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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Jonathan Long 'Photography and National Culture: The Case of Weimar Germany'

12th March 2010, 17:30, ER141, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

Professor Jonathan Long will be giving his inaugural lecture entitled 'Photography and National Culture: The Case of Weimar Germany'.

The Weimar Republic spanned little more than fourteen years between the end of World War One in 1918 and the naming of Hitler as German Chancellor in 1933. It was a period characterised by extreme political and economic instability: persistent anti-democratic agitation; crippling reparations payments to the Allies imposed at the treaty of Versailles; hyperinflation in the early 1920s; and mass unemployment in the years following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. This political turmoil and pervasive economic insecurity went hand in hand with a level of artistic activity whose quality, originality, and breadth are arguably unparalleled in the history of the West. A salient aspect of Weimar culture was photography. From the catalogue of social types produced by August Sander to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's abstract experiments with light and shadow, from social documentary to Dada photomontage, from the memory of World War I to the cool gaze of new Objectivity, photography was ever-present as a highly visible social phenomenon, an artistic practice, a subject of critical debate, and a mode of political propaganda. In this illustrated lecture, I will outline the central importance of photography for an understanding of the Weimar Republic as it sought to negotiate the social, economic, and political change that democracy and modernisation brought in their wake. Addressing the role of photography within a specific national culture will then lead to some conclusions about the position of visual studies within the discipline of modern languages.

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