Physical Redemption: Psychophysics, Messianism, and the Origins of Kracauer’s Theory of Film

‘Doch ist das Wirkliche auch vergessen, so ist es darum nicht getilt’: Beiträge zum Werk Siegfried Kracauers


Siegfried Kracauer’s Theory of Film (1960) represents a monumental achievement in the history of film theory and a milestone in Kracauer’s own career. At the work’s core, Kracauer proposes that film can “redeem” reality by revealing otherwise unknown aspects of the material world. As this paper argues, the notion of “redemption” invoked by the work draws not only on Kracauer’s German Jewish intellectual roots, but also on his early engagement with the quantitative study of physiology, psychophysics. What we’ve missed in Kracauer’s theory of film, I contend here, is not only that film’s redemptive power lies in the ability to save reality from the petrification and oblivion of history, but also that Kracauer puts this theory into practice as a writerly strategy on the level of prose.

Citation:
“Physical Redemption: Psychophysics, Messianism, and the Origins of Kracauer’s Theory of Film,
in: ‘Doch ist das Wirkliche auch vergessen, so ist es darum nicht getilt’: Beiträge zum Werk Siegfried Kracauers,
eds. Jörn Ahrens, Paul Fleming, Susanne Martin, Ulrike Vedder (Berlin: Springer, 2016): 239-257.
doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-13239-2_13