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The Ambivalence towards Technology and the New Woman in Weimar Germany

Kim, Hee-Young 1

1국민대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper investigates the way in which Weimar Germany(1918-1933) dealt with the task of incorporating new technology into their traditional culture and how this culturecivilization dichotomy was redressed in relation to the German’s ambivalence toward modernization. While being eager to maintain the culture and soul, the German were fascinated by the technological civilization and rapid economic growth to reconstruct the war defeated Germany. In their experience of modernization, the German had a utopian vision of a better world that could be created through technological progress, while they also constantly cited the German spirit. The German utopian vision of modernity was shaded with the ambivalence between the hope and fear for the unproved promise of civilization through rational technological progress that could both elevate and subvert their culture. The confrontation between technological advance and the traditions of German nationalism was intense in Weimar period. The German’s attempt to reconcile the German soul and modern technology can be seen as their survival strategy in the turmoil of the political, economic, social, and cultural upheaval after their loss in the war. The German’s ambivalence toward the figure of the New Woman also emerged from their anxiety and ambivalence towards modernization. The German endeavored to constitute a German identity through conservative revolution in the process of belated modernization. The figure of the New Woman seems to be the most problematic motif on which the German’s fear for modernity was projected. Women’s bodies are found distorted, fragmented, or dehumanized like robots or mannequins in the Dadaists’ works. Different representations of women seem to indicate the German’s troublesome position facing modernization, which they thought as a threat to their cultural tradition as well as a possible redemption of their loss in war. In order to survive the crisis of modernity, the German relied on their völkisch ideology in their attempt to seek an alternative to liberalism and materialism. Referring to the development of mass culture which entailed significant changes in perception, this paper focuses on the way in which Fritz Lang's Metropolis(1927) dealt with the worrisome relationship between technology and men by presenting the machine-vamp. It also pays attention to Hannah Höch's photomontages to look into her assertive view on the role of the New Woman in modernization. This paper examines the way in which the figure of the New Woman was reconstructed with fragments torn by both patriarchal and mechanical gazes. The complex representation of the New Woman in Weimar Germany suggests their hope and fear for modernity.

Citation status

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