, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 301–316 | Cite as

Taming the Technological Shrew: Woman as Machine in Weimar Culture



European culture in the early twentieth century experienced two significant sites of transformation: newly emerging forms of technology and a new role for the emancipated woman. Amidst the social upheaval following WWI, these two sources of transformation were often met with cultural backlash that came in the form of conflating woman and machine. This article will study this conflation—the feminized machine and the mechanized woman—by drawing on various cultural works from Weimar Germany including writings from the Sex Reform movement, Siegfried Kracauer, and Ernst Jünger. Analysis of these works will inform a reading of Maria the robot in Lang’s film, Metropolis (1927) as a representative of the popular anxiety over new technologies and the “New Woman.”


Modernity Technology Gender Ernst Jünger Siegfried Kracauer Metropolis 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bridenthal, R., & Koonz, C. (1984). Beyond Kinder, Küche, Kirche: Weimar women in politics and work. In R. Bridenthal, A. Grossmann, & M. Kaplan (Eds.), When biology became destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (pp. 44–53). New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bullock, M. P. (1992). The violent eye: Ernst Jünger’s visions and revisions on the European right. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cowan, M. (2007). The heart machine: ‘rhythm’ and body in Weimar Film and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. MODERNISM/Modernity, 14(2), 225–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Donald, J. (2007). Kracauer and the dancing girls. New Formations, 61, 49–63.Google Scholar
  5. Flake, O. (1990). Die alte Aufgabe—die neue form. In F. M. Huebner (Ed.), Die Frau von morgen wie wir sie wünschen: Eine Essaysammlung aus dem Jahre 1929 (pp. 135–140). Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag.Google Scholar
  6. Freud, S. (1959). The ‘uncanny’. Collected papers (Vol. 4, pp. 368–407) (J. Riviere & E. Jones,Trans.). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. Frevert, U. (1993). Women in German history: From Bourgeois Emancipation to sexual liberation. New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  8. Friedell, E. (1978). Prolog vor dem film. In A. Kaes (Ed.), Kino-Debatte: Literatur und Film 1909–1929 (p. 43). Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  9. Fuhrich, A. (2000). Woman and typewriter: Gender, technology, and work in late Weimar Film. Women in German Yearbook, 16, 151–166.Google Scholar
  10. Gerstein, E. (1927). Metropolis. The Nation.Google Scholar
  11. Giles, S. (2007). Making visible, making strange: Photography and representation in Kracauer, Brecht and Benjamin. New Formations, 61, 64–75.Google Scholar
  12. Grossmann, A. (1983a). The New Woman and the rationalization of sexuality in Weimar Germany. In A. Snitow, C. Stansell, & S. Thompson (Eds.), Powers of desire: The politics of sexuality (pp. 153–171). New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  13. Grossmann, A. (1983b). Satisfaction is domestic happiness: Mass working-class sex reform organizations in the Weimar Republic. In M. N. Dobkowski & I. Wallimann (Eds.), Towards the holocaust: The social and economic collapse of the Weimar Republic (pp. 265–293). Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  14. Grossmann, A. (1984). Abortion and economic crisis: The 1931 campaign against paragraph 218. In R. Bridenthal, A. Grossmann, & M. Kaplan (Eds.), When biology became destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (pp. 66–86). New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  15. Grossmann, A. (1986). Girlkultur or thoroughly rationalized female: A New Woman in Weimar Germany? In J. Friedlander, et al. (Eds.), Women in culture and politics: A century of change (pp. 62–80). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Grossmann, A. (1993). German women doctors from Berlin to New York: Maternity and modernity in Weimar and in exile. Feminist Studies, 19(1), 65–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grossmann, A. (1995). The German movement for birth control and abortion reform, 1920–1950. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hake, S. (1987). Girls and crisis—the other side of diversion. New German Critique, 40, 147–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hales, B. (2007). Projecting trauma: The femme fatale in Weimar and Hollywood film noir. Women in German Yearbook, 23, 224–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hansen, M. (1993). With skin and hair: Kracauer’s theory of Film Marseille 1940. Critical Inquiry, 19, 437–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Herf, J. (1984). Reactionary modernism: Technology, culture, and politics in Weimar and the Third Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Huyssen, A. (1986). The vamp and the machine: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. After the great divide: modernism, mass culture, postmodernism (pp. 65–81). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Huyssen, A. (1993). Fortifying the heart—totally Ernst Jünger’s armored texts. New German Critique, 59, 3–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jünger, E. (1926). Fortschritt, Freiheit, und Notwendigkeit. Arminius, 8, 8–10.Google Scholar
  25. Jünger, E. (1960). Feuer und Blut: Ein kleiner Ausschnitt aus der grossen Schlacht. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  26. Jünger, E. (1980a). Der Arbeiter. Sämtliche Werke (Vol. 8, pp. 11–317). Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  27. Jünger, E. (1980b). Der Kampf als Inneres Erlebnis. Sämtliche Werke (Vol. 7, pp. 11–103). Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  28. Jünger, E. (1980c). Das Lied der Maschinen. Sämtliche Werke (Vol. 9, pp. 223–225). Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.Google Scholar
  29. Klein-Rogge, R. (1927). Die Erschaffung des Künstlichen Menschen. Presse und Propagandaheft zu Metropolis. Berlin: Parufamet.Google Scholar
  30. Kracauer, S. (1931). Girls und Krise. Frankfurter Zeitung.Google Scholar
  31. Kracauer, S. (1977a). Die kleinen Ladenmädchen gehen ins Kino. Das Ornament der Masse (pp. 279–294). Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  32. Kracauer, S. (1977b). Das Ornament der Masse. Das Ornament der Masse (pp. 50–63). Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  33. Kracauer, S. (1977c). Die Photographie. Das Ornament der Masse (pp. 21–39). Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  34. Kracauer, S. (1977d). Film 1928. Das Ornament der Masse (pp. 295–310). Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  35. Lang, F. (1927). Metropolis. Germany.Google Scholar
  36. Lungstrum, J. (1997). Metropolis and the technosexual woman of German modernity. In K. von Ankum (Ed.), Women in the Metropolis: Gender and modernity in Weimar culture (pp. 128–144). Berkeley: University of California.Google Scholar
  37. Makela, M. (1997). The misogynist machine: Images of technology in the work of Hannah Höch. In K. von Ankum (Ed.), Women in the Metropolis: Gender and modernity in Weimar culture (pp. 106–127). Berkeley: University of California.Google Scholar
  38. McCormick, R. W. (2001). Gender and sexuality in Weimar modernity: Film, literature, and ‘new objectivity’. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  39. O’Brien, M. (1981). The politics of reproduction. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  40. Ostwald, H. (1931). Sittengeschichte der Inflation: Ein Kulturdokument aus den Jahren des Marksturzes. Berlin: Neufeld & Henius Verlag.Google Scholar
  41. Ott, F. W. (1986). The great German films from before World War I to the present. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rabinbach, A. (1990). The human motor: Energy, fatigue, and the origins of modernity. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  43. Theweleit, K. (1987). Male fantasies (Vol. 1). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  44. Van de Velde, Th. H. (1928). Die Vollkommene Ehe: Eine Studie über ihre Physiologie und Technik. Leipzig: Benno Konegen Medizinischer Verlag.Google Scholar
  45. Von Harbou, T. (1926). Metropolis. Berlin: August Scherl.Google Scholar
  46. von Hollander, W. (1990). Autonomie der Frau. In F. M. Huebner (Ed.), Die Frau von morgen wie wir sie wünschen: Eine Essaysammlung aus dem Jahre 1929 (pp. 38–46). Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag.Google Scholar
  47. Wells, H. G. (1927). Mr. Wells reviews a current film. New York Times.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Houston at Clear LakeHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations