Close Up Encounters: Film, Modernism & the Metropolis MSA 2020 Panel

deadline for submissions: 
March 16, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Polly Hember (Royal Holloway, University of London)
contact email: 

From ‘city symphonies’ to the German querschnitt or ‘cross-section’ films of the 1920s and 1930s, cinema and the modernist city are tightly bound in a catalytic dialogic.

Typically, the ‘city film’ follows the course of a day in the life of one city; they document dailiness and ask questions about the technologized city, modern culture and the individual. Cinema has the curious potential to transfix the turmoil of energy and feeling that one finds in city streets. Doris, Irmgard Keun’s stardom-obsessed protagonist in The Artificial Silk Girl, arrives in Berlin in 1931 to swooning streets where she is immediately ‘swept along the Friedrichstrasse in a crowd of people, which was full of life and colorful and somehow had a checkered feeling. There was so much excitement!’.

Doris’s colourful and cacophonous experience of the city speaks to László Moholy-Nagy’s assertion that the combination of vast developments in cinematic technique along with the expansion of the ‘big cities’ made ‘new demands upon the capacity of our optical organ of perception, the eye, and our centre of perception, the brain’. Doris wonders whether ‘the nerves of an enormous city like Berlin can’t stand such incredible tension every day’. This panel invites discussion of the effect of the Weimar’s city nerves and of those ‘new demands’ on the filmic, literary and phenomenological modernist experience. 

This panel invites discussion of those ‘new demands’ on the perceiving body that the cinema and city yield by attending to the filmic and literary experience of the city in Weimar.

If you are interested in presenting a paper as part of this panel at MSA, please email a short abstract of 150 - 200 words and a bio of 50 words to by Monday 16th March.