The visuality of catastrophe in Ernst Jünger's der gefährliche augenblick and die veränderte welt

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Ernst Jünger conceived, edited and wrote from 1928 to 1933 introductory essays to seven photo albums depicting contemporary catastrophic events. In these books he put across his radical ideas of a total mobile society energized through continuous violence. The photo books were the visual counterpart to his opus magnum, Der Arbeiter (1932), where he devised the ideal type of the worker as the herald of a new political order. The article discusses Jünger's theory of representation and the role played by photography in the aesthetics of catastrophe by looking at the enclosed visual system of the images selected for Der gefährliche Augenblick (1931) and Die veränderteWelt (1933) within the larger framework of Weimar's visual aesthetics. Whilst Jünger's visual rhetoric is the contingent product ofWeimar's haunted relationship to the war, the catastrophic image also creates a discursive practice of its own. The image of disaster, either artificial or man-made, became a cultural palimpsest turning the past into an emerging present that provided instruction for the future. The article contends that the catastrophic image allows at times a double encoding that, albeit naturalizing disaster and thus becoming a producer of myths, may also suggest a reverse appropriation within the framework of the wider Weimar visual literacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-98
Number of pages37
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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