Archive for February, 2013

Death Of A Yuppie DreamThe Rise and Fall of the Professional-Managerial Class By Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich


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che cos’è la poesia

Derrida. Che cos’è la poesia 1988

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NB Critical Color Part 1 Rough Translation. Preview Only

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sohn-rethel intellectual and manual labour

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research report session cinema and urbanism skool of film, college of fine arts, ohio university

student research reprots
John Ensley

Jonathan Naveh

Kourtney Paranteau
Sarah Maitland
William Waters
Michael Carrier

my research report
Louis-Georges Schwartz

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Axtell complex

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Fritz Lang’s M, Femicide and the Impasse of Social Reproduction or MA Paper Writing De-Mystified

I: Problem Set

When thinking about a research project, begin with a set of problems that already interest you.

Through conversations with Professor Jaleh Mansoor, who teaches Art History at the University of British Columbia I’ve become interested in the way capitalism creates gender by forcing women onto and into markets as buyers, sellers and commodities. Crudely, one might use  Édouard Manet’s 1882,  painting Bar at the FoliesBergère as an illustration. Both the liquor and the barkeep are for sale.  Art historian T.J Clarke writes that she is “both a salesperson and a commodity—something to be purchased along with a drink” (The Painting of Modern Life. Princeton. Princeton University Press. 1999.)  Carol Armstrong points out that “the barmaid… appears before us more as a commodity similar in shape and objective appearance to the bottle on the counter than as a consumer” (Manet Manette. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.)url


Research should be based on specific formal observations that can be accounted for historically as well as theoretically.

I often begin a research project with an observation about a specific text or phenomenon that refers to a problem set I am interested in. When I watched (lang, 1931) again to prepare for class, I noticed the shots below, in which Hans Beckert sees a potential murder victim reflected in a mirror displayed in a shop window. These shots, like many others in the film mark Beckert as a consumer and cast the girl as a commodity, at least in his eyes. I thought that one might be able to write a paper on the way Fritz Lang uses the Berlin cityscape he recreated in UFA studios to associate both Beckert and his victims with markets.

m weapon marketSupporting Observations:

Further observations should allow for the elaboration of the problem set in a particular text /set of texts.


frequently depicts Beckert  in acts of economic circulation — buying commodities. Those scenes of circulation and consumption rarely serve a major narrative function. As Roland Barthes might put it, they do not bring us closer to the resolution of the film’s main enigmas (whether  Beckert will  get caught before he kills again, why he kills;) as David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson might put it, the scenes of circulation only have loose cause and effect relations with other narrative events.


This scene of Beckert buying fruit serves to characterize him as a consumer. He offers fruit to the last girl he stalks, but that plays like a justification for this scene, rather than as a result. The fruit buying  also plays a delaying role in the narrative, but that function could be fulfilled by a scene of Beckert performing almost any incidental action. The scenes are justified by M’s mapping of economic circulation.


Beckert pays for 2 glasses of brandy at a cafe. Another scene motivated mainly by the film’s emphasis on circulation.

m00054Beckert first sees the mark on his back reflected in a shop window. This discovery could have been staged in many ways, but associates him with circulation — shopping —spending money. It remains unclear where Beckert gets his money. Though the film was made during the great depression, it does not take up the crisis of capital as an explicit motif. portrays much of Berlin as a shopping district. The film depicts Berlin’s street vendors, fruit stands, shop windows, itinerant crime novel salesmen, entrepreneurial beggars, fences, restaurants and kiosks plastered with advertisements, with such emphasis that the entire city seems dedicated to commodity exchange or theft.


The market even penetrates Else’s home when a salesman comes to hawk a new issue  to her mother.



associates the girls Beckert stalks and kills with markets as well. In several scenes, Beckert buys a victim something. While Beckert’s need to seduce the girls justifies these scenes, could have depicted him as having the candy or a toy already with him when he first approaches them, but the film wants the audience to see acts of economic circulation.m00009 m00052 m00053Sometimes the film associates Beckert’s victims with shopping by placing them in front of shop windows even when he is not in the shot.m00041 m00046


More or less all of the women in M work as either mothers or prostitues.


Research Questions to Focus a Thesis

A set of preliminary questions should emerge with an eventual thesis in mind. Often a historically grounded comparison between texts is useful. The interest and observations above define a field of research on M.  A research project must result in a thesis, a clear claim about the material. One way to arrive at a thesis, and a thesis statement in a paper, is to ask questions about the research area. Only some of the possible questions follow:

1) Berlin, Symphony Of A Metropolis (Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt) (Ruttman, 1927) also associates women and figures for women with markets, but in that association has turned murderous. What accounts for this change?

m_f00014 m_f00023 m_f00052

2) Beckert kills little girls who will never grow up to be be mothers or prostitutes, the two options the films gives women. In so doing, he kills the possibility of social reproduction. How does this relate to Lang’s interest in social reproduction as dead labor in Metropolis (1926-1927)? met00001met00002met00003met00004met00005met00006met00007met00008

3) To what extend does articulate the dependency of capitalist social reproduction on the sexual and domestic subjugation of women? To what extent does the film’s focus on girls and mothers displace the problem of the prostitute, who is most clearly simultaneously salesperson and commodity? To what extent does Lang’s film merely rearticulate the percepts involved the subjugation of women? To what extent is the film capable of critiquing that mode of perception and the social relations that create it?

Annotated Bibliography

In order to answer and revise these questions, I find it necessary to do more than watch and re-watch M and the other films that may become involved. One must find out about the historical period, theorizations of the relations between women and markets, marxist and materialist economic analyses, etc. Only after having doen such research can one think about the problem set clearly enough to generate better questions, attempt to answer them and formulate a clear thesis that contributes something to the ongoing discussions one will discover in the reading one does. The following bibliography does not include many works on films other than M, though they would be necessary for a real paper, the annotations are much too brief, and there aren’t enough entries for my liking. I have adhered to these limits for the sake of time. I generated the bibliography in part from works I was familiar with and in part by cross indexing the bibliographies in Kaes’s monograph on M and Petro’s Joyless Streets.

Bezanson Kate, and Meg Luxton Eds. Social Reproduction: Feminist Political Economy Challenges Neo-liberalismMontreal. Mcgill Queens University Press. 2006

A collection of essays on contemporary social reproduction form the perspective of economic that take gener into consideration, useful elaboration of the concept of “social reproduction.

Bridenthal, Renate and Claudia Koonz. “Beyond Kinder, Küche, Kirche: Weimar Women in Politics and Work” in Liberating Women’s History: Theoretical And Critical Essays.                                                                                                                                                                     

Analysis of why many women voted for Hitler in 1931. Critique of the notion that real women’s emancipation took place in Weimar.

Bridenthal, Renate, Anita Grossmann and Marion Kaplan. When Biology Became Destiny: Women In Weimar and Nazi Germany. New York. Monthly Review Press. 1984.           

Collection of essays on the status of women in Weimar and the Third Riech. See especially “Mother’s Day in the Weimar Republic” and “‘Professional Housewives: Stepsisters of the Women’s Movement.”

Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. “Catastrophic Utopia: The Feminine as Allegory of the Modern.” Representations. V. 14. Spring 1986. Pp. 220-229.

Thinks the real and occluded presence of women against figures of modernity in Benjamin and Baudelaire. Asks if it possible for woman to be present in modernity.

Caffentzis, George. “On The Notion of a Crisis of Social Reproduction: A Theoretical Review.” In The Commoner. N1. Autumn 2002.

Very useful compendium of Marxist theories of social reproduction.

Dalla Costa, Mariarosa and Selma James. The Power Of Women And The Subversion of the Community. Bristol. Falling Wall Press. 1975.

2 essays on women, labor  and capital. Crucial to conceptualizing women’s unpaid work as labor and a form of primitive accumulation.

Dimendberg, Edward. “From Berlin to Bunker Hill: Urban Space, Late Modernity and Film Noir in Fritz Land and Joseph Losey’s M.” Wide Angle, v. 19, October, 1997. Pp. 63-93.

Useful for it’s reflection on the Berlin of the Lang film and modernity.

Draper, Hal and Anne G. Lipow. “Marxist Women versus Bourgeois Feminists.” In The Socialist Register. V. 13. 1976. Pp. 179-226.

On the late 19th C German Marxist Women’s Movement.

Evans, Richard. “Feminism and Female Emancipation in Germany1870-1945: Sources, Methods, and Problems of Research.” in Central European History. v 9, n 4 December, 1976. pp. 323-351

The conditions for writing women’s history in the period. Survey of sources.

Federici, Sylvia. Caliban And The Witch: Women, The Body And Primitive Accumulation. Brooklyn. Autonomedia. 2004.

Crucial for undertand women’s unpaid labor as primitive accumulation, its relationship to colonization, and the origines and structure of contemporary misogyny.

Ferro, Marc. Cinema And History. Naomi Green, Trans. Detroit. Wayne State University Press. 1988.                                                                                                                                                 Short slightly vague chapter on as historical allegory for Nazism etc.

Gonzalez, Maya Andrea “Communization and The Abolition Of Gender.” In Communization And Its Discontents. Benjamin Noys, Ed. Brooklyn. Autonomedia. 2011.                                                                                                                                                                                   Perhaps the most important text on women and markets.

Grossmann, Anita. “Abortion and the Economic Crisis: The 1931 Campaign Against Paragraph 218 in Germany.” In New German Critique. n 14. Spring 1978. Pp. 119-138.

On the working class movement against the illegalization of abortion in Germany. Raises the question of a reserve of reproductive labor and the woman’s strike.

–“Girlkultur or Thoroughly Rationalized Female.: A New Woman In Weimar Germany.” In Women In Culture And Politics: A Century Of Change. Bloomington. University Of Indiana Press. 1986

On the rhetoric of rationalization of women’s sexuality and reproduction, racial purification and the “new woman” in Weimar.

— “The New Woman and the Rationalization of Sexuality in Weimar Germany.” In Powers Of Desire: The Politics Of Sexuality. Anita Snitow, Christine Stansell and Sharon Thompson, Eds. New York. Monthly Review Press, 1983.

On the rhetoric of rationalization of women’s sexuality and reproduction, racial purification and the “new woman” in Weimar.

Gunning, Tom. The Films Of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity. London. British Film Institute Publishing.2000.

Useful chapter on form and style in M, emphasizing off screen space and sound.

Huyssen, Andeas. “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other.” In Studies In Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture. Tanya Modleski Ed. Bloomington. Indiana University Press. 1986

“Woman,” modernism, and the problem of high and low culture. Starts with Flaubert.

— “The Vamp and the Machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.” In New German Critique. n 24-25. Fall-Winter 1981-1982. Pp. 221-237.

On The woman robot in Metropolis and reproduction without a mother.

Jardine, Alice. Gynesis Configurations of Women and Modernity. Ithaca. Cornell University Press. 1985.

Kaes, Anton. M. London. British Film Institute. 2000

–. “The Cold Gaze: Notes On Mobilization and Modernity.” New German Critique, v. 59, Spring / Summer 1993. Pp. 105-17.

–, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. Berkeley. University Of California Press. 1995                                                                                                         An extremely useful collection on Weimar, particularly strong on Berlin.

Kaplan, E Anne. Fritz Lang: A Guide To References and Resources. Boston. G.K. Hall. 1981.                                                                                                                                                                 An annotated Bibliography

Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari To Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. PrincetonPrinceton University Press. 1947.

Lessing, Theodor. Monsters Of Weimar. London. Nemesis Books. 1993.

Useful fictional account of the Fritz Harmann serial killer case on which is based.

Marx, Karl. Capital: Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy. New York. Penguin Press. 1992.

Many useful passages on economic production, economic circulation and the difference between the two.

Mason, Tim. “Women in Germany, 1925-1940: Family, Welfare, and Work.” In History Workshop: A Journal Of Socialist Historians. V 1. Spring 1976. Pp. 74-113. V 2. Autumn 1976 5-32.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Detailed labor history of women in the german economy in the period.

Petro, Patrice. Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic representation in Weimar Germany. Princeton. Princeton University Press.                                                                                 Considers a wide range of texts, reads contemporaneous philosophy (Heidegger) symptomatically.

Tatar, Maria. Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany. Princeton. Princeton University Press., 1995. Chapter on M useful for expressionist context (Dix, Grosz.)

Argument about identity between Beckert and the girls he kills might be recast usefully in terms of market exchange and Lang’s possible lack of critique.

Theweleit, Klaus. Male Fantasies. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press. 1987.

Perhaps the most important work on Male sexuality, strategies domination, and misogyny  in Weimar and the Third Reich. Deleuzean perspective.

Next Steps

I would proceed by reading or rereading the items of the bibliography closely and expanding the annotations until they turned into full reading notes. I would then review the questions above and generate new ones. I would sort through the questions and identify which are worth answering. If possible, I would organize the questions into a structure suggestive of an argument, re-watch and any other films involved. At that point, I would start to answer the questions, outline a paper and write it, starting with the section after the introduction, leaving that for last. The primary thesis should emerge from the process of writing the body of the paper. The introduction should sugest what follows (an easy task since I’ve already written that part) and provide a clear statement of the primary thesis, which should make an original claim about the subject matter and contribute to scholarship by engaging and adding to the extant literature.

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