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Introduction: Caught by Politics

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Caught by Politics

Part of the book series: Studies in European Culture and History ((SECH))

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The story has been told many times over, largely following one and the same model. An aspiring modernist artist gets caught in the web of Nazi persecution, not because of his or her political convictions but because of the Nazis’ hostility toward modernist experimentation and aesthetic self-reflexivity. In order to avoid the censorship of modernism, our artist either adapts a rather moderate artistic style or chooses the path of exile to escape future violence. The streams of forced and voluntary dislocation are manifold: they crisscross the maps of unoccupied Europe as much as those of the New World, Asia, and even Australia. Repeatedly, however, we find our artist stranded at either coast of North America, a nation that was initially largely ignorant of what happened on the other side of the Atlantic, yet later became one of the principle powers in overthrowing Hitler’s reign of terror.

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  1. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 1995), 167.

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  2. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1951), 38–39.

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  3. Edward W. Said, “Reflections on Exile,” Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture, ed. Russell Ferguson et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 357–366.

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  4. See, e.g., Boris Groys, The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond, trans. Charles Rougle (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

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  5. T J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999)

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  6. Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso, 2002).

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  7. For exemplary texts, see Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting,” Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, ed. John O’Brian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), IV: 85–93

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  8. Werner Haftmann, Verfemte Kunst: Malerei der inneren und äußeren Emigration (Cologne: DuMont, 1986)

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  9. Anthony Heilbut, Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America, from the 1930s to the Present (New York: Viking Press, 1983).

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  10. For an insightful case study, see Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, “Walter Ruttmann: 1929,” 1929: Beiträge zur Archäologie der Medien, ed. Stefan Andriopoulos and Bernhard J. Dotzler (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 2002), 316–349.

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Sabine Eckmann Lutz Koepnick

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© 2007 Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick

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Eckmann, S., Koepnick, L. (2007). Introduction: Caught by Politics. In: Eckmann, S., Koepnick, L. (eds) Caught by Politics. Studies in European Culture and History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

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