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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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Introduction: What is “German Spectacle”?


The present volume is the second in the German Visual Culture series, which seeks to highlight work on visual culture done within the broad and expanding field of German Studies. Many of the following essays were culled from a series of panels at the German Studies Association (GSA) conference in 2012, a panel devoted to a cross-disciplinary and intermedia examination of spectacle within German contexts. These presentations on “German spectacle” were not limited by geography nor to only those manifestations of spectacle within the historic or contemporary boundaries of the German nation state. Neither was the concept of “German spectacle” located exclusively in specific language or cultural communities, as in those communities who speak or identify with the German language. Finally, the presentations did not define themselves through a focus on a single medium of expression, such as photography, painting, or theater. Such a broad framing begs the question, what is “German spectacle”?

The initial call for presentation proposals for the GSA panel and a subsequent call for contributions for this volume were purposefully and productively open, refusing to answer the question of “German spectacle” directly:

From battlefield pageantry to political posturing, from Schaufensterhypnose to cinematic subterfuge, “spectacle” has been and continues to be a concept with multiple points of reference, as well as a site of extreme negotiation and intervention, in German contexts. But what are the unique characteristics of spectacle in the “German context,” if such unique characteristics exist at all?

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