Tuesday, March 04, 2014

My business is to pin down the Age between quotation marks.

The ghost of Panofsky: "Whichever book you open, you will find precisely the passage you need"
Thank you, but this is now getting silly.

Marjorie Perloff on Karl Kraus
If this dialogue, written in 1915, strikes us as cleverly mimetic of street slang, think again; for the rhymed insults to the Russians, French, and British were actually taken from a German cartoon picture postcard (25 August 1914), in which two soldiers wearing spiked helmets (here designated as Willi and Karl) are attacking the enemy.

Reframed, the verses appear in what is probably the first—and perhaps the greatest—documentary drama written: Karl Kraus’s devastating Die Letzen Tage der Menschheit (The Last Days of Mankind). Kraus’s dialogue, as in the scene above, sounds colloquial and nothing if not “natural,” representing as it does a variety of linguistic registers based on social class, ethnicity, geographical origin, and profession. But a large part of the play is drawn from actual documents, whether newspaper dispatches, editorials, public proclamations, the minutes of political meetings, or manifestos, letters, picture postcards, and interviews—indeed, whatever constituted the written record of the World War I years. “The unkindest actions reported here,” writes Kraus in his preface, “really happened; the unlikeliest conversations are reported here word for word; the most glaring inventions are quotations” (LTM, p. 9). Citations from Shakespeare and Goethe are interspersed, using the technique of montage, with cabaret song, patriotic ode, tableau vivant, vaudeville, puppet play, and, in the later acts, even photomontage so as to create a strange hybrid—part tragedy, part operetta, part carnival, part political tract—in which “high” and “low” come together in a strange new blend. “A document,” as Kraus puts it, “is figural; reports come to life as characters; characters breathe their last as editorials” (LTM, p. 9). And, throughout, the comic, the hilarious, the grotesque, the surreal dominate. “Here in Austria,” as Kraus had famously quipped, “there are unpunctual trains that cannot get the hang of their scheduled delays.

In its analysis of the role the media plays in disseminating the case for war, Kraus’s work is startlingly contemporary...
A heap of broken images

It's always odd to me how many people write about things that appeal to them without asking why they should like what they like. I still think of second order curiosity as the sine qua non of intellectual life.

I've never forgotten reading Willebald Saurländer describe what he felt to be the deeply personal relation of a contemporary author to his historical subject, even if the one name I'd forgotten was the author of the book he was reviewing.  I've never forgotten not because the idea was new to me but because it was a historian describing how we will the past into the present and the present into the past. It made me smile.
From Czechoslovakia to Texas metropolis
Who sampled?  So obvious I forget. new tag: Collage Mash-up Remix

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