Edited by Lilie Chouliaraki
[Journal of Language and Politics 4:1] 2005
► pp. 161–168
The case of Siegfried Kracauer as émigré intellectual
While conventional accounts of the history of film theory portray early theoretical writings as ‘naïve’, ‘unsystematic’, and ‘impressionistic’, this paper argues that, although there is a factual basis for this dismissive appraisal, such accounts thoroughly ignore the many contradictions that mark these writings.
This paper focuses on a historically specific case, the film theory of Siegfried Kracauer, and relates the major contradictions in Kracauer’s theory of film and his conception of ‘film as language’ to a changing socio-cultural context. This case study serves to illustrate the fact that theoretical discourses, especially in their formative, pre-institutionalised stages, are open to a variety of ideological and political struggles. The specifics of early film theory also throw some light on the politics of discursive strategies establishing analogies (and difference) between ‘film’ and ‘language’ decades before the ‘structuralist turn’ in film theory.