Monday, 4/25 – Prof. Andrea Krauss: ” Writing of Attractions: Else Lasker-Schüler’s Avant-garde Techniques”

Writing of Attractions: Else Lasker-Schüler’s Avant-garde Techniques
Monday, April 25 at 6:00pm
19 University Place, 1st Floor – The Great Room

The NYU German Department presents a talk by Professor Andrea Krauss (Johns Hopkins University).


In March 1912, the art journal Der Sturm publishes the first German translations of two programmatic statements of Futurism; in the same journal, in the immediate vicinity of these manifestoes, we also find Else Lasker-Schüler’s Letters to Norway. Both projects are concerned with problems of form specific to the avant-garde, problems reflected in the discursive conceptuality of radical innovation and universal dynamics. It is against this background that Lasker-Schüler’s Letters to Norway stand out. Unlike the Futurists’ interventions and their mode of unconditionally breaking with tradition, the Lettersobtain their structural dynamic from a process of comprehensive medial address. The talk traces their form of address and suggests conceptualizing its configuration as a “writing of attractions.” The formula, borrowed from media studies, where “cinema of attractions” (Tom Gunning) serves to describe early silent cinema, opens up new perspectives for a more precise description of avant-garde techniques: several of Lasker-Schüler’s forms of presentation in the Letters can be conceived of in terms of the “aesthetics of appearance” that characterizes the cinema of attractions. At the same time, the iterative structure of the textual transforms the “present tense of appearance,” which is essential to the cinema of attractions, into an effect of presence produced post facto. Moreover, it is this shared interest in attractions that makes it possible to specify the difference between the Futurists’ break with tradition and Lasker-Schüler’s avant-garde techniques: The Futurist celebration of attractions is a celebration of their ahistorical presence; Lasker-Schüler’s Letters, on the contrary, generate the novelty of attractions from the repetition of given genres (letters, epistolary novel) and dynamic networking. From the perspective of the Letters, we have to ask whether, amidst noisy declarations of a break with tradition, it isn’t perhaps the questioning of this break that could serve as the hallmark, maybe even as the attraction of the avant-garde.

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