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Berlin: Culture and Metropolis

Charles W. Haxthausen
Heidrun Suhr
Copyright Date: 1990
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Berlin: Culture and Metropolis was first published in 1991. Berlin’s recent history is uniquely representative of the major upheavals of the modern era. The city has been a capital under imperialist, democratic, fascist, and communist regimes; it has been devastated by war and has witnessed two revolutions. These changes often have come rapidly, drastically, and unexpectedly. Berlin: Culture and Metropolis includes essays on literature, poetry, film, cabaret, and the visual arts that illustrate how the relationship between the city and its inhabitants has been repeatedly renegotiated with each generation. Scholars in art history, film studies, literature, history, and sociology cover the period from the turn of the century to the present, writing on such topics as twentieth century cabaret, the celebration of the city’s 750th anniversary, and the cultural contributions of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, George Grosz, Alfred Döblin, Siegfried Kracauer, and Christa Wolf. These essays reveal the often uneasy relationships between twentieth-century Berlin and the culture these changes have produced.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5545-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Gerhard Weiss
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)
    Charles W. Haxthausen and Heidrun Suhr

    The purpose of this volume is not to document yet again Berlin’s contribution to modern German and international culture. The theme “Culture and Metropolis” is not intended as a celebration of Berlin as a cultural capital, according to theWunschbildof an “Athens on the Spree,” or as the German equivalent of Paris, London, or New York. Nor is this book intended as a representative survey of Berlin’s cultural history, although its twelve essays touch nearly every decade of this century. Some of the cultural phenomena treated here are little known outside the German-speaking world, and, conversely, this volume has...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Pictures of a City at Work, Berlin circa 1890–1930: Visual Reflections on Social Structures and Technology in the Modern Urban Construct
    (pp. 3-36)
    John Czaplicka

    In the discourse on the constitution of the modernGroβstadt,or big city, that took place in late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Germany, critics usually praised or reviled the city, viewing it as an agent of change that would either destroy German culture and debase the German people or promote the social and technological advance of civilization. Though sociologists, philosophers, and historians such as Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, and Oswald Spengler described Berlin with quite different emphases and biases, each of them drew a picture of how the city functioned, how precisely it was reconstituting itself, and each took...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Beauty of the Metropolis: Toward an Aesthetic Urbanism in Turn–of–the–Century Berlin
    (pp. 37-57)
    Lothar Műller

    Ever since Baudelaire anticipated the discovery of the fugitive beauty of modernity through cultivation of an art of seeing, an art that would reveal in the ephemeral of the present the unlikely equivalent of the classical beauty of the past, there has been a continuing reflection on a possible aesthetic of the metropolis—an aesthetic grounded in the disposition of the viewing subject, rather than in the object of perception.¹ Artifacts whose formal logic was determined purely by functional considerations, yet which were nonetheless sources of aesthetic experience—the Crystal Palace of the London Great Exhibition of 1851 is a...

  8. CHAPTER 3 “A New Beauty”: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Images of Berlin
    (pp. 58-94)
    Charles W. Haxthausen

    “I don’t know why it is,” wrote the Berlin novelist Georg Hermann in 1912, “the Berliner is truly ashamed of his city, and the art is especially so.”¹ Although Berlin, after the unification of Germany in 1871, had quickly emerged as the cultural and artistic capital of Germany and its only true metropolis, there was at first little reflection of this new urban reality in the art and literature produced there. The contrast with Paris during the same period is striking, for there the 1870s—the years immediately following the Prussian victory over the French—were marked by the ascendancy...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Modernity, Civic Identity,and Metropolitan Entertainment: Vaudeville,Cabaret,and Revue in Berlin, 1900–1933
    (pp. 95-110)
    Peter Jelavich

    In his essay on “The Invention of Tradition,” Eric Hobsbawm asserts that “traditions which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented.” He notes that we should expect them “to occur more frequently when a rapid transformation of society weakens or destroys the social patterns for which old traditions had been designed, producing new ones to which they were not applicable, or when such old traditions and their institutional carriers and promulgators no longer prove sufficiently adaptable and flexible, or are otherwise eliminated.” Hobsbawm notes that in Europe, such “invention of tradition” was...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Lustmord: Inside the Windows of the Metropolis
    (pp. 111-140)
    Beth Irwin Lewis

    At the end of June 1917, two months after being discharged from a military mental asylum, George Grosz, writing to his close friend Otto Schmalhausen, discussed his new large paintings of city scenes. His description of the chaotic street scene intermingled violence and sex with the technology of the modern city. Screams of women giving birth, jangling telephones, knuckle-dusters and Solingen knives resting in the trouser pocket of the pimp, Circe turning men into swine, gramophone music, and murder by strangling in a dusty cellar—all these Grosz called the “emotions of the metropolis,” which he executed with a remarkable...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The City as Megaphone in Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz
    (pp. 141-151)
    Harald Jähner

    A mountain can be viewed from two perspectives: standing before it, one sees it differently than after descending from its peak. It is similar with the observation of Berlin, perhaps even with cities in general. As social entities, they have long since passed their prime. While today in the so-called Third World the earlier urbanization process of the West is being repeated, in the Western nations themselves the development of cities has abated, and urbanity, undermined by television, electronic communication, and automobile traffic, is threatened with extinction. Today one looks back with longing to the density of the city, a...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Deciphering the Hieroglyphics of Weimar Berlin: Siegfried Kracauer
    (pp. 152-165)
    David Frisby

    Well before the First World War, Baedeker’s staid guide toBerlin and Its Environswas proclaiming that although Berlin did “not compete in antiquity or historical interest with other great European capitals,” it did possess a special attraction as “the greatest purely modern city in Europe,” whose “streets are a model of cleanliness.”¹ Such guidebook claims were still being made in the postwar period, especially after the surface of the metropolis had been seemingly cleansed of revolutionary upheaval, putschist rabble, and hyperinflationary chaos. For then the anonymous populace of the guidebooks had come to celebrate, in this period of “relative...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Retrieving the City as Heimat: Berlin in Nazi Cinema
    (pp. 166-186)
    Linda Schulte–Sasse

    Not surprisingly, Berlin as a focal point of the modern or, to quote Luzie in Edgar Reitz’sHeimat, of “Welt,” ceased to play the central role in Nazi cinema that it had in the Weimar period. On the contrary, precisely the cosmopolitan side of Berlin life, when represented in Nazi films, served to demonstrate a state of disintegration and debasement that needed to be overcome by National Socialism. Nazism’s critique of modernity as embodied in ideologemes like blood and soil, the nation,Heimat(homeland), orVolkis amply manifested in the “mountain” film genre produced before and during the Third...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Lyric Poetry in Berlin since 1961
    (pp. 187-205)
    Harald Hartung

    In the 1950s, a young German poetry lover was interested in two poets, whose names begin with B: Benn and Brecht. He might have preferred one poet over the other; but because he was open and flexible, he was at least irritated by the other, whom he liked less or consequently even rejected. On’s love for poetry could create a problem, perhaps even an unsolvable one, an aporia. Aesthetically, one could enjoy both Brecht and Benn, but their philosophies of life—or, one might say later, their ideologies—were incompatible. Yet, one would have liked to believe in both and...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Berlin: Backdrop, Stage, or Actor? Images of the City in Recent GDR Fiction
    (pp. 206-218)
    Dorothy Rosenberg

    Since the division of the city, Berlin has existed simultaneously as at least three ideological entities: East Berlin, West Berlin, and the Divided City. As a rule, the last two have received the bulk of attention in the West and have come to dominate our thinking about the city in the postwar period.

    Viewed from the West, the cultural history of the city tends to follow a relatively straight line of development and then suddenly shifts to a cultural history of its western half. We may call it West Berlin (or Rest Berlin), but references to the city reflect a...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Fremde in Berlin: The Outsiders’ View from the Inside
    (pp. 219-242)
    Heidrun Suhr

    “There are a lot of newcomers here, far too many.”¹ This sentiment, published in a West Berlin periodical evocatively titledNiemandsland(Noman’s-land), is frequently heard in West Berlin—often from those who have been there only a short time themselves. Sometimes meant as a complaint, it is more often an affirmation. Recent masses of “Übersiedler,” GDR citizens who want to settle there, and the throngs of visitors after the opening of the wall November 9, 1989, populate the streets now. Yet this phenomenon of large numbers of newcomers is hardly historically unique to that postwar urban configuration known as West...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Panem et Circenses: Berlin’s Anniversaries as Political Happenings
    (pp. 243-252)
    Gerhard Weiss

    We live in the age of anniversaries. While we are troubled by the present and insecure about the future, we seek refuge and comfort in contemplating the past. We relish the milestones of history—not so much for what they really are, but for what we make of them today.Habent suafata anniversarii,anniversaries, too, have their own fates, and it is usually more interesting to examine the mode of celebration than the event that is being celebrated. Anniversary celebrations tend to have their own agendas, for which history simply offers a convenient forum. They become happenings that reflect, amplify,...

  18. Afterword: Writing about Berlin
    (pp. 253-256)
    Thomas Steinfeld

    Berlin—the western half of the former imperial capital—is the only city that has been completely transformed into a monument without first having been exclusively the object of archaeology and history. Other cities have the status of monuments, of symbols, in addition to their function as domains of daily existence, as loci of industry, commerce, and politics. Berlin (West) is still different, different despite the fact that it has no fewer industrial parks, politicians, and brokers than other major cities. Yet only of Berlin can it be said—as it is in the introduction to this volume—that it...

  19. Contributors
    (pp. 257-260)
  20. Index
    (pp. 261-265)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)