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Less than Bodies: Cellular Knowledge and Alexander Kluge's “The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8 April 1945”

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In his 1997 lectures in Zürich, later published as On the Natural History of Destruction (2003), W.G. Sebald indicted German-language literature with failure to adequately remember, represent, or reconcile the atrocities and violence of World War II. Drawing on Elaine Scarry's work on the body, Sebald locates the corporeal as crucial for his sought-after literary-historical aesthetic, and he thereby hypothesizes that Alexander Kluge's essay “The Air Raid on Halberstadt on 8 April 1945” verges on a poetics capable of rescuing experience and cognition from the fate destined by conservative, overly simplified narratives. But the location and content of experience as Kluge theorizes it is only spelled out in his and Oskar Negt's Geschichte und Eigensinn. Only therein do the two authors outline how a matrix of the body, trauma, alienation, and temporality constitute the possibility of rescuing the ruins of the past for the present, that itself can explicate Kluge's montage in his “Halberstadt” essay.

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Cambridge Core - English Literature after 1945 - The Literature of Absolute War - by Nil Santiáñez
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"If readers of Sara Tanderup Linkis' "Something to hold on to ..." open the book in the expectation of entering a niche of literature and literary studies, they will leave it after having encountered a new highway in literature. Here, the traditional theme of memory and the most recent use of digital media merge into a new understanding of the role of the book in the contemporary media landscape and of vicissitudes of memorial processes literature, which also offers a broader perspective on literature in human history. Spurred by Sara Tanderup Linkis' sharp eye the readings of texts are lucid, engaging and offers so many ideas that teachers will renew their curricula, and readers will open the internet for more or rush to the library."- Svend Erik Larsen, professor emeritus. Memory, Intermediality, and Literature investigates how selected literary works use intermedial strategies to represent and perform cultural memory. Drawing on the theoretical perspectives of cultural memory studies, this engaging, reader-friendly monograph examines new materialism and intermediality studies, analyzying works by Alexander Kluge, W.G. Sebald, Jonathan Safran Foer, Anne Carson, Mette Hegnhøj, William Joyce, J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. The works emerge out of different traditions and genres, ranging from neo-avant-garde montages through photo-novels and book objects to apps and children's stories. In this new monograph, Sara Tanderup Linkis presents an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, reading the works together, across genres and decades, and combining the perspectives of memory studies and materialist and media-oriented analysis. This approach makes it possible to argue that the works not only use intermedial strategies to represent memory, but also to remember literature, reflecting on the changing status and function of literature as a mediator of cultural memory in the age of new media. Thus, the works may be read as reactions to modern media culture, suggesting the ways in which literature and memory are affected by new media and technologies - photography and television as well as iPads and social media.
Article
This article approaches the narration of catastrophe by focusing on the aerial bombing of cities during the Second World War as represented in German, French, and British modernist novels. It makes two claims. First, of all the literary modes available for representing bombing as a catastrophic event, modernism seems to be the most adequate for conveying its complexity and multiple dimensions. Second, the modernism of experimental works on aerial bombing is a function of the catastrophe that they depict. For this reason, this paper argues for the existence of a catastrophic modernism; its main family resemblances are analyzed throughout its pages.
Article
Peter Weiss first met Alexander Kluge at a special 1962 meeting of Gruppe 47 dedicated to cinema. Weiss left records of this and other subsequent meetings in ensuing years. After an extended hiatus, Kluge (along with Oskar Negt) reappeared in Weiss's notebooks in the guise of their newly published second book of social theory; "Geschichte u. Eigensinn," Weiss jotted in June 1981, taking note of their book's title. This author contends that Weiss's Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (The Aesthetics of Resistance) and Negt and Kluge's Geschichte und Eigensinn, both completed the same year, are remarkable kindred spirits. Both underscore the importance of labor since the emergence of postindustrial societies after 1945. For labor to retain its capacity for protest, Weiss's novel and Negt and Kluge's theory identify the work of art and the theorization of work as concomitant forms of labor instilled with the same capacity for resistance that is rooted in all material forms of human labor.
Article
The article examines two major German writers of documentary fiction, Alexander Kluge and W. G. Sebald, who incorporate photographs into their work as part of a complex strategy of realism. Both authors are strongly marked by the legacy of Nazi propaganda and its manipulation of photographic images; both authors reflect on the relationship between trauma, war, memory, and representation, especially with regard to family histories. Kluge's emotionally flat documentary account of the Allied bombing of his hometown reveals a problematic deadening of personal and familial relations. Sebald's semiautobiographical fictions, whose German narrators are riven by their disrupted family histories, can only be partially understood through Marianne Hirsch's notion of "postmemory." Despite common political and stylistic traits, the writings of Kluge and Sebald ultimately forge quite different literary esthetics.
Article
Criticism 46.3 (2004) 361-392 W. G. Sebald thought of his 1997 lectures on "Air War and Literature" as his essay on poetics. These lectures first attained a certain notoriety because of Sebald's assault on postwar authors for having turned Germany's bombed-out cities into a "terra incognita." For those of us interested in Sebald's own authorship, the lectures merit attention for a different reason: they include a passage on the aftermath of the bombing raids on Hamburg in 1943 authored by Sebald himself. This passage, Sebald's own literary text on the bombings, tells us about the central concerns and constitutive conflicts of Sebald's postwar authorship. I explore here the question of Sebald's authorship by focusing on the Hamburg part of the lectures, but taking as my point of departure the iconic image, Benjamin's angel of history, that Sebald evokes at the conclusion of his lectures. I am certainly not proposing yet another reading of Sebald through the lens of Benjamin; on the contrary, I would like to find out what this cultural icon of the (academic) Left—by now so worn out, so terribly fatigued—might be glossing over, if not concealing. At stake in this political-aesthetic repetition with a difference is the angel's "enigmatic gaze" and the anxieties about what this gaze might be confronting. In "Air War and Literature" Benjamin's angel allegorically embodies a theory of history (Sebald's natural history of destruction), it thematizes a political project (to look at and make visible what has been hidden from view: the burnt bodies in the streets of bombed-out German cities), and it symptomatically expresses the aporias of an aesthetic project that involves the confrontation, if not fascination, with what was hidden. Sebald's angel thematizes at once the author's/historian's gaze, the object of that gaze, and the representation of both object and gaze—and thus helps us to reflect on Sebald's dictum that the aesthetic representation of catastrophic history demands a "synoptic and artificial view" (AL, 26). Sebald's angel takes us right to the core of questions about how literature writes history, questions of mediation and immediacy, of distance and immersion, of knowledge and desire—and thereby to the very core of fantasies of reenactment. "We see railroad tracks somewhere and inevitably think of Auschwitz," Anselm Kiefer once remarked. When Gunter von Hagen brought his BodyWorlds to Berlin in 2001, he chose an abandoned train station as the site for his exhibit. The "plastinated" corpses were carefully aligned along old railroad tracks. With this particular arrangement, von Hagen tapped into the visual archive of post-Holocaust Germany, one of mass murder and destruction, and mobilized a gaze with very specific historical memories, desires, and anxieties. Exhibited in a German train station, BodyWorlds inevitably partakes in a psychosymbolic order that makes the aestheticized display of dead bodies more than just a scientific exhibit for the lay public. In von Hagen's BodyWorlds we take a walk among the dead. This is a rudimentary plot structure that we find again and again in the (post)war period, from Sartre's Les jeux sont faits (written 1943; filmed 1947), Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1949), and Hans Erich Nossack's "Orpheus und . . ." (1946) to Heiner Müller's "Bildbeschreibung" (Explosion of a Memory, 1985) and Wolfgang Hilbig's Alte Abdeckerei (Knacker's Yard, 1989). In this text, Hilbig's protagonist stumbles across abandoned railroad tracks, endlessly circling around an eerie, decrepit place, the ruin of a former slaughterhouse, now Germania II, which disappears from the earth in an apocalyptic scene of baroque dimensions. In this postfascist nightmare, people flee across a land consisting of mass graves, across a leaden soil littered with bones thrown up by plows; their language is one of "vowelskulls" and "consonantbones." Sebald too confronts us with this postfascist imaginary when he discusses in rather Gothic terms the "foundations" of postwar Germany and the energy that fueled...
Der Lugtangriff auf Halberstadt am 8
  • Alexander Kluge