Sep 9 Reading Responses

Peters: Presents a writing talking about Helmholtz and Edison and how the work Helmholtz did would later be utilized by Edison in his inventing career.

There are important differences as well: Edison was an empiric, Helmholtz an experimentalist; Edison cared about effects and application, Helmholtz cared about theory.” (180)

Helmholtz ("academic tradition of integrative science"):
-The senses don't allow for introspective study.
-"may have stimulated the dream of building apparatuses that deviate from bodily bounds" (186)
-“All sound, speech, and music, then plays on our inner piano, a contraption of vibrating strings and nervous tissues in conjunction.” (186).

Edison ("mechanical invention"): Inventor of the Phonograph, the basis for modern audio recording.
-"Before the phonograph, no sound had the option not to be fugitive." (193)

"Edison thus acts like a backward Cerberus, a man controlling the afterlife of a dog.” (188) Peters talks about how, in recording sound on a phonograph, you are theoretically increasing the duration of life (memory).
(Cerberus guards the entrance of the Greek underworld to prevent the dead from escaping and the living from entering.)

Adorno and Horkheimer: Talks about the evils of capitalism, and how we as consumers "fall helpless victims to what is offered them." (3:4). They also talk about how consumers are categorized and culture is homogenized through an artificial framework designed to be in support of capitalism.
-"Culture monopolies are weak and dependent on the consumer unlike sectors of industry such as steel, petroleum, electricity, and chemicals." (1:6) In other words, the culture industry is based on what it thinks the public wants.

Benjamin: Cult Value versus Exhibition Value.

An example of something with purely cult value would be a picture of loved ones (worthless at an auction, but high sentimental value).

Exhibition Value is referring to something created for the purpose of something created for public consumption

“by absolute emphasis on its exhibition value the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental.” (Benjamin V)

Possible Questions for Discussion

1) “The conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion” (Benjamin 12)

How do you think Benjamin’s statement compares with this statement from Adorno and Horkheimer:

the style of the great work of art has always achieved self-negation, the inferior work has always relied on its similarity with others—-on a surrogate identity.” (Adorno and Horkheimer 2:12)

How do these two statements apply or contrast to one another, and in these contexts how ‘different/original’ do you think a work of art has to be to succeed?

2) “Around 1900, technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public.” (Benjamin I)

The primary questions – whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art – was not raised” (Benjamin 7)

What are some of the changes/transformations that Benjamin is referring to?

3) “The film has not yet realized its true meaning, its real possibilities…these consist in its unique faculty to express by natural means and with incomparable persuasiveness all that is fairylike, marvelous, supernatural.” (End of Benjamin 7)

Given that this article was written in 1936, in what ways has the film industry succeeded or not succeeded in realizing its true meaning and real possibilities?

4) What are some ways the 'Culture Industry' is influenced by capitalism? How is it not?


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