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Spectacle

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Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson

How does the visual nature of spectacle inform the citizenry, destabilize the political, challenge aesthetic convention and celebrate cultural creativity? What are the limits – aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic – of spectacle? How do we explain the inherently exclusionary, revolutionary, dehumanizing and utopian elements of spectacle?
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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Spectacles in Everyday Life: The Disciplinary Function of Communist Culture in Weimar Germany

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Introduction

During the Weimar Republic, the German Communist Party [Kommu­nistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD] routinely held mammoth, highly orchestrated demonstrations that advanced a particular moral order and transformed public spaces. These demonstrations were indeed spectacles. Perhaps not by design but by circumstance, communists were foisted onto the public stage soon after the December 1918 founding of the KPD when Kurt Eisner, Minister President of the Munich Soviet Republic [Räterrepublik], was assassinated. As one of the first martyrs of German communism, Eisner was commemorated with extraordinary pomp. On 26 February 1919, socialists and communists of various political stripes held a mass funerary procession to honor their fallen comrade. Marching through the streets of Munich, mourners remembered Eisner in a regimented spectacle that included uniforms, red flags, and traditional funerary wreaths. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of mourners stood silently along the procession’s route. Integral to this spectacle was imagery that exalted the notion of personal sacrifice, for in its solemnity the cortège visually conveyed Eugene Leviné’s prediction that the defense of the Munich Soviet Republic would require “an honorable death […] We shall have to pay the bloody price either way for there can be no peaceful solution. But we must not die in vain.”1 The symbols showcased at Eisner’s funeral underscored communists’ commitment to revolutionary ← 129 | 130 → struggle, especially their glorification of human sacrifice. To this extent, the mourners were transformed into representations of the communist moral order, for their participation in the communist...

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