed then, was in flux.
This year and last, a handful of academic and specialty presses released books which look at various aspects of the Weimar era in Germany. Here are a few of most interesting titles which sketch that time and place. Each book is followed by the publisher supplied description.
The Artificial Silk Girl, by Irmgard Keun (Other Press, 2011 reprint)
In 1931, a young woman writer living in Germany was inspired by Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to describe pre-war Berlin and the age of cinematic glamour through the eyes of a woman. The resulting novel, The Artificial Silk Girl, became an acclaimed bestseller and a masterwork of German literature, in the tradition of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories and Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. Like Isherwood and Brecht, Keun revealed the dark underside of Berlin’s “golden twenties” with empathy and honesty. Unfortunately, a Nazi censorship board banned Keun’s work in 1933 and destroyed all existing copies of The Artificial Silk Girl. Only one English translation was published, in Great Britain, before the book disappeared in the chaos of the ensuing war. Today, more than seven decades later, the story of this quintessential “material girl” remains as relevant as ever, as an accessible new translation brings this lost classic to light once more. Other Press is pleased to announce the republication of The Artificial Silk Girl, elegantly translated by noted Germanist Kathie von Ankum, and with a new introduction by Harvard professor Maria Tatar.
Women in Weimar Fashion: Discourses & Displays in German Culture, 1918-1933, by Mila Ganeva (Camden House, 2011)
In the Weimar Republic, fashion was not only manipulated by the various mass media — film, magazines, advertising, photography, and popular literature — but also emerged as a powerful medium for women’s self-expression. Female writers and journalists, including Helen Grund, Irmgard Keun, Vicki Baum, Elsa Maria Bug, and numerous others engaged in a challenging, self-reflective commentary on current styles. By regularly publishing on these topics in the illustrated press and popular literature, they transformed traditional genres and carved out significant public space for themselves. This book re-evaluates paradigmatic concepts of German modernism such as the flâneur, the Feuilleton, and Neue Sachlichkeit in the light of primary material unearthed in archival research: fashion vignettes, essays, short stories, travelogues, novels, films, documentaries, newsreels, and photographs. Unlike other studies of Weimar culture that have ignored the crucial role of fashion, the book proposes a new genealogy of women’s modernity by focusing on the discourse and practice of Weimar fashion, in which the women were transformed from objects of male voyeurism into subjects with complex, ambivalent, and constantly shifting experiences of metropolitan modernity.
The Many Faces of Weimar Cinema: Rediscovering Germany’s Filmic Legacy, edited by Christian Rogowski (Camden House, 2011)
Traditionally, Weimar cinema has been equated with the work of a handful of auteurist filmmakers and a limited number of canonical films. Often a single, limited phenomenon, “expressionist film,” has been taken as synonymous with the cinema of the entire period. But in recent decades, such reductive assessments have been challenged by developments in film theory and archival research that highlight the tremendous richness and diversity of Weimar cinema. This widening of focus has brought attention to issues such as film as commodity; questions of technology and genre; transnational collaborations and national identity; effects of changes in socioeconomics and gender roles on film spectatorship; and connections between film and other arts and media. Such shifts have been accompanied by archival research that has made a cornucopia of new information available, now augmented by the increased availability of films from the period on DVD. This wealth of new source material calls for a re-evaluation of Weimar cinema that considers the legacies of lesser-known directors and producers, popular genres, experiments of the artistic avant-garde, and nonfiction films, all of which are aspects attended to by the essays in this volume.
The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910-1937, by Jacqeline Strecker (Prestel Publishing, 2012)
This insightful volume focuses on the full array of artists and movements of the German avant-garde. The years between the birth of the Weimar Republic and Hitler’s rise to power were marked by explosive creative output. This volume surveys every major movement of Germany’s modernist period. Focusing on the work and interactions of several important artists. Starting with the Expressionists’ emotionally fraught reaction to the country’s march to war, the book then follows the nihilist movement as it recorded-and attempted to make sense of-the horrors of war. The emergence of Dadaism, the utopian vision of the Bauhaus School, and the practical ideologies of the New Objectivity movement are also given close consideration. Stunning reproductions of more than 200 works reflect the fascinating and complex ways artists responded to the forces of modernity with passion, anger, dark humor, and despair. Informative essays explore the historical events that shaped those artistic innovations as well as the often-tense relationship between art and politics during this critical time in the history of the Western World. The result is a wide-ranging exploration of one of the most dynamic and influential periods of artistic output.
Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940, edited by Iain Boyd Whyte and David Frisby (University of California Press, 2012)
Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940 reconstitutes the built environment of Berlin during the period of its classical modernity using over two hundred contemporary texts, virtually all of which are published in English translation for the first time. They are from the pens of those who created Berlin as one of the world’s great cities and those who observed this process: architects, city planners, sociologists, political theorists, historians, cultural critics, novelists, essayists, and journalists. Divided into nineteen sections, each prefaced by an introductory essay, the account unfolds chronologically, with the particular structural concerns of the moment addressed in sequence–be they department stores in 1900, housing in the 1920s, or parade grounds in 1940. Metropolis Berlin: 1880-1940 not only details the construction of Berlin, but explores homes and workplaces, public spaces, circulation, commerce, and leisure in the German metropolis as seen through the eyes of all social classes, from the humblest inhabitants of the city slums, to the great visionaries of the modern city, and the demented dictator resolved to remodel Berlin as Germania.
Berlin Psychoanalytic: Psychoanalysis and Culture in Weimar Republic Germany and Beyond, by Veronika Fuechtner (University of California Press, 2011)
One hundred years after the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute was established, this book recovers the cultural and intellectual history connected to this vibrant organization and places it alongside the London Bloomsbury group, the Paris Surrealist circle, and the Viennese fin-de-siecle as a crucial chapter in the history of modernism. Taking us from World War I Berlin to the Third Reich and beyond to 1940s Palestine and 1950s New York–and to the influential work of the Frankfurt School–Veronika Fuechtner traces the network of artists and psychoanalysts that began in Germany and continued in exile. Connecting movements, forms, and themes such as Dada, multi-perspectivity, and the urban experience with the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, she illuminates themes distinctive to the Berlin psychoanalytic context such as war trauma, masculinity and femininity, race and anti-Semitism, and the cultural avant-garde. In particular, she explores the lives and works of Alfred Doumlblin, Max Eitingon, Georg Groddeck, Karen Horney, Richard Huelsenbeck, Count Hermann von Keyserling, Ernst Simmel, and Arnold Zweig.
The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany, by Katie Sutton (Berghahn Books, 2011)
Throughout the Weimar period the so-called “masculinization of woman” was much more than merely an outsider or subcultural phenomenon; it was central to representations of the changing female ideal, and fed into wider debates concerning the health and fertility of the “German race” following the rupture of war. While some commentators celebrated this new, “masculine” woman in her short skirt, tuxedo, and pageboy haircut as symbolic of women’s entrance into non-traditional fields of work, leisure, and consumption, others held her up as a warning against deviating too far from traditional ideas about men’s and women’s “roles.” Drawing on recent developments within the history of sexuality, this book sheds new light on representations and discussions of the masculine woman within the Weimar print media from 1918-1933. It traces the connotations and controversies surrounding this figure from her rise to media prominence in the early 1920s until the beginning of the Nazi period, considering questions of race, class, sexuality, and geography. By focusing on styles, bodies and identities that did not conform to societal norms of binary gender or heterosexuality, this book contributes to our understanding of gendered lives and experiences at this pivotal juncture in German history.
Banned in Berlin: Literary Censorship in Imperial Germany, 1871-1918, by Gary D. Stark (Berghahn Books, 2012)
Imperial Germany s governing elite frequently sought to censor literature that threatened established political, social, religious, and moral norms in the name of public peace, order, and security. It claimed and exercised a prerogative to intervene in literary life that was broader than that of its Western neighbors, but still not broad enough to prevent the literary community from challenging and subverting many of the social norms the state was most determined to defend. This study is the first systematic analysis in any language of state censorship of literature and theater in imperial Germany (1871 – 1918). To assess the role that formal state controls played in German literary and political life during this period, it examines the intent, function, contested legal basis, institutions, and everyday operations of literary censorship as well as its effectiveness and its impact on authors, publishers, and theater directors.
Thomas Gladysz is a Bay Area arts and entertainment writer and early film buff, as well as the Director of the Louise Brooks Society, an internet-based archive and international fan club devoted to the silent film star. Gladysz has contributed to books on the actress, organized exhibits, appeared on television and radio, and introduced Brooks’ films around the world. In 2010, he edited and wrote the introduction to the “Louise Brooks Edition” of Margarete Bohme’s The Diary of a Lost Girl.