A genealogy of spectacle : fascism, consumerism and the mimetic body / by Melissa Ragona.
The early twentieth century witnessed a proliferation of theoretical writings on specular culture. The new technologies of photography and film, the dance halls, Revue-theaters and other novel amusements of mass culture restructured accepted social arrangements of the nineteenth century in the US and Europe in unimagined ways. This urban, technological renaissance brought people of different class, gender, and race positions into contact with one another like never before. American mass culture, in particular, represented or acted as a template for these changing social, economic, cultural, and technological transformations. American productivity, reproducibility, and normativity were both inviting and threatening to the sense of high culture which the European bourgeoisie had embraced as a record and mirror of nation and stability. Spectacle, especially the kind of spectacle America produced, came not only to mean the opulent visual tableau of staged ornament (such as the Tiller Girls' formations), or the lush sets of Hollywood film productions, but the framing of a political or aesthetic disposition, a world view or perspective. In Weimar Germany, American forms of spectacle were analyzed by cultural critics with the hope of finding possible methods of improving German industry and locating a cultural dreamspace they believed Germany lacked. This study traces the discursive transformations in theories of the specular across the twentieth century in the US and Germany. It examines how aesthetics and critical theories of the body have been radically transposed by the cultural and scientific interpretations of mass culture and art through the discourses of eugenics, labor, and production at the beginning of the century. By examining three different historical and political moments, as well as three different mass cultural objects, i.e. the Tiller Girls' performances in Weimar, the films of Leni Riefenstahl during fascism, and the post-WWII American films and writings of Andy Warhol, it raises questions about the relationships between discourses of productivity and aesthetics, fascism and consumerism, feminism and philosophy which have used the spectacle of the body as the site and focus of their inquiries.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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