- Series: Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism (Book 27)
- Paperback: 369 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First edition (April 2, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520222997
- ISBN-13: 978-0520222991
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,019,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism) First Edition
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"This outstanding book has retrieved all the luminous qualities of its subject matter to produce an astonishing revelation of gleaming appearances on splendid display. It is unrivalled by any previous study." - Marcus Bullock, coeditor of Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings 1913-26 "Weimar Surfaces creates provocative new connections between the historical constellations that found a privileged expression in Weimar Berlin and the more contemporary debates on the legacies of modernism and modernity. A compelling study." - Sabine Hake, author of The Cinema's Third Machine "Janet Ward's study of Weimar architecture and design is the most comprehensive and integrated study of the surface of Weimar experience yet written.... A first-rate and stimulating book." - Sander L. Gilman, coauthor of Hysteria Beyond Freud"
From the Inside Flap
"Weimar Surfaces creates provocative new connections between the historical constellations that found a privileged expression in Weimar Berlin and the more contemporary debates on the legacies of modernism and modernity. A compelling study."―Sabine Hake, author of The Cinema's Third Machine
"Janet Ward's study of Weimar architecture and design is the most comprehensive and integrated study of the surface of Weimar experience yet written. . . . A first-rate and stimulating book."―Sander L. Gilman, coauthor of Hysteria Beyond Freud
Top customer reviews
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Janet Ward's book does a good job of describing the various ways that artists created a half-Utopian/half-nightmare landscape in post-war Berlin, using neon, stone, and a lot of glass. Special attention is given to advertisements of the era, and in the applied art of shop window dressing/arrangement. The latter might seem unworthy of such attention, but the art of window dressing was serious business in Germany (and Europe in general, at the time) with specialized schools and guilds flourishing in in the metropolises. It is no accident that the man who (for good or ill) defined postmodern art better than anyone else, Andy Warhol, came from this background.
Mx. Ward also deserves credit for mustering the arguments of intellectuals who usually get short shrift when this subject comes up (i.e. Ernst Junger and Friedrich Nietzsche); she also ably questions the premises and conclusions of such well-known and rarely challenged men like Siegfried Kracauer and even Karl Marx (Kracauer, for whatever reason, always seems to have a malicious streak when talking about the female's role in capitalism's growth, portraying everything from mannequins to chorus-line girls as part of some insatiable vagina dentata trying to siphon all the wonderful socialism out of the world). Dr. Ward also does a good job resisting and repudiating the de rigeur temptation to show how every or any German cultural current (here advertising and applied arts) somehow fatalistically lead to the rise of the Nazis. This is something the aforementioned Siegfried Kracauer (in the so-smart-he's-stupid camp Orwell delineated) made into a book-length study. It is hard, though, to accuse admen of doing spadework for the Nazis when the undisputed master of ad propaganda (Edward Bernays) was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and descended from the line of one of the most famous rabbis in European Jewry (Isaac Bernays).
The book falters, though, when Mx. Ward loses confidence in her own theories and conclusions, and allows Lacan, Baudrillard, and other fashionable nonsense peddlers to control center-stage in a discourse where, frankly, I think her own observations outstrip theirs. The grab-bag of "physics envy" tricks used to gussy up the humanities are on full display, the pretentious and hollow "mathemes" and arbitrarily italicization and random use of parentheses, as well as hilarious word salad constructed from coincidental homophones or rhyming (If you think that Marxist probings into the class system and architectural ruminations on glass systems are worth exploring, then man, has Mx Ward got a book for you here).
I don't want to be too mean, but just to let the potential reader know what kind of party they're attending if they accept Janet Ward's invitation, here are some laugh-out-loud excerpts from the text I've highlighted:
"It is clear that this recontouring (sic) shift amounts to a both sweetening kitschification (sic) and an incipient eugenicization (sic) of the female form." I think she's trying to say ads are trying to encourage women to have children, which is curious because androgyny and masculine traits were marketed to women during this period as aggressively or more aggressively than the home-and-hearth sort of advertisements.
Here's one more (last one, I promise): "...rather, we need to reencounter (sic) the process of modernization in the West as one in which rationality and fashion have coincided interstitially (sic) in a condition of symbiotically fertile rapprochement." If you're going to write like this, it had better be under severe pressure, while sleep-deprived and trying to crank out a master's-level academic paper abstract (presumably on a dire subject worthy of acute attention, such as how carving pumpkins for Halloween is a phallocentric means of reinforcing hetero-normative neoliberal assaults on indigenous methods of squash cultivation in order to establish hierarchical Western imperial non-indigenous systems of white supremacy). In other words, you might as well get some elbow macaroni, some glitter, a bottle of glue, and play with pasteboard and rack up $100,000 in student loan debt while doing it.
That said, this book has some features to recommend it, at least as many merits as demerits.