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Screening Art: Modernist Aesthetics and the Socialist Imaginary in East German Cinema

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Volume 20

Film Europa

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Screening Art

Modernist Aesthetics and the Socialist Imaginary in East German Cinema

Seán Allan

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302 pages, 20 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-967-7 25% OFF! $130.00/£92.00 $97.50/£69.00 Hb Published (February 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78533-968-4 eBook

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“…this book is about more than postwar socialist cinema. Allan places this moment of political filmmaking in the larger context of 21st-century cinematic history, and he does it effectively…and clearly.” • Choice

Screening Art is deeply grounded in larger cultural questions that have had little discussion in English-language scholarship. Allan’s efforts, both the archival work and the visual analysis, are impressive, and his comprehensive treatment of the most significant cultural-political debates and policies of the GDR is balanced and engaging.” • Heather E. Mathews, Pacific Lutheran University

“This is an accessible and fascinating account of the ways in which East German filmmakers made use of art and artists over more than forty years of film production. Allan proves a knowledgeable and reliable guide to the genre, showing how developments in the Künstlerfilm were subject to paradigm shifts in art and aesthetics in the GDR.” • Nick Hodgin, University of Cardiff


With internationalist aspirations and wide-ranging historical perspectives, East German films about artists and their work became hotly contested spaces in which filmmakers could look beyond the GDR and debate the impact of contemporary cultural policy on the reception of their pre-war cultural heritage. Spanning newsreels, documentaries, and feature films, Screening Art is the first full-length investigation into a genre that has been largely overlooked in studies of DEFA, the state-owned Eastern German film studio. As it shows, “artist-films” played an essential role in the development of new paradigms of socialist art in postwar Europe.

Seán Allan is Professor of German at the University of St Andrews. His publications include the co-edited volumes Re-Imagining DEFA: East German Cinema in its National and Transnational Contexts (with Sebastian Heiduschke, 2016) and DEFA: East German Cinema, 1946–1992 (with John Sandford, 1999). He has published widely on the films of Konrad Wolf, Kurt Maetzig and Jürgen Böttcher, and on East German identity in post-unification cinema.

Subject: Film Studies Postwar History General Cultural Studies
Area: Germany


List of Figures

Introduction: Texts and Contexts

Chapter 1. German Classical Humanism and the Sovietisation of Culture
Chapter 2. Cosmopolitanism, Formalism, and Fantasies of National Culture
Chapter 3. Experiments in Modernism I: From Bitterfeld to Barlach
Chapter 4. Experiments in Modernism II: Responses to the Eleventh Plenum
Chapter 5. New Ways of Seeing: Jürgen Böttcher and the Transformation of Tradition
Chapter 6. The Dialectic of Enlightenment and the Romantic Turn

Epilogue: Art, Exile and the Socialist Imaginary


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