Birgit Erdle

Momentaufnahme – Snapshot. A Thought Figure in Siegfried Kracauer’s Writings

My current research project will explore the ‘snapshot’ (‘Momentaufnahme’) as a thought figure in the work of Siegfried Kracauer in its philosophical, epistemological, and aesthetic dimension. How does the snapshot – a terminus technicus borrowed from the history of photography – transform into a figure of thought in Kracauer’s writings, i.e. into a flexible figurative expression mediating between concept and phenomenon, thinking and intuition? How does it unite conceptually the instant of exposure to light, and the break-up of linear, coherent time?Kracauer’s notes on the ‘snapshot’ start in exile in Marseille, from June 1940 to February 1941. They arise in a situation of waiting in which moments of extreme danger accumulate and coincidences have existential consequences. From the forties to the fifties and sixties, the thought figure of the snapshot – and its associated metaphor of exposure (Belichtung) – undergo significant conceptual shifts that need to be reconstructed. The following questions are particularly interesting: How does Kracauer refer to Kant and Enlightenment thought? How could Kracauer’s reference to modernism and its survival in post-exile (after 1945) in his reflection on temporality be interpreted? And how is this reflection to be situated in the German postwar discourse? For the explosive power inherent in the ‘moment’ in Kracauer’s view marks a constitutive distinction to the conception of the moment as – as Hans-Georg Gadamer formulated in 1965 – a mere “discontinuity in the progress of events”.

Birgit R. Erdle teaches at Technical University of Berlin. 2019 Visiting Professor for Jewish Cultural History at University of Augsburg, 2012-2018 DAAD Walter Benjamin Chair at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been a Visiting Professor at Fritz Bauer Institute, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Technical University of Berlin, University of Vienna, and Emory University, Atlanta, USA. Her research focuses on German-Jewish literature and intellectual history in modernity, post-history of National Socialism and the Shoah, dynamics between memory, materiality, and knowledge, epistemology of time in literature and theory, and relations between poetic and scientific language in exile. Her recent publications include Literarische Epistemologie der Zeit. Lektüren zu Kant, Kleist, Heine und Kafka(2015), and Intentionally left blank – Raum für Notizen. Materials and Forms of Notation in European Jewish Literature / Aufzeichnungsformen und -materialien in europäisch-jüdischer Literatur, ed. with Annegret Pelz (2019).