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In this issue:
David Abraham
Brigid Cohen
Stanley Corngold
Rivka Galchen
David Gelernter
Todd Gitlin
Martin Indyk
Martin Jay
H.C. Erik Midelfort
Camilo José Vergara
James Wood
A Magazine from the American Academy in Berlin | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 1
CONTENTS
The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
Logos Absconditus
04 Notes On The New Atheism
james wood takes stock of the new
nonbelievers and finds them lacking in the
theological subtlety of the modern novel.
08 “The Worst Book In The World”
h.c. erik midelfort reveals the culture
of censorship in early modern Germany
and how a despised little text lived for
centuries underground.
14 Bad News For The News
todd gitlin reviews three major crises
facing journalism today – and foretells of
more trouble on the horizon.
18 The E-Book Plague
david gelernter sings the praises of
that oldest of hand-held technologies: the
book.
The Office
22 The Midterm Fix
martin indyk reviews Barack Obama’s
first year in foreign policy and proffers a
preview of the Middle East challenge.
26 The Organization Man
stanley corngold upturns Franz
Kafka’s office writings to explore how the
culture of risk insurance unaccidentally
flowed through the Prague master’s pen.
N1 On the Waterfront
The American Academy’s newsletter,
with the latest on fellows, alumni, and
trustees, as well as recent events at the
Hans Arnhold Center.
Closed Encounters
33 Uncanny Rema
rivka galchen shares an unpublished
and unheimlich outtake from her novel
Atmospheric Disturbances.
36 These Labyrinths Of Terrible Differences
brigid cohen recounts the efforts of
German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe to
make music beyond the nation.
40 The Price Of Entry
david abraham deliberates the
bifurcated paths to citizenship in Germany
and the United States.
44 Outcast Eyes
martin jay focuses in on a caesura in
late medieval philosophy to draw out its
influence on modern art and the very birth
of photography.
HARALD HAUSWALD, HANS-OTTO-STRASSE, BERLIN-PRENZLAUER BERG, 1983, DDR
2 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
DIRECTOR’S NOTE
The Power of Ideas
T
went y years ago on October 3rd East and West Germany
were officially reconciled after standing for 41 years as two
distinct nations bound by a common history and language.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall less than a year earlier had laid the
groundwork for reunification, driven by Helmut Kohl’s vision of
a unified political Germany, Mikhail Gorbachev’s willingness
to alter decades of Soviet thinking, and the tireless efforts of
Americans such as President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of
State James Baker. These leaders and the hundreds of thousands
who took to the streets of Eastern Europe turned the ideas of
liberty and pluralism into political reality, ushering in the era of
German – and European – unity.
Ideas matter. That was the message of the great political think-
er and historian Isaiah Berlin, whose writing during the dog days
of the Cold War warned against the neglect of ideas “by those who
ought to attend to them, by those who have been trained to think
critically about them.” Berlin considered that moment unprec-
edented in modern history for the deep, even violent upheaval
wrought upon humanity by ideas that had been taken to their
fanatical extremes. It was a period, he said, of “open war being
fought between two systems of ideas,” and the moral charge of the
thinker or scholar was never clearer: “If professors can truly wield
this fatal power, may it not be that only other professors, or, at
least, other thinkers (and not governments or Congressional com-
mittees), can alone disarm them?”
During the heady days of the early 1990s it seemed, as Martin
Indyk recalls in this issue, “History had ended; democracy and
free markets reigned supreme; and the United States had become
the ‘indispensable nation.’” Those times are indeed past, and yet
so very much has been accomplished in just two decades, includ-
ing, of course, the founding of the American Academy in Berlin.
Ideas flourish when nurtured in the intellectual soil of another
culture, their longevity ensured by the generosity of private
individuals committed to cultivating a fertile exchange across
the Atlantic. This has most recently been exemplified by John
Birkelund, Marina Kellen French, and Nina von Maltzahn, whose
endowments of permanent fellowships in the humanities, music,
and history, respectively, will ensure that this future work takes
place on a firm, sustainable foundation of scholarship and ideas.
The power of ideas resonates in the articles by our Fellows
and Distinguished Visitors found in this present issue: Stanley
Corngold’s exegesis of Franz Kaf ka’s office writings bespeak a lit-
erary figure who found reprieve from bureaucracy in the life of the
mind; David Gelernter’s compelling ode to the book tells of novel
ways to connect concepts across time; and Brigid Cohen’s work on
the German-Jewish composer Stefan Wolpe offers insights into
seeing musical ideas beyond the nation. Lastly, historians Martin
Jay and H.C. Erik Midelfort approach ideas birthed in the medi-
eval and early modern periods to follow their rippling influence
– like that critical turning point twenty years ago – into the light of
our own time. – Gary Smith
THE BERLIN JOURNAL
A magazine from the Hans Arnhold
Center published by the American
Academy in Berlin
Number Nineteen – Fall 2010
PUBLISHER Gary Smith
EDITOR & MANAGING EDITOR
R. Jay Magill Jr.
ADVERTISING Berit Ebert,
Helena Kageneck
DESIGN Susanna Dulkinys &
Edenspiekermann
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PRINTED BY Ruksaldruck, Berlin
Copyright © 2010
The American Academy in Berlin
ISSN 1610-6490
Cover: Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano
Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man
(detail), 1530s, oil on wood. Image
courtesy bpk and the Metropolitan
Museum of Art
THE AMERICAN ACADEMY
IN BERLIN
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Gary Smith
CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE
OFFICER
Andrew J. White
Am Sandwerder 17–19
14109 Berlin
Tel. (49 30) 80 48 3-0
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4 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
MATTHEW BRADY, CRUCIFIX. BETWEEN 1844 AND 1860. HALF-PLATE DAGUERREOTYPE, GOLD-TONED
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 5
I
n the last decade, an invigoratingly
intemperate, often strident version of
atheism has become extremely popular.
Books like Richard Dawkins’s The God
Delusion, Sam Harris’s The End of Faith,
and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not
Great have sold millions of copies. Beyond
the unlikely success of these books, there
has also been the tentacular spread of
scores of atheistical and “secularist” web-
sites and blogs, some of them intellectually
respectable, others more dogmatic and
limited.
The New Atheism, as it has been
called, clearly has its origins in the shock
of the attacks of 9/11, and the rise of both
Islamic and evangelical Christian fun-
damentalism: in The End of Faith, Sam
Harris argued, for instance, that as long as
America remains mired in Christian think-
ing, it will never defeat militant Islamism,
since one backward religious system
cannot prevail over another backward
religious system. Atheism would be the
key to unlock this uneasy stalemate. The
very title of Christopher Hitchens’s book is
suggestive of similar thinking. Academics
like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins
have broader projects, perhaps – for them,
the removal of our religious cataracts
will result in a proper appreciation of the
natural world, and of science’s ability to
describe and decode it. But it is striking
how relatively parochial even these writers
are: “Religion” for all these polemicists
seems to mean either fundamentalist
Islam or American evangelical Christianity.
Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and the
more relaxed or progressive versions of
Christianity are not in their argumentative
sights.
Now that almost a decade has passed
since the events of 9/11, and the New
Atheism has had time to establish itself as
more than simply reactive, some of its intel-
lectual and theological weaknesses have
become more clearly apparent. The first is
that the New Atheism is really the old athe-
ism; how extraordinary, when one thinks
of it, that in 2010, Richard Dawkins’s
Oxford is now alive with the very battles
that gripped that city in the 1860s and
1870s! (Evolution versus biblical literalism,
positivism versus metaphor, science versus
revelation, and so on.) After all, Bertrand
Russell’s doughty essay, “Why I am not a
Christian,” first written in 1927, is still the
rather antique template for much of the
atheism of the last ten years. I grew up in a
religious household, and I remember the
furtive shock of reading Russell’s essay
when I was a teenager: it was like seeing an
adult naked for the first time. How bold, I
thought, that anyone would dare to suggest
that Jesus was not especially virtuous, and
was often bad-tempered (comparing poorly
with the Buddha and Socrates, in this
respect); that Jesus’s belief in the eternal
punishment of hell is repellent; that most
religious behavior has been tyrannical and
punitive; that the canonical proofs of the
existence of God are nonsense; and that
the earth is merely a happy accident in the
larger decay of the solar system. All this
seemed massively invigorating.
One can easily tire, however, of the
English philosopher’s insouciant empiri-
cism (a tone eerily reproduced in the
writings of Richard Dawkins). When
one returns to that essay as an adult, it is
Russell who seems a bit adolescent. The
gleeful listing of religious idiocies and
atrocities encourages a rebellious counter-
thought, which is that religious activity has
probably been as progressive and charitable
as it has been reactionary and hateful.
The brittle skepticism about the terrible
dangers of taking things on faith surely
provokes the reasonable reply that we take
all kinds of things on faith, including scien-
tific probabilities.
T
his brings us to the second
major weakness of recent atheism:
its literalism. The New Atheism is
locked into an essentially mimetic rela-
tionship to the very belief it is supposed
to negate – the candle-snuffer and the
candle belong together. Just as evangeli-
cal Christianity is marked by scriptural
literalism, and an uncomplicated belief
in a “personal God,” so the New Atheism,
by and large, is apparently committed to
combating scriptural literalism; but the
only way to combat such literalism is with
rival literalism. The New Atheists do not
quite quarrel over how much room there
would be in heaven for all the saved souls,
as believers (and non-believers) did three
and four hundred years ago, but they are
not far from such simplicities – they take
creationism far more seriously than it has
any right to be taken, and are quite fi

NOTES ON THE
NEW ATHEISM
Does the modern novel believe in God?
By James Wood
THE NEW ATHEISM IS LOCKED
INTO AN ESSENTIALLY MIMETIC
RELATIONSHIP TO THE VERY
BELIEF IT IS SUPPOSED TO
NEGATE – THE CANDLE-SNUFFER
AND THE CANDLE BELONG
TOGETHER.
6 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
logical fissures; it is dedicated to a literal
conception, and literal discussion, of God;
it is unable to offer a rich or meaningful
account of the varieties of religious belief
(within which category we should surely
include religious struggle and rebellion,
various shades of unbelief, devout atheism,
and so on).
I
am not a theologian, but a literary
critic. I come by my interest in theo-
logical issues through my childhood,
which was dominated by biblical belief
and ecclesiastical language. As a literary
critic, I can see that the modern novel,
since, say, Melville and Flaubert started
writing in the 1850s, offers a space within
which we might be able to explore some of
our contemporary theological issues (espe-
cially since our contemporary theological
issues have turned out to be so nostalgic).
Returning to Melville, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,
Jens Peter Jacobsen, Woolf, Camus,
Beckett, and José Saramago allows us to
read them as theological writers, strug-
gling with the departure, or threatened
departure, of a God whose late and fervent
return, in 2010, would have mystified
many of them.
I don’t want to use such writers, ahistori-
cally, as helpmeets and hermeneuts of our
current theological crises; rather, reading
them again, historically, in their own theo-
logical contexts, reveals their modernity;
and we discover that indeed they traversed,
more richly and productively, much of the
terrain we are laboring over at present.
These writers struggled with unbe-
lief and doubt; as novelists, they are
interested in trying to see both sides of a
theological argument, and thus they can-
not do what the New Atheists do, which
is merely to caricature any form of belief
(or unbelief, in Dostoevsky’s case) they do
not approve of. Since they are modern art-
ists, for whom language is to some extent
put in doubt, they are rarely literalists,
and they cannot entertain a naively literal
idea of God. Instead, they are intensely
interested in how we use metaphor and
picture-making to create an idea of God;
and of how the forms and language of
religious belief persist long after the dog-
matic content of the belief has essentially
disappeared (this is particularly true of
Woolf and Beckett).
L
et me give t wo brief examples
of how we might read these writ-
ers through a theological lens.
Contemporary fundamentalism (and con-
temporary atheism) has apparently forgot-
ten that an old religious tradition, evident
in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, insists
on the indescribability of God.
The God of Thomas Aquinas is far
more abstract and impersonal than, say,
the evangelical preacher Rick Warren’s.
Aquinas calls this God the First Principle,
or the universal cause, or “the efficacious
principle of all things.” He is a bodiless
entity outside our universe and sustains
our existence. Aquinas argues that we can
only talk about God indirectly, through
analogy, because He is the cause and we
are merely the effect. The best way to
approach God, he suggests, is by negative
theology – by saying what He is not, rather
than what He is. (Of course, on the positive
side, he also believed that we come to know
Him best through Christ.) The Jewish
philosopher Maimonides, who was almost
Aquinas’s contemporary, took a harder line,
and argued that it was impossible to know
God by assigning Him human attributes.
“Silence is praise to thee,” Maimonides
wrote, quoting from Psalm 65.
Herman Melville knew about the
silence that Maimonides commends. For
him, however, it could not be a strategy
of worship, but an agony: God had disap-
peared, and our prayers simply fall on
stony ground. “Silence, that only voice of
our God, and how can a man get a voice
out of silence?” he asks in his novel, Pierre.
Melville may or may or not have known
his Aquinas and Maimonides (though
he certainly knew his Milton, and his
Pierre Bayle, and was intensely invested
in theological matters). But it is surely
the case that Melville, driven to despera-
tion by this silence, does an ironic version
of Maimonides’s theology in Moby-Dick,
whereby the white whale is bombarded
with masses of descriptions and freighted
with allegory but remains gigantically
unknowable. Scores of different meta-
phors are used to try to picture, to contain
in words, the whale; and the novel’s real
terror comes down to this question: what if
God is only a metaphor?
My second example is from Virginia
Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. There is an
happy to debate with the Archbishop of
Canterbury (as Dawkins has done, on
television) about whether the Virgin Birth
and the Resurrection “actually happened.”
The God of the New Atheism and the God
of religious fundamentalism turn out to
be remarkably similar entities. This God
is not very Jewish, nor very philosophi-
cal: He is never the bodiless, indescrib-
able entity that Maimonides or Aquinas
ceaselessly describe, intoning their fine
approximations.
The third weakness is related to the
second. The literalist obsession with kill-
ing off a literal God, who is only ever seen
as a dominating old father or elder brother
up in the sky, leaves no space for more
sophisticated or abstract conceptions of
a deity, and brings with it a startling lack
of comprehension and sympathy for what
William James called “the varieties of
religious experience.” Since faith is inter-
preted, again, on the evangelical or Islamic
model, as blind – an entirely irrational,
non-empirical idiocy – so no understand-
ing or even interest can be extended to why
people believe the religious narratives they
follow; little or no understanding can be
extended to what so gripped Wittgenstein –
that is to say, the unthinking, relatively
undogmatic, embeddedness of daily reli-
gious practice.
It is not just that the New Atheism
necessarily offers feeble accounts of why
people believe in God; it also necessarily
offers feeble accounts of secular intel-
lectual history, too. For the history of our
secularism is the history of our religios-
ity. A believer might have a convention-
ally “religious experience” listening to
a Bach organ fugue in Chartres, but a
non-believer might have a less classifiable
“visionary experience” listening to Mahler,
or Radiohead, or doing physics. To rule out
of court the category of the religious robs
all of us, whether believers or secularists,
of some surplus of the inexpressible; it
forbids the passing of the shadow of uncer-
tainty over our lives.
So, in summary, our current atheism
is marked by at least three major weak-
nesses: it helplessly replicates many of
the nineteenth-century (and earlier) theo-
TO RULE OUT OF COURT THE CATEGORY OF THE RELIGIOUS
ROBS ALL OF US, WHETHER BELIEVERS OR SECULARISTS,
OF SOME SURPLUS OF THE INEXPRESSIBLE; IT FORBIDS THE
PASSING OF THE SHADOW OF UNCERTAINTY OVER OUR LIVES.
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 7
can’t paint, can’t write,” or Tennyson’s
“Someone had blundered,” or the last line
of the Grimm fairy tale that Mrs. Ramsay
narrates to her son at bedtime (“And they
are living still at this very time”). These
phrases are all, in their different ways,
relics; it is not clear that they will endure
any longer than the summer house, or Mr.
Ramsay’s work, or Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay’s
children. Yet words persist, even if they
do not endure forever, and many of the
words that persist in To the Lighthouse, are
biblical words, some from the King James
Bible, and others that are still identifiable
as “biblical” or “religious,” but which are of
less precise provenance. One of the novel’s
central questions turns on what it means
to continue to need or make use of a reli-
gious language whose content is no longer
believed in.
A
nd so Mrs. Ramsay’s question
remains: “Who had said it?” When
Mr. Ramsay declaims Tennyson, or
Mr. Tansley complains that “women can’t
write, can’t paint,” we know who has spoken
the words, or spoken and written them. But
in the case of “We are in the hands of the
Lord,” the words speak Mrs. Ramsay, and
if an unidentifiable voice says, “We are in
the hands of the Lord,” perhaps that voice
is the Lord’s? Why would one have need of
the words if the belief is merely a lie? Just as
consoling poetry? But the phrase is not real-
ly poetry. It is a belief, obscurely credited by
a woman who is not “supposed” to believe
anymore in such old-fangled nonsense.
Melville meditates on whether language
can capture God; and Woolf meditates on
how language persists in capturing God,
however reflexively and unthinkingly and
vaguely we use it to do this. Both writers
exhibit an involvement, an engagement,
with the presence and absence of God that
complicates any easy attempt to define our
own relations with belief and unbelief. And
thus both Moby-Dick and To the Lighthouse
are historical texts and living texts, with
plenty still to say to us. µ
James Wood, a staff writer at The New
Yorker, is Professor of the Practice
of Literary Criticism at Harvard
University and the fall 2010 Berthold
Leibinger Fellow at the American
Academy.
interesting moment in that book when Mrs.
Ramsay, sitting thinking, looks out of the
window towards the lighthouse. A phrase
comes into her head – “We are in the hands
of the Lord.” She immediately repudiates it:
“But instantly she was annoyed with herself
for saying that. Who had said it? Not she;
she had been trapped into saying some-
thing she did not mean.”
On the one hand, “We are in the hands
of the Lord” thus takes its place in the
novel with all the other flotsam of words,
the bits of verse and prose, the mental and
spoken thoughts, that float through the
novel and jostle each other. As a phrase, as
a piece of language, as a formal plea, “We
are in the hands of the Lord” belongs aside
Mr. Tansley’s mean-spirited “Women
ONE OF THE NOVEL’S CENTRAL
QUESTIONS TURNS ON WHAT IT
MEANS TO CONTINUE TO NEED
OR MAKE USE OF A RELIGIOUS
LANGUAGE WHOSE CONTENT IS
NO LONGER BELIEVED IN.
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The highlight of any journey is when you land in Berlin. After all, Germany’s capital is among the three most popular places in
Europe – and for good reason. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city offering excellent flight connections across Europe and throughout the
world. Which makes us not only an attractive destination but also the perfect point of departure for your next trip around Europe.
So when are you planning to touch down in Berlin?
TheBerlinJournal-100726-210x135(+3)-GATE.indd 1 13.06.10 15:54
www.berlin-airport.de
W
elco
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f Euro
p
e!
The highlight of any journey is when you land in Berlin. After all, Germany’s capital is among the three most popular places in
Europe – and for good reason. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city offering excellent flight connections across Europe and throughout the
world. Which makes us not only an attractive destination but also the perfect point of departure for your next trip around Europe.
So when are you planning to touch down in Berlin?
TheBerlinJournal-100726-210x135(+3)-GATE.indd 1 13.06.10 15:54
8 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
O
ver the last few years I have
been growing discontented with
what I will call the standard picture
of the German Enlightenment. Slow to
get started and surprisingly conservative,
the German Enlightenment, the standard
picture goes, dealt with issues like religious
toleration for Jews, Catholics, and vari-
ous flavors of Protestants, but it avoided
demands for democratic change in politics
or for a frank criticism of religion, “super-
stition,” and the clergy. It avoided, in short,
a critique that would separate religion from
the affairs of state.
It seemed telling for the standard
picture that the great names of the early
Enlightenment in Germany were Gottfried
Wilhelm Leibniz, the great librarian, math-
ematician, metaphysician, and polymath;
and his enthusiastic vulgarizer, Christian
Wolff, whose notion that we live in the best
of all possible worlds was brutally ridiculed
in Voltaire’s Candide. Stopping at those two
figures it seemed that the prevalent inter-
pretation of German intellectual and reli-
gious history was right: That Germany was
somehow allergic to the most bracing and
most radical thoughts of the age and that
the Enlightenment was perhaps essentially
French – clearly the more radical, more
relativist, and more frankly atheistic, with
major figures like Montesquieu, Diderot,
Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Voltaire, the
Baron d’Holbach, and Rousseau; and with
important parts played by Scotland, with
Hume’s radical thinking jumping out of
the straitjacket of Presbyterian orthodoxy
reading more on the Holy Roman Empire
I found, to my surprise, that despite its
dispersed and uncoordinated form of
governance, the Empire could be highly
effective, particularly when it came to cen-
sorship. What it required was an agreement
between local authorities and the imperial
center (in Vienna and in Frankfurt, where
imperial censors tried to supervise the
German book trade). Books were burned by
the common hangman, and both authors
and printers might find themselves in jail
for their efforts to challenge the religious
or political establishment. On a less for-
mal level, the threat of unorthodox words
(whether spoken or published) could lead
to losing one’s job. Moreover, it was stan-
dard for German universities to police the
orthodoxy of its students and faculty with
confessional loyalty oaths, either to the
Catholic Church, or to the confessions of
the Lutheran or the Reformed Churches.
This could be a sharp tool with which to
keep boisterous intellects in line, and one
could make up a long list of academics who
lost their jobs over what may seem to us to
be fairly minor doctrinal deviations.
So, had censors objected to the print-
ing of the naughty Greeks and Romans?
Actually, no. While there were efforts to
limit exposure to Hobbes, Montaigne, and
Spinoza, no one truly cracked down on the
ancients. Instead, it was widely assumed
that the learned would read them at univer-
sity, and that meant in the original. Even
when Germans did develop a vernacular
culture and a supple, powerful German fi

in the 1730s, and as well by the Netherlands,
and then by Italy and England.
In contrast, the German Enlightenment
seems remarkably staid and proper, hide-
bound to classicism and the narrow world
of the princely courts of northern Germany.
In fact, many of the naughtiest, dirtiest,
and most shocking classical writers were
incredibly slow in getting into German
circulation, and especially into German
translation. While such improper poets as
Lucretius on nature and the gods, Ovid on
love, and Catullus also on love (to say noth-
ing of Martial), were translated into Italian,
French, and English during the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, the Germans
did not get around to translating them
before the second half of the eighteenth –
and even then only in fairly bowdlerized
form. What was impeding the flow of these
classic and irreverent poets into German
culture? Why so langsam?
My first thought was that perhaps the
engines of censorship were suppressing
all attempts to find German for the materi-
alistic, epicurean, and erotic speculations
of the ancient Romans. But when I began
“THE WORST BOOK IN
THE WORLD”
A censor-evading network of manuscripts circulated the German Enlightenment’s most
radical – and despised – of early modern ideas.
By H.C. Erik Midelfort
BOOKS WERE BURNED BY THE
COMMON HANGMAN, AND BOTH
AUTHORS AND PRINTERS MIGHT
FIND THEMSELVES IN JAIL FOR
THEIR EFFORTS TO CHALLENGE
THE RELIGIOUS OR POLITICAL
ESTABLISHMENT.
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 9
AGNOLO DI COSIMO DI MARIANO BRONZINO, PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN, 1530s, OIL ON WOOD
I
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10 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
language that could handle the demands
of serious Greek and Roman thought, led
by Johann Christoph Gottsched in the
1730s, it was careful to avoid rocking the
boat. When Gottsched translated Pierre
Bayle’s enormously influential Dictionnaire
into German, for example, he wrote exten-
sive notes to the most challenging entries,
dissociating himself and attempting to
distance the reader from Bayle’s radically
skeptical thoughts.
Even the reading habits of everyday
Germans at the time were unadventur-
ous. Library records for residents of
Wolfenbüttel, for example, reveal the bor-
rowing of novels, travel literature, histories,
and witty tales. One did not really have to
censor the ancient classics to keep their
radical ideas out of the hands of readers;
there just wasn’t much demand for them.
That there was no radical thought in
the German Enlightenment was hard for
me to believe; all the ingredients were
there: plenty of printing presses, plenty of
educated and even daring or inventive intel-
lects, immigration, and travel. As a histo-
rian of early modern Germany, I knew that
Germans certainly were aware of what was
going on around them. Still, I thought, per-
haps I was looking for explicit and public
hints of radical thought in Germany where
they simply were not to be found.
But then my suspicions were confirmed
by an amazing flood of recent German and
Italian scholarship. Two German schol-
ars in particular, Winfried Schröder and
Martin Mulsow, have documented a dra-
matic spread of Spinozan ideas and of radi-
cally unorthodox, Socinian (anti-Trinitari-
an), Jewish, materialist, and religio-critical
works of just the sort that the anti-atheists
had been warning of. But these works have
been nearly impossible to find because they
were part of a massive, clandestine network
of works that, if printed, bore false dates
and false places of publication, leaving
most future scholars in the dark.
The most famous of these books were
published by a printer who did not really
exist: the mythical “Pierre Marteau, of
Cologne.” While some researchers guess
that many of the works supposedly pub-
century, not even a table of contents. When
actual copies of the work did surface, in
the eighteenth century, they were demon-
strably the products of the late seventeenth
century, and it slowly became apparent that
there were in fact three different works that
claimed the honor, or dishonor, of being
the notorious Book on the Three Impostors:
two were in French: La vie et l’esprit de
Mr. Benoit de Spinosa (1719), which became
known after 1768 as the Traité des trois
imposteurs, and a hitherto little-known
manuscript found only in Paris, the Préface
du Traité sur la Religion de M***.
It is, however, the third one that
reveals something about the German
Enlightenment: Composed in Latin in all
likelihood by a German jurist in Hamburg,
Johann Joachim Müller, it was written in
1688. Müller’s grandfather had been the
eminent Hamburg theologian Johann
Müller, who in 1672 published a work
dedicated to destroying atheism entitled
Atheismus devictus (Atheism Conquered).
While the grandfather had attacked the
Book on the Three Impostors, it was clear
that he had never seen it. The grandson
remedied that deficit by writing what he
imagined such a work would contain. It
is not clear exactly what Johann Joachim
Müller’s goal might have been, for in out-
ward respects he seems to have been an
obedient and faithful Lutheran citizen of
the zealously Orthodox Lutheran Hamburg.
Perhaps he merely meant to tweak the
noses of the hard-line pastors of his city,
including Pastor Johann Friedrich Mayer,
who showed a morbid and intense inter-
est in rare “atheistical” works. Müller may
even have learned much of what he knew
of skeptical and unorthodox thought from
Pastor Mayer’s personal library.
The basic idea that runs through
Müller’s work is that whatever claims
Christians make for their preferred books
of revelation are exactly parallel to the
claims the Jews make for their scriptures
and that Muslims make for the Koran:
Miracles? Holy lives? Stories of inspira-
tion? Coherent theology? Tradition? These
all might count for one of these Holy
Scriptures, but it seemed obvious that they
could not all three be true examples of
divine revelation. Some had to be false. In
every case, the witness of two traditions
tore down the credibility of the third, leav-
ing the reader wondering whether reliable
truth could be found anywhere. One source
of this sort of relativizing skepticism was
surely the awareness of the ancient history
lished by Marteau were published in
Amsterdam by Elzevier, in fact printers
and publishers from Germany also used
that pseudonym to protect their publication
of risky works, hundreds of them, some
criticizing the Catholic faith, claiming that
the Bible was useless for Catholics, others
ridiculing religion more generally; some
in a more secular mood criticized the
aristocracy and especially King Louis xiv,
and short novels published by Marteau pro-
vided titillating stories of lusty nuns and
priests, court scandals, and the corruption
and decadence of Catholic court culture in
general.
Even more radical, however, was an
underground network of surreptitious
unpublished manuscripts, most of which
were anonymous and dangerous simply to
possess. Here the sleuthing of Schröder
and Mulsow has turned up an amazingly
active market of bibliophiles and learned
collectors who were willing to pay high
sums for rare works that criticized or ridi-
culed the central propositions of their cul-
ture. These works were usually not printed
before the mid-eighteenth century or, if
printed, were immediately destroyed by
government officials or by publishers who
were afraid of getting caught with forbid-
den literature in their shops.
O
ne of these books was called
Liber de tribus impostoribus, (The
Book on the Three Impostors), a
notorious work that claimed the three
great Western religions were all based on
fraud: Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were
branded as “imposters.” The book had
been reputedly written by someone at the
court of Emperor Frederick II in the mid-
thirteenth century, or perhaps by some per-
verse Renaissance intellectual (a Boccaccio
or a Rabelais or a Giordano Bruno), or
perhaps been derived from late medieval
Jewish or Muslim sources. Horrified com-
mentators from the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries often enough claimed that
they had heard of or perhaps even seen a
printed copy of this infamous work, but
not one ever gave any detailed information
about the work before the late seventeenth
ONE OF THESE BOOKS WAS CALLED LIBER DE TRIBUS IMPOSTORIBUS,
(THE BOOK ON THE THREE IMPOSTORS), A NOTORIOUS WORK
THAT CLAIMED THE THREE GREAT WESTERN RELIGIONS WERE
ALL BASED ON FRAUD: MOSES, JESUS, AND MOHAMMED WERE
BRANDED AS “IMPOSTERS.”
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 11
and mythology of the Greeks, Egyptians,
and Romans, whose religions seemed to
have been fashioned to meet social and
political needs: to keep rulers and priests in
power and to promote an obedient or even
submissive populace. Another source was
surely the new knowledge flooding in from
other parts of the world, allowing for a com-
parative mythology that brought Hindu
and Chinese religion to Western notice and
again made the biblical stories seem more
fanciful and more mythical than they had
earlier. One of the key terms that Müller
used repeatedly in his work was comparison.
If one compared stories and ideas carefully,
they led to an almost total lack of conviction.
Müller’s book on the Three Impostors did
not depend upon claiming, as Lucretius or
Spinoza claimed, that the universe was a
place in which the gods had either retreated
to their blissful abodes or that God was
simply another word for Nature. Nor did
the book announce a new metaphysics.
Rather, it was content to question the sup-
posed logic by which God held His creation
responsible for the faults that He had built
into it; it questioned too the logic that if
there was a God, that He would “need” our
worship; and it cross-examined the wit-
nesses for one dispensation or another and
found them all wanting, in a manner that
was later strengthened by the arguments
of David Hume on miracles. What Müller
claimed was not that he knew that there
was no God, but merely than no one could
know if one tradition (Jewish, Christian,
Muslim, heathen) was truer than the oth-
ers. This may not constitute a fresh new
start in philosophy or theology, but it was a
caustic solvent for many of the comfortable
beliefs of his time.
This newly invented though long-feared
book on the Book on the Three Impostors was
not perhaps philosophically or theologically
subtle. It was not the long, careful argu-
ment that might have prompted serious
theological reflection, and it did not deliber-
ately advance beyond Descartes or Spinoza
in any sense. The two scholars that know
the book best, Mulsow and Schröder, even
think it likely that the author meant his
production as a kind of learned little joke, a
means of posing tough questions to theo-
deciphered as “Edelmann.” The translation
is loose, picking out topic sentences or the-
ses and then commenting, often in great
detail, on the text, so much that, all told,
Edelmann’s comments bulk larger than the
text he translated.
His comments reveal that though he
shared many of the anticlerical sentiments
of the author of The Three Impostors, he
retained a steadfast belief in God. He
explicitly objected, for example, to the very
first words of the book: “Deum esse, eum
colendum esse” (God exists [and therefore]
he should be worshipped), which Müller had
called a non sequitur. In Müller’s text, the
mere existence of God gives mankind no
reason to think that He should be wor-
shiped. “Why?” he asks. Is God somehow
in “need” of our worship? But Edelmann
protests. “True enough, reason teaches us
no sort of honor [i.e. worship] of the sort
one find in the [various] religions, but that’s
no reason to think that God is not worthy
of any honor, for we owe Him everything
and should thank Him. Before [our text]
would be right in its conclusion, one would
have to prove that there is no God, and that
is impossible.” Here breathed a very dif-
ferent spirit from that of the author of the
Three Impostors. Far from being an athe-
ist or skeptic, Edelmann was a deist with
warm feelings toward a divinity of some
sort. Where he agreed with Müller was in
their common conclusion that priestcraft
had deformed the originally pure concep-
tion of God, usually in the interests of
holding the rabble in check. This is what
Edelmann thought was the core deception
of organized religion. But religion, for him,
did offer genuine comfort or consolation:
“The religions, no mater how fraudulent
they mostly are, contain nonetheless many
cheerful aspects, which are a real benefit
to poor mankind in its tribulations.” With
this in mind, it is not surprising that
Edelmann remained convinced that Jesus
was innocent of all deceit, even though he
had not intended to found a new religion.
The responsibility for that lay with St. Paul.
Similarly, for Edelmann, the Bible was not
the product of supernatural revelation, but
all the same “it contains truly many pre-
cious and glorious truths, for which one
must hold it in high esteem.” fi
logians in a mocking tone, and they note
the many signs of haste in its composition,
including elementary and egregious errors
in the Latin.
W
hen it was first published
(imperfectly) in 1753, it appeared
without both place and publisher
and with the completely misleading date of
1598. Quite apart from the author’s inten-
tions, the work quickly spread through
a network of interested free spirits and
excited collectors. While some of its owners
did not, evidently, take it too seriously, for
others it was “the worst book in the world,”
a blasphemous assault upon all they held
holy. Well before that, it provoked fervent
rejections and counterarguments from
theologians and others who read the work
in manuscript form, starting with Pastor
Mayer himself, who in 1702 published
a dissertation entitled In diabolicum de
tribus impostoribus librum (Concerning the
Diabolical Book on the Three Impostors).
Atheism as a risky (and possibly blasphe-
mous) game had turned into a genuine
atheism.
This effect explains the treatment that it
received at the hands of Johann Christian
Edelmann (1698–1767), who translated
much of it and provided a lengthy com-
mentary to his translation. Edelmann
was a notorious free thinker, a man who
started out under the strong influence of
Pietism but who moved under the influ-
ence of Spinoza over into deism or (as some
thought) atheism. He got into trouble with
local authorities wherever he went, until
finally Frederick II offered him asylum
in 1749 on the sole condition that he stop
publishing his every thought. And so, apart
from his autobiography (composed 1749–
1752 but first published in full in 1849), and
some correspondence that stretches to 1759,
Edelmann disappears from the historian’s
view.
But he remained active, as we can see
from the fact that a manuscript recently dis-
covered by Miguel Benítez in Wrocław and
dated “Berlin 1761,” which represents the
only translation of our blasphemous little
book to survive from the eighteenth cen-
tury. The translator identified himself as
“Euander,” a pseudonym that was quickly
“THE RELIGIONS, NO MATER HOW FRAUDULENT THEY MOSTLY ARE,
CONTAIN NONETHELESS MANY CHEERFUL ASPECTS, WHICH ARE A REAL
BENEFIT TO POOR MANKIND IN ITS TRIBULATIONS.”
WHILE SOME OF ITS OWNERS
DID NOT, EVIDENTLY, TAKE IT TOO
SERIOUSLY, FOR OTHERS IT WAS
“THE WORST BOOK IN THE WORLD.”
12 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
W
hat might we learn about the
German Enlightenment from
this little excursion with Müller
and Edelmann? First, that radical ideas
were so much in the air in the 1680s that
an irreverent (or perhaps merely witty)
young German jurist could quickly pull
together several of them and compose the
book that generations of bibliophiles and
theologians would both covet and dread.
Second, that he could do so right in the
heart of Lutheran Orthodoxy, in Hamburg.
Third, that he could not, of course, dream
of publishing his Book on the Three
Impostors, but that avid and curious readers
were quick to make manuscript copies of
the treatise, so avid that some 70 copies still
survive in libraries today, mostly in Central
answer continues to be basically no, but
not for the reasons we have sometimes
assumed. It was not that German thinkers
and theologians were too timid to engage
with the dissident ideas of the French, the
Dutch, and the English. Indeed, the first of
the three different On the Three Impostors
books was both German and deliciously
radical in its way. But the forces of repres-
sion in Germany were active and truly
effective: if one stepped out of line, one
might lose one’s job and have to flee to
avoid jail, as many, many dissident intellec-
tuals in Germany found out to their dismay.
So the conservative nature of the German
Enlightenment was not entirely an intellec-
tual timidity. It was, rather, a caution born
of sad and intimidated experience.
µ
H.C. Erik Midelfort is the Julian Bishko
Professor Emeritus of History at the
University of Virginia and the spring
2011 Ellen Maria Gorrissen Fellow at
the American Academy.
Europe. But fourth, by the time it seemed
that Germany was “ready” for this as a pub-
lished book, by the mid-eighteenth century,
it could still only appear with a false date
of publication and with no hint of its pub-
lisher. And when the noted theologian and
Pietist-Spinozan deist, Edelmann, under-
took to translate it into German, he could
do so only by adding a cloud of comments
that seriously weakened the conclusions
toward which young Müller had driven.
A deeply skeptical conclusion may thus
have gone too far. Yes, Christianity was
not the only religion to make faith-based
claims to a unique revelation. Yes, orga-
nized Christianity, in spreading through-
out the Roman world and beyond, may have
made serious and debilitating compro-
mises with wealth, power, and pagan phi-
losophy. Yes, the Bible was now ever more
widely understood to have been a human
construction, not a supernatural miracle.
But that was far from the last word, and
Christian theology in the mid-eighteenth
century was just beginning to awaken from
its dogmatic slumbers.
When we ask, therefore, whether the
German Enlightenment was radical, the
WHEN WE ASK, THEREFORE,
WHETHER THE GERMAN
ENLIGHTENMENT WAS RADICAL,
THE ANSWER CONTINUES TO BE
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14 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
J
ournalism is passing through a
convulsion whose end is not in sight. Its
outward features are familiar: The most
lucrative advertising, especially clas-
sifieds, has migrated onto the Internet,
where it wins the attention of readers at no
apparent cost to themselves. The circula-
tion of terrestrial newspapers has plunged,
and their owners have not found a way
to raise much revenue online to replace
what they have lost from the combination
of ink and newsprint. These develop-
ments by themselves would have sufficed
to produce a crisis for publishers – not to
mention American journalists, of whom
roughly one-fifth have lost their jobs in the
past decade. Magazines and book publish-
ing suffer their own losses. The pity and
contempt in which au courant opinion
holds the papers is evident in the adjective
by which they are conventionally known:
dead-tree.
The damage is not only to the special-
ized industries themselves. Although there
are compensations, which I shall touch
on below, overall the depletion of the chief
social means of intelligence gathering
weakens the nerves and sinews of the body
politic. New online news sites, databases,
and blog-fests are all to the good, but there
is no way to sugarcoat this bitter pill: Fewer
journalists mean less scrutiny of power and
social troubles, more liberty for irrespon-
sible elites to steer society into catastrophe.
During the last decade – ten dismal years
that included abysmal campaign coverage
(2000’s Al Gore cast as fabricator, George
Bush as moderate), a preventive war predi-
cated on falsehoods, and the combination
of unheralded housing bubble and conse-
quent financial meltdown – the principal
watchdogs slept. News of the mounting
evidence of the climatic disturbances
commonly though imperfectly described
as “global warming” has been scantily and
often misleadingly delivered. Watchdogs
are not the sole prerequisites of a wise and
intelligent society, but a society cannot be
wise and intelligent without them. Great
fortunes and brilliant political careers will
always thrive on public ignorance.
The shortfall of news collection and dot-
connecting analysis is obvious. Not all of
it, of course, can be attributed to the forced
retirement of experienced writers and edi-
tors, the closure of foreign bureaus, and the
literal shrinkage of the papers. Journalistic
credulity toward authorities, one of the
abiding sins of the enterprise, was not born
yesterday. In 2004, official mea culpas in
the New York Times and Washington Post
acknowledged after the fact that – even
at a time predating the worst erosion of
reportorial strength – their reporting of
purported Saddam-Qaeda connections
and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
was sexed up during the run-up to the war,
how “the intelligence and facts were being
fixed around the policy,” in the words of the
“Downing Street Memo,” because journal-
ists for the most influential papers deferred
to government officials whose cornering
of the national security market and mas-
tery of the manipulation of the objectivity
fetish went unchallenged. The resolve not
to repeat these errors was rapidly followed
by the financial press’s deference to Federal
Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan
as he denied the housing bubble, and to the
bankers, deregulators, and financial ana-
lysts whose willingness to countenance per-
ilous derivatives and to promote the fantasy
of omniscient markets were considerable.
The decimation of the press is unlikely to
reduce the danger of future derelictions.
The consequences cannot be healthy
for a putatively democratic society whose
faith is that the general run of citizens can
learn enough about the world to guide their
governments – indirectly, through elec-
tions, and directly, by mobilizing public
opinion – in the arts of managing unruly
reality. Greater quantities of information
circulate all the time, but the collective abil-
ity to deliberate does not grow apace. To the
contrary: Triviality and gullibility, always
the temptations of a journalism in which
public service ranks second to profitability,
have acquired new channels through which
to flood public life. Never before have so
many known so much about what matters
so little.
The contraction of authoritative news
is part and parcel of a more sweeping
transformation in the way Americans (and
not only Americans) experience the world.
Attention, the scarcest of human resources,
is spread thin – or, to put it another way:
there are so many more entertainments
in circulation to take up one’s time, so
many new ways of stirring up disposable
emotions and sensations. Meanwhile, in
America today, people who go to the trouble
of concentrating on what is taking place in
the world and how it might be improved are
known condescendingly as “news junkies.”
In the flux of the media torrent, what
people experience as the boon of expanded
choice (think of the hundreds of fi
BAD NEWS FOR
THE NEWS
Never before have so many known so much about what matters so little.
By Todd Gitlin
TRIVIALITY AND GULLIBILITY,
ALWAYS THE TEMPTATIONS OF A
JOURNALISM IN WHICH PUBLIC
SERVICE RANKS SECOND TO
PROFITABILITY, HAVE ACQUIRED
NEW CHANNELS THROUGH WHICH
TO FLOOD PUBLIC LIFE.
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 15
JANUARY 1, 1890
THE HARTFORD HERALD
DECEMBER 25, 1889
THE HARTFORD HERALD (HARTFORD, KENTUCKY).
IMAGES COURTESY THE NATIONAL DIGITAL NEWSPAPER PROGRAM
AND THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CHRONICLING AMERICA PROJECT
JANUARY 1, 1890
THE HARTFORD HERALD
JANUARY 1, 1890
THE HARTFORD HERALD
16 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
television channels now carried by
American cable systems, not to mention
millions of online sites) translates, in the
large, into the fragmentation of the public.
A hypothetically unified entity once cel-
ebrated as the public sphere, in the singular,
is transformed into public sphericules –
networks of shared interest, relatively self-
enclosed, that pay attention only to subjects
that they are already, by interest or fancy,
inclined to think matters to them. Our
wondrous electronic linkages accentuate
the cultural fragmentation characteristic of
our time.
The newspapers’ command over public
attention did not begin shrinking yester-
day. American newspaper circulation has
been declining, per capita, at a constant
rate since 1960. What is new is the growing
pressure on small, mid-size, and even large
newspapers in metropolitan areas, coupled
with widespread recognition that this
decline is irreversible and that it belongs to
a larger transformation in the way in which
people encounter the world. Although
the youth “look at” the news online, they
spend less time reading it – or long-form
journalism, or books of any description –
than a decade, or two, or four ago. As for
broadcasting, when they watch television
or listen to the radio, they – as well as their
elders – can easily avoid news.
The Age of Cronkite turns out to have
been an anomaly, a briefly Golden Age
(roughly 1955–75) when national newscast-
ers commanded the national hearth and
were capable, along with newspapers, of
putting racial oppression, the Vietnam war,
and the crimes of the Nixon administra-
tion on national display. During the early
dinnertime hour, there were few choices
besides news. Today, there is nothing but
choices. As I write, any reader of the New
York Times may learn on its front page, or
online, that the average wealth of white
households is six times that of black and
Latino households. But if one has a need
not to know, it is easily satisfied elsewhere.
T
he growth of cable television
over the past thirty years contributed
mightily to the process of public
secession. So did the unleashed electronics
of the 1990s and since. Through these and
other developments, a new cultural dispen-
sation has arguably emerged. Precedents
are not proofs, of course, but they are tan-
talizing nevertheless. When the Greeks in
the time of Socrates adopted an alphabet,
they ushered in an age of sequential think-
ing: If this, then that. Collective reason still
had to struggle, but the promise of under-
standing was greatly – if fitfully – enlarged.
In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe,
printing with movable type enabled indi-
vidual study, empowered dissidents, and
undermined old authorities. New elites
could bubble up, churning up new forms
of public discourse. Eventually, the popu-
larization of print encouraged the develop-
ment of a civil society in which, under the
best circumstances, a democracy of self-
correction and improvement could evolve.
On a comparable scale, there is good
reason to think that we are living amidst a
sea change in how we encounter the world,
how we take in its traces and make sense of
them – a shift from an ideal of concentra-
tion to the diffusion of attention. This shift
of sensibility has been emerging for almost
two centuries – from photography to teleg-
raphy, phonography, film, and television
to the Internet, in the rise of screens and
the relative decline of sequential text. Both
losses and gains have resulted. The news-
paper was always a tool for a certain diffu-
sion of attention (you don’t so much read a
paper as swim around in it, McLuhan was
fond of saying) at least as much as a tool
for cognitive sequence. But the sensibility
of the Internet, mobile phones, omnipres-
ent screens, Facebook and Twitter and
so on – the media for the Daily Me, for
point-to-point and many-to-many trans-
mission – portends another sea change.
Attention attenuates. What has been called
“continuous partial attention” would seem
to describe the texture of an evolving way
of life.
Attention passes from slower access to
faster; from the textual to the visual and the
auditory, and toward multi-media combina-
tions; from concentration to multitasking.
At work, at home, on the road, in eleva-
tors, malls, and waiting rooms, we spend
much of our day in a torrent of images
and sounds, navigating through the snip-
pets, filtering them, desirous of them,
sometimes immersed, sometimes floating,
sometimes wading, sometimes choosing,
sometimes engulfed. People devise naviga-
tional strategies to pick their way through
the torrent. Among these navigational
strategies is the narrowing of one’s intel-
lectual world to a like-minded blogosphere,
which reflects, in turn, the growth of like-
minded neighborhoods.
T
he modern newspaper dates
from the first third of the nineteenth
century. To understand its power,
we must first look beyond the emergence
of specific reports to the creation of the
institutional means to generate them
reliably – thus, the professionalization
of reporting, the creation of specialized
beats, and so on. But we must also think
about the newspaper as a cultural form
and a prop in everyday life. The newspaper
was in the business of aggregation. It was
a sort of miscellany and it catered to, and
encouraged, learning through serendip-
ity. At its best, it collected incidental and
specialized readers into a functional pub-
lic and extended the scope of democratic
curiosity. Readers may have come to a
newspaper to find out about matters of
commerce, about shipping schedules and
company news; or to immerse themselves
in reports of the latest lurid murder; or to
find more reasons to root for their political
parties; or to pick up the latest about sports
and celebrities; or to keep up with the com-
ics or horoscopes, or, eventually, to do the
crossword puzzles, or consult the movie,
radio, and television listings. But as they
grazed through the pages, they could pick
up a certain rough acquaintance with the
shape of the larger world, and became at
least passingly familiar with the actions
of governments and other prime movers.
They didn’t need to care much about poli-
tics to be aware, even casually, that politics
cared about them.
In other words, journalism’s ability to
serve the cause of enlightenment, and
therefore democracy, rested heavily on
the assembling of what was, in a sense, an
accidental public. Readers who wanted to
know their world better in order to govern
themselves, and were frequently partisan,
were joined in a sort of ritual collaboration
by the more casually and diffusely inter-
ested. The fact that large numbers, even
majorities of the population, were drawn to
the news became a resource for reformers
of all stripes, especially the rationalists who
called themselves Progressives. The public
may have been a “phantom,” as Walter
EVENTUALLY, THE
POPULARIZATION OF PRINT
ENCOURAGED THE DEVELOPMENT
OF A CIVIL SOCIETY IN
WHICH, UNDER THE BEST
CIRCUMSTANCES, A DEMOCRACY
OF SELF-CORRECTION AND
IMPROVEMENT COULD EVOLVE.
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 17
Lippmann insisted in 1925, but still, this
phantom assembled itself around breakfast
tables and on railroad cars, reading the
papers. This model public was progressive,
in that it believed that shared informa-
tion would improve the ability of public
powers to intervene usefully. For a decade
and more in the early twentieth century it
dominated both major political parties. Its
victories were tenuous and reversible. But
as the sociologist Herbert Gans has pointed
out, the template for today’s journalism
remains the Progressive model in which
informed publics intervene to control
the excesses to which vested interests are
predisposed.
That model of journalism as an ensem-
ble of usable messages carries over into the
more unruly but ever-evolving sphere of
opinion blogs and current-affairs amalga-
mation sites, which encourage the percep-
tion that political discourse might have a
new lease on life even as the traditional
news organizations founder. But intense
back-talk is not the same as illumination.
It remains the case that little of the nuts-
and-bolts work of reporting is conducted
by Internet sites. Almost all current-events
blogs, as well as Google’s automated news
amalgamation scheme, are in the business
of collecting news from newspaper sites or
the handful of Internet sites that commis-
sion actual reporting – as opposed to com-
mentary, informed or not.
The political sites can circulate untruths
with unprecedented velocity – the case of
the “death panels” canard, which delayed
the passage of health care reform for
months, is much to the point. (The cur-
rency of falsehoods via talk radio, Fox News,
and the right-wing blogosphere is remi-
niscent of the slanderous journalism that
prevailed in the early nineteenth century.)
But the best of the new Internet sites can
also detect patterns, “connect dots,” and
thereby satisfy Lippmann’s injunction that
journalism serve as an instrument of pub-
lic purpose, an effort “to bring to light the
hidden facts, to set them into relation with
each other, and make a picture of reality on
which men can act.”
Here is an example from a website,
Talking Points Memo (tpm), with which
I’m associated: In 2006, several United
States attorneys were dismissed in mid-
term by George W. Bush’s Department of
Justice. These dismissals were reported
locally. The local reports were amalgam-
ated nationally by a de facto collaboration
of tpm readers who in effect improvised a
national newsroom. Some volunteer tpm
reporters conducted their own investiga-
tions. A pattern emerged: The US attor-
neys had been fired in order to prevent
investigations of Republican politicians
or because they refused to initiate inves-
tigations that would damage Democrats.
Congressional hearings ensued. The
upshot was that nine high-level officials
resigned, including the Attorney General,
Alberto Gonzales. Eventually, the Justice
Department Inspector General declared
that the process used to fire the first
seven attorneys and two others dismissed
around the same time was “arbitrary,”
“fundamentally flawed,” and “raised doubts
about the integrity of Department prosecu-
tion decisions.” In order to produce this
rectification, an assortment of scattered
facts had to be collected into a larger, more
penetrating story.
An increasing number of local online
sites practice the unearthing of facts. For
the most part, however, like the early nine-
teenth century press, the Internet, insofar
as it is concerned with public affairs at all,
lends itself to opinionating – an occasion-
ally useful but frequently parasitic activity.
This may succeed in consolidating opinion
among those who feel the need to have
opinions; it may intensify feeling; it may
help mobilize people into political action.
But the circulation of news bits originally
gathered by dead-tree journalistic endeav-
ors does not preserve reportorial jobs or
cultivate the higher forms of journalistic
investigation and analysis. The new forms
of aggregation, juiced up with tabloid-
style titillation (see: Huffington Post) does
nothing for the economic viability of the
mainline press. The Huffington Post thrives
on a business model that cannot serve the
interests of journalism in the long run: it
does not pay writers.
W
e are entering unknown
cultural territory, and it would
be foolish to think it can be
easily mapped. Ten or fifteen years into
Gutenberg’s era, could anyone have fore-
seen the Reformation? After ten or fifteen
years of radio signals, could Hitler have
been imagined? We are less than one gen-
eration into the World Wide Web. Futurists
rush in where analysts fear to tread.
Enlightenment is always at risk, Golden
Ages are brief, and human initiative is
undying. As the San Francisco radio com-
mentator Scoop Nisker used to say: If you
don’t like the news, go out and make some
of your own.
µ
Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism
and Sociology and Chair of the PhD
program in Communications at
Columbia University, is a spring 2010
Bosch Fellow in Public Policy at the
American Academy.
AN INCREASING NUMBER OF LOCAL ONLINE SITES PRACTICE
THE UNEARTHING OF FACTS. FOR THE MOST PART, HOWEVER,
LIKE THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESS, THE INTERNET,
INSOFAR AS IT IS CONCERNED WITH PUBLIC AFFAIRS AT ALL, LENDS
ITSELF TO OPINIONATING – AN OCCASIONALLY USEFUL
BUT FREQUENTLY PARASITIC ACTIVITY.
The images presented here of Kentucky’s Hartford Herald (1875–1926) are made
possible by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) and Chronicling America,
an Internet-based, searchable database of American newspapers. Millions of individual
newspaper pages published between 1836 and 1922 are freely available on the Library
of Congress website, www.loc.gov, where users may search the digitized pages as well
as consult a national newspaper directory of bibliographic and holdings information to
identify thousands of newspaper titles from dozens of US states available in a variety of
digital formats. In the coming years the National Endowment for the Humanities, which
sponsors the Chronicling America program, aims to have every state and US territory
represented in the NDNP database. Chronicling America is to be permanently housed
at the Library of Congress, making as much of the American newspaper’s storied past
available for future generations digitally.
18 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
THE E-BOOK PLAGUE
Ode to an old technology
By David Gelernter
CANDIDA HÖFER, BIBLIOTECA DO PALACIO DOS MARQUESE DE FRONTEIRA LISBOA I 2006
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 19
E
lectronic books, usually
intended for reading on portable
computers with screens roughly the
size and shape of a typical printed page, are
gaining ground in the book market. They
seem unimportant, but e-books show us
the technology industry’s lack of imagina-
tion, cultural obliviousness, and love of
quantity over quality. They show us the
passivity of conventional book publishers
and suggest the public’s tendency to treat
technology not as a world-widening source
of ideas but as a habit-forming drug with
side-effects no one worries about. In an age
when art, religion, and moral seriousness
are out of fashion, technology is (of course)
the opiate of the people.
Software can do wonderful things for
the book, but only if we start with the cyber-
sphere’s capacity to create new things, not
to satisfy us with cheap imitations of old
ones. In the long run, technological prog-
ress will be human progress only if tech-
nologists start by understanding the virtues
of the things they are trying to replace. But
they almost never do. Software can add to
the traditional book but can never replace
it: The book (that is, the traditional book) is
not only the most perfect achievement in
the long history of human design, it is also
an ideal interface to software, in principle.
At its best, software can turn the silent film
of the traditional book into a modern movie;
can turn the solo violin into a concerto. But
you cannot have a movie or concerto if you
start by throwing out the pictures or the
soloist. You must build on those.
T
oday’s e-books are an attempt to
replace the world of books with yet
another manifestation of the Internet;
e-books mean cheapness, efficiency, and
gallons of information to pour down your
throat instead of glassfulls to enjoy. Of
course, e-books have many practical advan-
tages. So do plastic flowers; and furry four-
legged robots are easier to care for than
dogs. But unlike plastic flowers and furry
robots, e-books have enormous momentum
in the marketplace because large compa-
nies are behind them, and no one wants
to be called a Luddite; no one wants to be
against technology and in love with an
obsolete past. Now that most sins have been
abolished, it has been necessary to promote
Luddite to the top rank of bad attitudes.
Our prejudiced approach to these top-
ics is clear in the fact that (in English) we
use “Luddite” to mean someone who is
against new technology just because it is
new. But we have no word for someone who
is in favor of new technology just because
it is new. Yet you will meet one hundred
reverse-Luddites for every Luddite you
come across. Reverse-Luddites are bad for
society and especially bad for technology.
Their easy virtue makes technologists lazy.
Instead of seducing the public with master-
ful achievements, technology only has to
ask and the public says yes.
P
ost war Americans were briefly
fascinated by the promise of “throw-
aways” – disposable plastic plates
and tableware, throwaway paper skirts and
dresses. The goal was constant novelty for
bored consumers: new clothes every day!
Electronic books can’t literally be dumped
in the trash, but they realize the highest
ideal of the “throwaway movement”: to
reduce to zero the artistic and human value
of the objects we handle.
Granted, electronic books are cheap and
can be stored in virtually no space. They
are easy to transport: a thousand weigh no
more than one. You can search and manip-
ulate their contents using software.
But ordinary printed books are more
robust and easier to repair. They are more
portable because you don’t have to worry
about damaging the mechanism: you
can take them to the beach or the back
yard, drop them on the street or let chil-
dren stomp on them. They never need
recharging.
In a real book, the physical package is
brilliantly suited to its function: the codex,
sheets bound on end – the standard book –
is roughly 2,000 years old and is still
mankind’s greatest design achievement.
Electronic books are all the same size. Real
books come in many sizes, which is part of
their value. Novels and poetry have small-
ish pages because they are all text without
figures, notes, or index; textbooks are larger,
with room for illustrations and captions; art
books and atlases are largest, sometimes
with one image covering two facing pages.
I have short, wide books suited to artists
whose paintings are long and low; and
tall, narrow books, mainly travel guides
that are easy to flip through. Children’s
books are another world of shapes and sizes
altogether.
Without even opening a book you can
guess what it is (fiction? textbook?) and how
long it is. You can recognize a book by its
cover, even if you don’t remember the title
or author. You can pull a book from a shelf
based only on its appearance or remem-
bered location. You can flip through the
pages quickly and form a rough idea about
the book, or stop at something interesting,
or recognize a passage you are searching
for.
Books fit our hands, our laps, our desks,
our shelves. Their shape and heft suits us.
A tennis racket, hammer, or drinking glass
is spoiled if it is too light, too heavy, not bal-
anced or not shaped right. Why should we
be less particular about the exact shape and
heft of books than about tennis rackets?
And books are not only useful but beau-
tiful. Nothing warms a room like a shelf of
books. Of the many small, ordinary objects
we handle every day, books probably do
most to soften the hard plastic surfaces of
modern life. Typeface and layout can make
each page beautiful – but even an e-book
allows us to admire those (although not
necessarily on a page of the correct size).
The texture and color of the paper stock are
part of the book’s appeal too. The jacket
design is part. The binding is part.
Granted, many old books were better
produced than the average new one: leather
spines and corners with marbelled boards
on many nineteenth-century books; deco-
rated cloth covers in the early twentieth
century. Modern books are too likely to be
cheaply made. Publishers miss the obvi-
ous point that book buyers who will spend
extra money to buy a hardcover instead of
a paperback would spend a little more for
a well-made hardcover. But some modern
books are well made; and at least the book-
making process itself is alive. The quality of
the product will improve again when read-
ers insist on it.
Real books last a long time. Books that
are 150 years old are plentiful and often
inexpensive. Is it likely that our descen-
dents a century and a half from now will
admire the beauty and craftsmanship of old
e-books?
The most important advantage of real
books is that they grow up and grow old like
human beings. It is easy to annotate a real
book – to argue, explain, or emphasize an
important passage. When you re-read the
book, your notes are part of it. Your ideas
and annotations change over time and make
the book itself change. Gradually a book
takes on the personality of its owner. fi
BOOKS FIT OUR HANDS, OUR LAPS,
OUR DESKS, OUR SHELVES. THEIR
SHAPE AND HEFT SUITS US.
20 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
My most valued possessions are books
my grandfather annotated, in English and
(in a beautiful, flowing hand) Hebrew; I
hear his voice in those notes. God willing,
my children and grand-children will hear
my voice the same way. Family Bibles have
notes on births, marriages, and deaths
going back hundreds of years; these deli-
cate long threads of fading ink lead us gen-
tly into the past. I have a sixteenth-century
English Bible and a seventeenth-century
Hebrew Bible, bought from book dealers,
neither annotated; but merely turning their
soft, heavy pages, so worn they feel like
cloth, connects me to the past – current
flows across the connection, nerve impuls-
es travel from past to present, and we see
ourselves from far overhead; catch sight for
a moment of the majesty of human life.
Modern computing can make books
better. But publishers and the technology
industry are going about it wrong. Starting
with an incomparably brilliant design, they
ought to improve it, not replace it. Each
book might have a partner through the
looking glass, in the cybersphere. Usually
this virtual partner will merely be useful;
sometimes it will complete and perfect a
book the way a score completes a libretto.
But the physical book on paper will always
be a full partner in this ensemble.
It is natural that when you acquire a
book you should be invited into an ongoing
electronic community of reader discussion
and author comment; of course you should
have access to an electronic version of the
text, so you can search or read online. Much
informal book-discussion already occurs
on the Internet. All that is needed is for
publishers to give this discussion a natural
form – just as the book itself is a natural
form for authorship.
When you scan the book’s code with
your book pen (or some other device), you
will join the community. A time-ordered
stream in the Cloud is a natural shape for
the accumulating reviews, comments, cor-
rections, and updates that form the book’s
log (like a ship’s log). The log is also a good
place for authors to mention new books
they are writing, or other books they like
or dislike. The stream is part of the book:
If the book is a comet, the stream is its
luminous tail. Books hurtling through the
cybersphere leave glowing tracks behind,
like the vapor trails of high-flying airplanes
or the phosphorescent wakes churned up
by large ships in tropical seas.
When you are interested in many books,
you can blend their logs (or streams) into
one stream, which keeps you up-to-date on
the book world from your own viewpoint.
And we can go further. Often readers
have comments or questions about particu-
lar passages – especially if they are students
studying literature or a textbook. Over
the years many students follow the same
trail and pass the same points; comments
and conversation accumulate around all
difficult or striking passages, like initials
carved in some notable old tree. When you
touch a passage on the page with your book
pen, you transmit information to a nearby
computer, which tunes in a “conversation
track” focused on exactly the word or pas-
sage you have touched. You see a list of
comments, questions, and answers clus-
tered around this passage. You might hear
ongoing conversation, if readers anywhere
in the world happen to have stopped to
chat at the same place you have. Many such
conversations proceed in parallel on every
interesting street and corner of the text.
The world’s book-readers suffer from an
unsatisfied hunger for pictures. We have
always wanted to see far-away people and
places, mountains and cities and buildings.
But photography is less than two hundred
years old; the mass-printing of photos is
newer than that; high-quality, inexpensive
color printing is a generation old, and
cheap, high-definition digital cameras
are even younger. It’s no surprise that the
world suffers from a gross shortage of
images. Of course there are untold millions
of photographs in the Cloud. But they are a
sprinkling of buttercups in a vast green val-
ley. The world is largely unphotographed.
Videos are even scarcer: If you are
looking for videos of the various spe-
cies of Eclectus parrot in the wild, or the
Cumbrian waterfalls of Scale Force, Moss
Force and Lodore that fascinated Coleridge,
good luck.
This absence of images is reflected in
our impoverished color vocabularies. We
have words for only a tiny fraction of the
colors that occur all around us in nature
and art. Art history merely asserts that
certain artists were great colorists; it says
little about the particular color-chords and
progressions that make the twelfth-century
glass of Chartres and Saint-Denis, or Titian,
or de Kooning great. Some art historians
still regard color pictures as a distraction in
art books. In the all-important field of color,
art scholarship has barely begun, because
the accurate mass-reproduction of color has
barely begun.
Publishers and tech companies will
work together to push forward the art of
the book. But the genius of the book itself,
the physical object, will always be the best
starting point; and authors and publishers
(not technologists!) will lead these collabo-
rations – unless they lack the vision and
heart for new things.
T
he book is an object that is
designed for the human eye and
human hand that has proved its
power and beauty over 2,000 years, that
is an extraordinary triumph in the art of
design. It exists on a human size and scale,
and its length is measured in words or
pages, not megabytes. Books connect us
every day to human craftsmanship and his-
tory. We hold their fate in our hands.
Real books will always exist – but will
book-making itself? Will the world be
flooded with e-books? – cheap imitations,
alluring as plastic trees? Or will e-books
create partnerships across the border
between real space and virtual space – the
most important border of the twenty-first
century; between the word on paper and
the supporting cast in the cybersphere?
Between the soloist and the orchestra?
William Blake wrote, “To see a World in
a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild
Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your
hand / And Eternity in an hour.” The tradi-
tional book is infinity in the palm of your
hand, is eternity in an hour. Will books
continue to help anchor us in the long his-
tory of human craftsmanship and thought,
or will we give them up and blow away in
a gust of cheap technology into a rootless
future? Each time we buy a book, real or
electronic, we help decide for or against
humanity’s most humane art. µ
David Gelernter is Professor of
Computer Science at Yale University
and was a Distinguished Visitor at the
American Academy in July 2010.
THE BOOK EXISTS ON A HUMAN SIZE AND SCALE, AND ITS LENGTH
IS MEASURED IN WORDS OR PAGES, NOT MEGABYTES. BOOKS CONNECT
US EVERY DAY TO HUMAN CRAFTSMANSHIP AND HISTORY.
WE HOLD THEIR FATE IN OUR HANDS.
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22 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
THE MIDTERM FIX
Barack Obama’s progressive-pragmatic foreign policy meets its Middle East test.
By Martin Indyk
O
n January 20, 2009, a young
African-American was inaugurated
as the forty-fourth President of the
United States. In his inaugural address,
Barack Obama made clear that engaging
with the world would be one of his highest
priorities. He intended it to be a very dif-
ferent kind of engagement from that of his
predecessor, George W. Bush. There would
be withdrawal of troops from Iraq; an out-
stretched hand to Iran; a reset in relations
with Russia; an expanded economic part-
nership with China; and a commitment to
pursue peace in the Middle East.
Obama’s first year turned out to be an
annus horribilis. The effort to engage Iran
had foundered, a victim of regime hard-
liners who stole the elections and then
brutally suppressed the opposition. Instead
of a quick start to Arab-Israeli negotia-
tions, the president found himself caught
up in an argument over Israeli settlement
policy. Boxed in by his generals, he reluc-
tantly approved sending an additional
30,000 troops to Afghanistan for a war that
seemed unwinnable. The near-collapse
of the Copenhagen climate negotiations
underscored the limits of American influ-
ence. Political polarization and gridlock in
relations with Congress had bogged down
the president’s domestic reform agenda,
raising doubts among world leaders about
his ability to deliver. Russia’s leadership
stalled on negotiations for the new Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty (start), hoping to
extract greater concessions. China’s newly
self-confident leadership began to throw its
weight around in bilateral relations. And
France’s president gave voice to what his
counterparts seemed to be thinking: Est-il
faible? (Is he weak?)
Every new president’s first year is bound
to be complicated. The learning curve is
always steep. The adjustment from cam-
paign promises to dealing with the world’s
complex realities is difficult. The new
HARALD HAUSWALD, WERBETAFEL EINES NÄHMASCHINENLADENS, PAPPELALLEE, BERLIN-
PRENZLAUER BERG, 1984, DDR
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 23
president quickly discovers that things look
different from the Oval Office.
In President Obama’s case, the degree
of difficulty was heightened by the circum-
stances he inherited: A home-grown finan-
cial crisis unlike anything since the Great
Depression; a losing war in Afghanistan;
emerging powers in Asia and Latin
America demanding their due; a nuclear-
armed Pakistan taking on the characteris-
tics of a failing state; Iran marching toward
nuclear weapons; a Europe seemingly los-
ing its way; and in the Arab-Israeli arena, a
deeply divided Palestinian polity and a new-
ly-elected right-wing government in Israel
that did not accept the two-state solution.
The America that Obama inherited was no
longer the Überpower it once was. Its repu-
tation had been tarnished, its hard power
strained, and its pursuit of democracy and
free markets abroad discredited.
How far the United States had traveled
from those heady post-Cold-War days that
Bill Clinton, Obama’s Democratic prede-
cessor, had inherited a mere eight years
earlier: The Soviet Union had collapsed; the
Berlin Wall was down; Saddam Hussein’s
army had been evicted from Kuwait; the US
economy was about to take off; all Israel’s
Arab neighbors were engaged in direct
peace negotiations; and Iran was licking
its wounds after losing a debilitating eight-
year war with Iraq. History had ended;
democracy and free markets reigned
supreme; and the United States had
become the “indispensable nation.” It was
easy in those triumphant days to imagine
that the United States could use its primacy
to dictate a more free, peaceful, and open
world order. Those days were long gone.
A
deeply intelligent and
deliberative leader, Obama’s com-
munity organizing experience in
Chicago seems to have bred in him a belief
in human progress achieved by small but
determined steps. As he told a huge, ador-
ing crowd in Prague in his first speech
abroad as president, the change that he
wanted them to believe in would not come
easily or quickly. In his Nobel Peace Prize
speech at the end of his first year, Obama
cited President Kennedy’s call to focus
on “a more practical, more attainable
peace, based not on a sudden revolution in
human nature, but on a gradual evolution
in human institutions.” His task was not to
seek transformational change abroad, but
to pursue a more modest effort to “bend
history in the direction of justice.” In the
meantime, there was transformational
work to be done at home: The rebuilding of
an American economy based on renewable
energy, the creation of new jobs, health-
care and education reform. In all this he
declared he would seek a balance between
competing priorities, refusing to set goals
“that go beyond our responsibility, our
means, or our interests.”
Foreign policy scholar Walter Russell
Mead has categorized Obama’s initial
approach as “Jeffersonian,” after America’s
third president, who propounded limiting
commitments abroad in order to nation-
build at home. But Obama’s engagement
with the world also displays, Mead observes,
a “Hamiltonian” urge to pursue a realist
effort to confront America’s adversaries.
The president’s decision to send more
troops to Afghanistan was an expression of
this balancing act: Adding 30,000 troops
but announcing that they would begin com-
ing home in the middle of 2011. Explaining
his decision, Obama rejected the goal of
nation-building in Afghanistan “because
it sets goals that are beyond what can be
achieved at a reasonable cost and what we
need to achieve to secure our interests.”
He would instead focus on reconstructing
America, “the nation that I’m most inter-
ested in building.”
Other instances in the president’s
first year manifested this urge to balance
competing demands: The attempt to close
Guantanamo Bay while dramatically step-
ping up drone attacks on Al-Qaeda-related
terrorists; promoting a nuclear-free world
while making modest adjustments to
America’s nuclear posture; advocating
clean energy while allowing greater off-
shore drilling.
This balancing act pleased few and
provided fodder for Obama’s critics, who
saw his compromises as signs of weakness.
His inability to produce clean outcomes
quickly were taken as indications of incom-
petence. His efforts to engage competing
powers seemed to come at the expense of
ignoring traditional allies. His reluctance
to unfurl the banner of human rights and
democracy in Iran, the Arab world, and
China indicated abandonment of values-
based diplomacy. Above all, these moves
produced questions about whether Obama
had a strategy at all.
T
his composite narrative on
President Obama’s first year in for-
eign policy, however, misses a signifi-
cant subtext in the president’s approach,
which is now emerging in sharper focus
as it takes on greater form and substance.
It is best reflected in the confluence of
summitry and diplomacy that took place
in the Spring of 2010: The signing of the
New start Treaty with Russian President
Medvedev; the unveiling of the Nuclear
Posture Review; the convening of the
Washington Nuclear Security Summit
with 43 world leaders in attendance; and
the opening of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
(npt) Review Conference. The president
intended that this effort would find its cap-
stone in a new UN Security Council resolu-
tion mandating tougher sanctions against
Iran for its violations of the npt.
In this multi-pronged approach Obama
can be seen to be attempting to shape a new
multilateral international order. One of its
pillars is nuclear disarmament and non-
proliferation: “To seek the peace and secu-
rity of a world without nuclear weapons,” as
the president put it in his Prague speech.
But to achieve this purpose, Obama
believes that the United States must take
the lead – hence the New start Treaty with
its reductions in US and Russian nuclear
arsenals – and promote a rules-based sys-
tem in which the “world must stand togeth-
er to prevent the spread of these weapons.”
In this new order, those who break the
rules must face consequences: Sanctions
that “exact a real price” and the increased
pressure that “exists only when the world
stands together as one.” In this context,
curbing Iran’s nuclear program becomes
a means to encouraging old and new pow-
ers to assume their responsibilities for the
maintenance of the order. It also becomes
one of the most significant challenges to
that order, for if the community of nations
fails to prevent Iran from abrogating its
obligations as a signatory to the Non-
Proliferation Treaty, chaos will follow – a
nuclear arms race in the Middle East will
likely be triggered and the npt will likely
collapse. Little wonder that Obama refers to
strengthening the non-proliferation regime
as “a centerpiece of my foreign policy.”
To have it succeed, the president has to
unify the approaches of the established and
emerging powers. The “reset” policy fi

IN THIS MULTI-PRONGED
APPROACH OBAMA CAN BE
SEEN TO BE ATTEMPTING TO
SHAPE A NEW MULTILATERAL
INTERNATIONAL ORDER.
24 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
with Russia was a critical first step, yield-
ing Moscow’s support for the principle of
tougher sanctions against Iran. That, in
turn, made it possible to secure Chinese
support for sanctions. The give-and-take
inherent in the effort to achieve unanimity
is likely to produce a new sanctions regime
that falls short of the “crippling sanctions”
that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
called for: Russia wanted to avoid sanc-
tions on arms sales; China wanted to avoid
sanctions on oil trade; Brazil’s Lula wanted
time to act as an intermediary; Turkey’s
Erdogan seemed determined to protect his
new friends in Tehran. Nevertheless, the
reshaping effort proved good when a hard-
won P5 consensus held in the face of last-
minute maneuvering by Iran’s leadership.
But unanimity in itself is likely to
be inadequate to the challenge of curb-
ing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Bush
Administration succeeded in securing
three unanimous UN Security Council
condemnations of Tehran, all to little effect.
The combination of new multilateral sanc-
tions and tougher unilateral sanctions
taken by the United States and Europe
may drive the Iranians back to the nego-
tiating table. But there is not much hope
in Washington that it would be anything
more than a tactical ploy to buy more time
for building a “breakout” nuclear capabil-
ity. Given the importance of the issue to
Obama’s vision of a new multipolar world
order, the trend in Washington is thus
toward greater confrontation with Iran.
President Obama himself has ratcheted
up his rhetoric on this subject. He has gone
from saying it is “unacceptable” for Iran
to acquire nuclear weapons to declaring
he is “determined to prevent” them from
doing so. There is also growing talk of the
military option. Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen,
and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates no
longer say it would be a “bad idea.” Instead
they declare that force is “on the table.”
This may be a way of signaling to Iran that
there really could be dire consequences
if they don’t take seriously the will of the
international community. It also indicates
a more confrontational trend in Obama’s
approach.
If sanctions do not convince Iran to
change course, the EU and the United
States will have to choose between preven-
tive military action and a strategy of con-
tainment and deterrence. It’s fairly obvious
where the Europeans will want to go, and a
year ago President Obama would have gone
there with them. We would together have
chosen the containment and deterrence
option. That choice is no longer certain.
Given this, contending with the Arab-
Israeli conflict becomes all the more
important for President Obama. Resolving
a long-running conflict between Israel
and its Arab neighbors – particularly the
Palestinians – has a value in itself. He
believes in helping Israel, an important
ally, to resolve a debilitating conflict. The
president clearly feels that time is running
out on the solution of “two states for two
people.” But he is also motivated by a belief
that success will have a positive effect on
everything else that he is trying to do in the
Greater Middle East. It may not solve all the
problems, but it makes it easier to do so. It
makes it easier to get the Arab street, and
therefore Arab leaders, on board to confront
and pressure Iran. It makes it easier to iso-
late Iran and to convince it that its interests
are better served by complying with the
will of the international community. And
it gives America greater credibility in this
part of the world for the broader reshaping
process Obama is promoting.
W
hat are the chances that
President Obama can achieve
a breakthrough to Israeli-
Palestinian peace in his second year, or
ones subsequent to it? There are several
reasons for cautious optimism. The first is
called “Fayyadism,” after the Palestinian
Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is
changing the cassette in the minds of
Palestinians in the West Bank. He is show-
ing them that they can take their fate into
their own hands; they can build their own
state from the ground up; they do not have
to be victims. This is manifested in dramat-
ic new ways in the West Bank: A credible,
capable Palestinian security force policing
the area and working with the Israeli army
to ensure security for Palestinians and
Israelis; representative and transparent
institutions of government; and an econo-
my beginning to boom.
In Gaza, too, we see an interesting situ-
ation: Hamas is now policing the territory
and preventing attacks on Israel. For the
first time since Yasser Arafat returned to
Gaza, in 1994, the Palestinian authorities
are actively preventing acts of violence
against Israel. At the same time, in Israel
there is a right-wing government that has
endorsed the two-state solution and there-
fore accepted the idea of an independent
Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
This same government has placed a morato-
rium on new settlement activity in the West
Bank and, apparently, is now doing its best
to avoid provocative actions – demolitions,
evictions, and announcements of new ten-
ders in east Jerusalem. Moreover, the Arab
states, which have always been reluctant
to provide political cover for Palestinian
leaders who would make peace, have now
formally endorsed Abu Mazen’s decision to
engage in indirect peace talks with Israel.
Israelis are beginning to see that they
have a reliable partner on the Palestinian
side. Palestinians are beginning to hope
they can achieve their independence
through negotiations and compromise
rather than through violence and terror-
ism. And President Obama and Israeli
Prime Minister Netanyahu have come to
understand that it is more productive to
work with rather than against each other.
As a consequence, direct peace negotiations
should soon begin, creating an opportu-
nity for Obama to forward ideas that could
bridge the gaps between the two parties.
If Obama eventually succeeds on the
Palestinian issue, it will impact positively
on his effort to convince Iran that its inter-
ests are not well served by continuing to
pursue nuclear weapons. That may yet
enable him to herald in a new, more stable
Middle Eastern order as the foundation for
the multipolar world he seeks to shape.
But if he fails, the United States might
well end up in a third war in the Middle
East, this time with Iran. That is where
“progressive pragmatism” can lead when a
new president takes the United States into
the Middle East maze. µ
Martin Indyk is Vice President and
Director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings
Institution and was a Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Visitor at the American
Academy in spring 2010. This essay is
derived from his May 5, 2010 lecture.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA CAN ACHIEVE
A BREAKTHROUGH TO ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE IN HIS SECOND
YEAR, OR ONES SUBSEQUENT TO IT? THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS
FOR CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM.
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26 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
THE ORGANIZATION MAN
Franz Kafka, risk insurance, and the occasional hell of office life
By Stanley Corngold
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 27
M
ost readers know Franz
Kaf ka as the reclusive author of
stories and novels that have since
become monumental works of modern
literature. Some readers also know him as
a bureaucrat who, unhappy in his office,
castigated the “hell of office life.” But few
know that he rose at the end of his life to
the position of Senior Legal Secretary at the
Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute
for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague
(called, after 1918, the Workmen’s Accident
Insurance Institute for the Czech Lands).
Kaf ka was no Bartleby the Scrivener, no
harmless office drudge. Rather, he was
a brilliant innovator of social and legal
reform in “the Manchester of the Empire,”
which at the time of Kaf ka’s tenure,
between 1908–1922, was one of the most
highly developed industrial areas of Europe.
Kaf ka’s professional writings have
become more and more interesting to
scholars seeking the elusive patterns of his
thought. Today, his relation to “the office”
seems predictably conflicted but by no
means entirely negative. In 1913 he wrote
the comment to his fiancée Felice Bauer
that has dictated the popular view:
Writing and office cannot be reconciled,
since writing has its center of gravity in
depth, whereas the office is on the sur-
face of life. So it goes up and down, and
one is bound to be torn asunder in the
process.
But Kaf ka’s being torn asunder is not
the whole story. In his own words he was
a “natural” official, fully aware of “the
deep-seated bureaucrat” inside him, and
he was not blind to its advantages. In an
amazing letter written in 1922 to his friend
Oscar Baum, he wrote “of our fumbling
interpretations, which are powerless to fi
STEVEN AHLGREN, ACCOUNTING OFFICE, NEW HAVEN, CT, 1992
28 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
STEVEN AHLGREN, COMMERCIAL BANK, NEW HAVEN, CT, 1992
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 29
deal with the ‘evolutions,’ embellishments,
or climaxes of which the bureaucracy is
capable.” If the office stood in the way of his
writing, he could also breathe an élan into
it and even furnish it with a human gaze, as
a sort of brother adversary. In a letter to his
lover Milena Jesenská, Kaf ka describes the
office as precisely not a machine in which
workers like him might be “a little cog” or
“a big wheel.” Rather, “To me,” he wrote,
“the office is a human being – watching me
with innocent eyes wherever I am, a living
person to whom I have become attached in
some way unknown to me.” The office, in
his words, “is not dumb, it is phantasmal.”
These remarks suggest Kaf ka’s aware-
ness of the impact of his office life on his
literary imagination. “It brought him into
direct contact,” writes the Kaf ka scholar
Jeremy Adler, “with industrialization,
mechanization, and bureaucracy, as well as
with the struggle between capital and labor,
and his official writings antedate his liter-
ary breakthrough.” At the end of his life
Kaf ka sought to overcome imaginatively
his earlier hostility to the office. In his
novel The Castle, a hero named K., Kaf ka’s
“vice-exister,” struggles to enter a strange
“castle,” which runs on principles reminis-
cent of Kaf ka’s insurance institute. The
ambition of this K.-figure is something of a
riddle, and readers will wonder what it can
mean for Kaf ka, who did not have to strug-
gle to enter his office, where his presence
was needed and paid for. But the theme
of seeking entry into a higher institution
runs throughout Kaf ka’s diaries in differ-
ent directions. When he writes of craving
to enter another place or sphere, it is very
often to come into his authentic being
as a writer (he coined the German word
Schriftstellersein, or “writerly being”). We
will still wonder what connection can exist
between creative, hotly intense imaginative
writing and the life-blood of the office, the
writing of briefs and filling in of forms?
The answer lies in Kaf ka’s analogies.
For him, both institutions – writing
and the law – practice feats of imaginative
embellishment: both reach for heights of
complexity, for “climaxes,” in their proce-
dures. In their operations and their subject
matter, especially in Kaf ka’s case, both deal
with concepts of fault, of standards and the
failure to meet standards, of dereliction and
shortcoming. “How do I excuse my not yet
having written anything today?” he writes,
on a typical day. “In no way. . . . I have a con-
tinual invocation in my ear: ‘If you would
come, invisible court!’” And, finally, very
importantly, both sorts of writing, the legal
and the literary, at their best proceed imper-
sonally. Consider Kaf ka’s great description
of his fate as a writer:
If there is a higher power that wishes
to use me, or does use me, then I am
at its mercy, if no more than as a well-
prepared instrument. If not, I am noth-
ing, and will suddenly be abandoned in a
dreadful void.
What is striking about Kaf ka’s last novel
is that his personal castle, the “house of
writing” into which he forever sought
entry, wears the features of bureaucracy,
so that in the end these two kinds of being
become indistinguishable. In The Castle we
glimpse the imaginative “reconciliation” of
office and writing.
I
n his daytime office work, Kaf ka
was preoccupied above all with accident
insurance, a “business” that, as he wrote
in an early letter, “interests me greatly.” It
stands to reason that as a full-time specialist
in industrial accidents, from 1908 on, he
would have introduced something of the
logic of accident insurance into his novels
and stories. On this assumption, one of the
principles of Kaf ka’s literary world could be
called “culture insurance,” a concept owed
to the Kaf ka scholar Benno Wagner. Kaf ka’s
stories and novels bring together fragments
of many different cultural discourses – fam-
ily language, subjective psychology, sexual-
ity, literature, music, artistic performance,
law, political agitation, religious ideology,
war, and more, always profiling the conflict
of values that informs them.
Kaf ka’s second novel, for example, The
Trial, was written in 1914, contemporane-
ously with his harrowing story “In the Penal
Colony.” In The Trial, a high-ranking bank
official is arrested without his ever learning
the grounds of his arrest and subsequent
execution. “In the Penal Colony” sees fi

FRANZ KAFKA wrote his manuscripts in quarto notebooks (about A5 size) or postcard-
size octavo notebooks. Today many of the manuscripts are available as facsimile prints.
Therein one finds a rich handwriting style with partly pronounced calligraphic features,
written not only in Roman script but also in a German script popular in Austro-Hungary
at the turn of the twentieth century. The rhythm and mood of Kafka’s handwriting
changes dramatically from slow and relaxed and wide to fast and tense, resulting
in undulating, expressive lines and sometimes indecipherable characters. This rich
material was the inspiration for the digital type family FF Mister K, by designer Julia
Sysmäläinen. Her Kafka typeface draws upon the strongly varying typographic charac-
ter of the original script, capturing the visual spirit of Kafka’s original manuscripts.
30 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
a high-ranking officer lay a prisoner on a
machine that writes into his body the text of
the law he has broken. But before the story
is over, it is the high-ranking officer who
lays himself on the machine for punish-
ment. The two stories vary with haunting
complexity the conflict between highly
placed persons and the lower-order per-
sons they punish, while introducing these
conflicts into several different cultural
discourses. Together, The Trial and “In the
Penal Colony” allude to historical epochs
of Western law, to the bureaucratic agonies
of the day, to the Old and New Testament,
to Talmudic disputation, to Chinese tor-
ture gardens, to the Dreyfus case, to the
Hollerith punch-card machine.
In proceeding allusively and comprehen-
sively, Kaf ka performs for his culture an
operation similar to the operation that acci-
dent insurance performs for the work life.
His stories identify, differentiate between,
and then bundle together opposing posi-
tions within different cultural enterprises
and in this way level the risk of defeat to
one or the other party to the conflict. The
Trial contains a literal example of this “bun-
dling” together of the disputants: court and
supplicant, once distinct, merge when, as
the prison chaplain, declares, “The judg-
ment isn’t simply delivered at some point;
the proceedings gradually merge into the
judgment.” The verdict of the court is a
judgment on the way in which the accused
conducts his defense: The accused delivers
his own verdict. Both parties, court and vic-
tim, share responsibility for the killing.
Where wider cultural enterprises are
concerned (empires, nations, religions),
Kaf ka bundles risks by the strategic use of
stereotypical images to create a common
ground. He invests such stigmatizing
metaphors as “nomads,” “apes,” “vermin,”
and “dogs” with features and values that are
common to each of the conflicting groups;
in this way, a discourse of enmity and dis-
sociation becomes a discourse of likeness
and community. Consider, for example, the
figure of the acculturated ape Red Peter
in “A Report to an Academy,” who is at once
the trained animal, the incipient language
speaker, Esau (“And the first came out red,
all over like an hairy garment,” Genesis 25),
the adolescent experiencing orgasm, the
Jew venturing on “civility,” the fraternity
duelist qualifying with a scar, the circus
artiste, and the “European of average
culture.” Few groups, stigmatized or not,
would fail to find themselves represented in
this figure.
Again, the goal of the 1917 story
“Building the Great Wall of China” is to
protect the Empire from the nomads. These
nomads might be identifiable in turn as any
minority population wanting to be included
in a nation state, but here the Chinese
Empire, threatened by irredentism, seeks to
exclude them with an inevitably discontinu-
ous and porous wall. To the question, “How
can a wall afford protection when it is not
built continuously?” the narrator replies,
Indeed, not only can such a wall not pro-
tect, but the construction itself is also in
continual danger. Those sections of the
Wall left abandoned in barren regions
can easily be destroyed, over and over,
by the nomads, especially since at that
time these people, made anxious by the
construction of the Wall, changed their
dwelling places with incomprehensible
rapidity, like locusts, and so perhaps had
a better overview of the progress of the
Wall than even we ourselves, its builders.
The key to the wall is its design. Its design
is incomprehensible, except, perhaps, to the
nomads whom it is meant to ostracize. This
fact, taken strongly, means that the builders
are dependent on the beings from whom
STEVEN AHLGREN, COMMERCIAL BANK, ST. PAUL, MN, 1992
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 31
it is their entire purpose to obtain protec-
tion. Invaders and invaded share the risk of
mutual destruction. At the same time, the
paradox of the breachable wall alludes to
Kaf ka’s affirming a system of comprehen-
sive accident insurance for both on-site and
off-site industrial injuries that nonetheless
allows for negotiable gaps.
Throughout Kaf ka’s office writings, we
see him transforming materials from these
documents into his literary work. Images
of land surveyors, planing machines, and
underground fortification wander dream-
like into his fiction; more importantly,
perhaps, so do modes of legal argument.
Kaf ka’s official policy might best be put as
redefining the being of things and relations
through the risk they constitute. An “auto-
mobile,” for example, is a factory, housing
machinery capable of causing potential
harm to its “workman” – the chauffeur.
The automobile owner, henceforth a factory
owner, would thus be required to pay insur-
ance fees set on the basis of the fees levied
on other factories harboring comparable
risk. Kaf ka, as it happened, thought this
idea unacceptable for the pragmatic rea-
son that automobile owners were already
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required to pay high fees merely for the
fact of owning the thing. Kaf ka’s stance of
distributing responsibility equipollently
between contesting parties – a stance
informing his fiction and generally arous-
ing displeasure among his readers – in fact
reflects the spirit of pragmatic negotiation
that he employed at the office.
The discourse of risk insurance suggests
another complementary view of the heroes
in Kaf ka’s fiction: they are the victims of
accidents for which no insurance has been
devised and might never be devised, such
as a policy protecting persons from the con-
sequences of waking up one morning as a
verminous beetle. It would be too difficult to
monetize the risk. One has so little data.
T
he office provided Kaf ka with a
trove of material images (add on quar-
ries, cognac, photographs, peasants)
that, duly transmuted, surface in his work.
But the best connection between the legal
writings and the fiction is captured only
by moving one stage higher on the order of
thought – from shared images and tropes
to the plane of accident, unintelligibility,
unreadability. We have two compatible
“agencies”: On one hand, accident insurance,
which responds to a growingly uncontrol-
lable and impersonal event by aiming to res-
titute the alienated subject; and on the other,
the narrative of individuals confronting
wild accidents (waking up as a bug; being
arraigned and killed for a never-specified
crime; or losing one’s way to death). Both
systems aim to contain such accidents, make
readable the unreadable, monetize risk, gain
“a dear purchase” on chance. Except that
the fictions must do without that statistical
norming and must instead report the failure
of individuals to discover the norming rea-
son for the accident that has befallen them
in the creaturely order. Yet, “a certain truth,”
as Kaf ka wrote in his notebooks, “might lie
only in the chorus [of voices],” a bundling
together of counterpoints within the narra-
tive between of the voice we hear with the
voices in other Kaf ka texts, always available
to be heard contrapuntally. µ
Stanley Corngold is Professor
Emeritus of German and Comparative
Literature at Princeton University and
a fall 2010 Berlin Prize Fellow at the
American Academy.
©2010 Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
WilmerHale provides legal counsel to clients in and around Germany’s key financial, political
and industrial centers. With offices across the globe, we are strategically positioned to provide
counsel on complex international matters affecting your business.
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Notebook of the American Academy in Berlin | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
ON THE WATERFRONT
NEWS FROM THE HANS ARNHOLD CENTER
N2 Academy Notebook: New York
City Mayor and philanthropist
Michael Bloomberg awarded
the 2010 Henry A. Kissinger
Prize in Berlin
N12 Life & Letters: The fall 2010
fellows, a sneak preview
of the spring 2011 class,
call for applications, and
alumni books
N5 Sketches & Dispatches: Paul
Volcker on reforming global
finance, Ernst Cramer’s last
editorial, Philip Murphy and
Frank Langella at the Academy
N4 Academy Notebook: Proudly
announcing three new
Academy fellowships;
Wolfgang Ischinger joins the
Academy Board of Trustees
“T
his challenge
is certainly global,”
said two-time
Federal Reserve Chairman
Paul Volcker about the future of
international financial regula-
tion, “but much depends on our
two countries working together
to solve the problem.” Volcker,
who currently chairs President
Obama’s Economic Recovery
Advisory Board, spoke on March 6
at Schloss Bellevue to an exclusive
audience of American Academy
guests – diplomats, ambassa-
dors, central bankers, and fiscal
policy experts – from Europe and
the US. The Academy’s spring
2010 Richard von Weizsäcker
Distinguished Visitor was intro-
duced by then German President
Horst Köhler, former President
von Weizsäcker, and by Academy
trustee Peter Y. Solmssen, who
T
hree hundred invited
guests attended the gala
evening celebration at the
Hans Arnhold Center for the 2010
Henry A. Kissinger Prize on May
11, awarded to Mayor of New York
City, philanthropist, and busi-
nessman Michael R. Bloomberg.
Introductory remarks were
delivered by Academy co-chair-
men Karl von der Heyden and
Henry A. Kissinger, president
and ceo Norman Pearlstine,
honorary chairman Richard von
Weizsäcker, and trustee Stefan
von Holtzbrinck. The follow-
ing remarks were delivered by
Dr. Henry A. Kissinger:
“B
erlin has had,
for all Americans
who have dealt with
it in the post-war period, a very
special significance. And the
Germany that I remember most
vividly is the Germany of the
postwar period that had the cour-
age to rebuild and adopt demo-
cratic institutions and rejoin the
Western community. It is the city
of the airlift, of living at the end
of an Autobahn, of the Soviet ulti-
matums, of the building of the
Wall, and of transcending all of
these in the coming down of the
The New Rules
Paul Volcker presents new financial regulatory
proposals at Schloss Bellevue
T
he American Academy
is delighted to announce
that three trustees have
each generously endowed two
full-semester fellowships begin-
ning in 2011. New Berlin Prizes in
music scholarship, pre-twentieth-
century history, and the humani-
ties will accentuate the Academy’s
commitment to these areas of
intellectual inquiry. The Academy
extends its gratitude to these
fellowships’ creators: Marina
Kellen French and Nina von
Maltzahn – both granddaughters
of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold,
the couple who once lived in the
American Academy villa – and
John P. Birkelund, a trustee since
2006 and former chairman of the
National Humanities Center, for
their pioneering commitment to
the Academy and the future of its
programming in Berlin.
Three Is A Charm
Announcing the Marina Kellen French, Nina Maria
Gorrissen, and John P. Birkelund Fellowships
» CONTINUED ON PAGE N2
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AMERICAN ACADEMY CO-CHAIRMAN KARL VON DER HEYDEN, PRESIDENT
NORMAN PEARLSTINE, HENRY A. KISSINGER, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
Honoring Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Forging transatlantic ties through visionary business and philanthropic outreach
N2 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
• Academy Notebook •
Wall and now being the capital of
a united Germany. That is a great
testimony to the human spirit.
In all of this period the asso-
ciation with America was of cen-
tral importance to both countries
and this is why establishing an
American Academy here and in
this house has been so important.
In fact, we’re meeting today on a
day that perhaps will turn out to
have been a seminal day in the
evolution of Europe if the deci-
sions that were made overnight
about a joint European response
to the Greek debt crisis lead to a
greater integration of Europe.
The reason I am here tonight
is to say a few words about my
friend Michael Bloomberg. We
live in a world of enormous tran-
sition. In every part of the world
upheavals are going on simulta-
neously. Every society faces the
challenge of how to move from
the familiar – which is what they
know – to a future whose outline
is not easy to discern. There is a
Spanish proverb that says, “Roads
are made by walking.” And the
way to get from where we are to
where we should be is via some
pathfinders who have the vision
and the courage to go down roads
when it is not yet clear what the
destination will be. I have known
Michael Bloomberg for nearly two
decades and we all know his tre-
mendous achievements. But the
quality that I admire most is his
ability to view to the future, his
willingness to go in directions
that are not clear when they are
undertaken.
When he decided to run for
mayor, nobody could figure out
how he could possibly accomplish
this. I spent a weekend with him
for some other purpose and he
explained to me how he would
act as mayor and why he wanted
to be mayor. Then he carried out
everything that he said he would
do. He has made all of us feel
that he is part of our lives. One of
the guests here said to me: “Isn’t
it terrific that our mayor is now
here in Berlin?” That’s how we
feel about him. He is our mayor,
of all New Yorkers, not of one
party.
That is why I am convinced
that he has still tremendous con-
tributions to make to a society
that is groping for a new defini-
tion and for a world that is need-
ing men with courage and dedica-
tion. I am very proud that Mike
will be given an award named
after me. It is a great privilege
for me to be here in this build-
ing, in this Academy, and on this
occasion.
Thank you very much.
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Honoring Mayor Michael Bloomberg
» CONTINUED FROM N1
1.
1. WOLFGANG ISCHINGER, DAVID
KNOWER, HENRY A. KISSINGER,
WOLFGANG MALCHOW, JUTTA
ISCHINGER
2. PRE-CEREMONY DINNER AT THE
HANS ARNHOLD CENTER
3. KLAUS WOWEREIT, MARINA
KELLEN FRENCH
News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Academy Notebook | N3
2.
3.
A
t its Fall 2009 Board
meeting the American
Academy in Berlin wel-
comed longtime friend Wolfgang
Ischinger to its Board of Trustees.
Ambassador Ischinger brings
decades of invaluable experience
in diplomacy, foreign policy, and
global governance.
Currently the Global Head
of Government Relations at
Allianz SE and chairman of the
Munich Security Conference,
Ischinger served as German
ambassador to London from
2006 to 2008, and prior as
ambassador to the United States,
from 2001 to 2006. From 1998
to 2001 Ambassador Ischinger
was Germany’s Deputy Foreign
Minister, and as Political
Director of the Federal Foreign
Office, a post he assumed in 1995,
he worked closely with Academy
founder Richard C. Holbrooke as
head of the German Delegation
during the Bosnian Peace nego-
tiations. In the 1980s Ischinger
served on the private staff of
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich
Genscher.
A key voice in global secu-
rity and arms control, Ischinger
noted of his coming aboard, “The
American Academy has contrib-
uted more to a vibrant transatlan-
tic relationship than any other
institution in Germany.” High
praise indeed from a man of such
merit.
r.j. m.
Aboard!
WOLFGANG ISCHINGER
N4 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
interests continue in the tradition
of her parents and grandpar ents:
She has long been involved in the
musical life of New York City as
a trustee of Carnegie Hall and
the Metropolitan Opera, and she
also serves on the boards of New
York’s Channel 13 (wnet) and
the National Gallery of Art, in
Washington, DC.
Until 1969 Ms. Kellen French
was the president of Keys to New
York, Inc., a business she found-
ed, which supplied interpreters
and guides to major companies
and the United Nations.
Of her new commitment to
the Academy, Executive Director
Dr. Gary Smith notes, “Marina
Kellen French’s deep knowledge
and passionate commitment to
classical music has always been
a source of inspiration. She has
long recognized that music must
remain a cornerstone of the
American Academy’s activities,
one which we can now continue
to build upon. Our gratitude and
admiration for her generosity
could not be greater.”
T
he Marina Kellen
French Fellowship in
Music will ensure the
uninterrupted presence of music
and musical scholarship at the
American Academy for years to
come. Ms. Kellen French joined
the board of the Academy in
2004. The daughter of two of the
Academy’s guiding lights, Anna-
Maria Kellen and the late Stephen
M. Kellen, Ms. Kellen French’s
extraordinary philanthropic
T
he Nina Maria
Gorrissen Fellowship in
History, endowed by Nina
von Maltzhan (née Gorrissen),
will focus on history prior to
the twentieth century. The
granddaughter of Hans and
Ludmilla Arnhold, Baroness von
Maltzahn has been a trustee of
the American Academy since
1997 – before the institution
even opened its doors. She is an
active supporter of music-related
projects, among them the Sing-
Akademie zu Berlin, and has for
three successive years enabled
students and professors from
the Curtis Institute of Music, in
Philadelphia, to spend a summer
week in residence at the Hans
Arnhold Center performing
and offering master classes in a
variety of musical disciplines. In
Uruguay, where Baroness von
Maltzahn has lived for the past
thirty years, she founded and
still directs Fundación el Retoño,
a youth development nonprofit
that aims to provide children
and young people with better
educational and job-training
opportunities.
American Academy President
and ceo Norman Pearlstine
says of the Baroness, “Nina von
Maltzahn’s longstanding support
of the American Academy has
been critical to the success of this
unique institution from its incep-
tion. Her generosity has always
been done out of the spotlight, so
this named endowed fellowship
at last recognizes Nina for the
visionary force she truly is.”
Three Is A Charm
JOHN P. BIRKELUND
MARINA KELLEN FRENCH
The Marina Kellen French Fellowship in Music The Nina Maria Gorrissen Fellowship in History
The John P. Birkelund Fellowship in the Humanities
T
he John P. Birkelund
Fellowship in the Humani-
ties brings an important
new level of support to humanities
scholarship at the Academy.
Currently a general partner
with Saratoga Partners, a com-
pany he cofounded in 1984,
Mr. Birkelund was a senior advi-
sor to ubs Warburg llc and past
chairman and chief executive offi-
cer of Dillon, Read & Company,
an investment bank. Mr.
Birkelund has served as Director
of the New York Stock Exchange
and the Securities Industry
Association, and as chair of the
Polish-American Enterprise Fund
Mr. Birkelund was recognized in
1995 by the Polish government
with the award of Commander
Order of Merit with Star for his
contribution to the develop-
ment of the Polish economy. A
scholar as well as a businessman,
his book Gustav Stresemann:
Patriot und Staatsmann (2003)
received positive critical atten-
tion. Mr. Birkelund, a trustee of
the American Academy since
2006, has served as a trustee of
Brown University and continues
to serve as a trustee at the New
York Public Library, the Frick
Collection, and the Senate of
the Phi Beta Kappa Society and
has been elected member of the
American Academy of Arts and
Sciences.
BARONESS NINA VON MALTZAHN
American Academy co-chair-
man Karl von der Heyden says
of Mr. Birkelund and this key
new fellowship, “John Birkelund
has been on the forefront of
supporting the humanities in
America, chairing the National
Humanities Center and for many
years serving on the board of
the New York Public Library
and other cultural institutions.
Importantly, John typifies the
banker as the broadly educated
wise counselor to corporate
executives – a trait now almost
nonexistent.”
r.j. m.
» CONTINUED FROM N1
News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N5
• Sketches & Dispatches •
serves on the management board
of Siemens. After his lecture,
Volcker sat down for an in-depth
discussion with Jean-Claude
Trichet, head of the European
Central Bank, Jürgen Fitschen
of Deutsche Bank, moderated
by Academy trustee Ambassador
John Kornblum.
As a sense of calm returns to
world markets, Volcker observed,
not a few institutions think they
can get back to back to business
as usual. But a variety of areas
require massive reform, Volcker
said, and following the Great
Recession of 2008–09, govern-
ment-backed financial regulation
must provide a general legal
framework for an international
approach so that an ad hoc system
does not escape oversight. Areas
desperately needing tighter regu-
lation include capital standards,
liquidity requirements, leverage
restrictions, countercyclical
supervisory approaches, and risk
management practices in both
institutions and by regulators
themselves. Volcker had argued
in the same spirit eight years ago
when he delivered the inaugural
Stephen M. Kellen lecture at the
American Academy, “Preserving
the Integrity of Capital Markets.”
Of this prior talk he wryly noted,
“I can only conclude that I failed
to be persuasive.”
Volcker observes that his
seemingly comprehensive points
did not get to the heart of the mat-
ter: Protecting financial institu-
tions from failure. It is no longer
tenable to think that “systemi-
cally significant institutions” can
be saved. Nor can their practices
be redeemed, their management
and creditors protected, or their
stockholders’ initial investments
retained. Such assumptions
would lead to potentially greater
and more frequent crises. “To put
it simply,” Volcker said, “We are
faced with the questions of moral
hazard on a grand scale.”
The beginning of a solution
to these systemic problems lies
in the creation of a permanent
legal framework, a hard-wired
mechanism built into the finan-
cial system for the regulation
of financial markets that would
become, ultimately, an integral
part of international regulatory
practice. According to Volcker,
“The idea is . . . for some desig-
nated agency to take full control
of a failing financial institution if
of systemic importance.” Under
such a model, when a significant
financial institution begins to go
under, the agency steps in to take
control and remove management.
Stockholders would lose; credi-
tors would be at risk. This is no
rescue or bailout, he explains, but
rather “a quick and painless end –
and then a swift burial.”
The former Federal Chairman
is of course aware of the “legal
and policy concerns about such
a grant of authority.” But such
a body is not without precedent.
In fact, something like it has
long existed in the United States:
The Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation, created in 1933.
“Dealing with failed or fail-
ing banks is to provide a quick
resolution process,” Volcker said.
“I believe there is growing under-
standing of the need for broader
authority covering non-banks
in my country. An appropriate
provision is likely to be made
in any comprehensive financial
reform package approved by the
Congress. There is consideration
in relevant legislative bodies in
Europe as well.”
r.j. m.
The New Rules
RICHARD VON WEIZSÄCKER INTRODUCING PAUL VOLCKER AT SCHLOSS BELLEVUE ON MARCH 6, 2010 PAUL VOLCKER
JEAN-CLAUDE TRICHET AND
PAUL VOLCKER
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A Nuclear-Free World?
O
n February 3 a quar-
tet of senior American
statesmen gathered at
the Academy at the urging of
the Nuclear Threat Initiative to
discuss nuclear non-proliferation
with their German counterparts.
Henry A. Kissinger, Samuel
A. Nunn, William J. Perry, and
George P. Shultz engaged in
a historic public discussion
with Hans-Dietrich Genscher,
Helmut Schmidt, and Richard
von Weizsäcker. (Egon Bahr was
unable to attend.)
Ernst Cramer, the eminent
German-American journalist
who died on January 19, 2010,
at the age of 96, had wanted to
attend. The former publisher,
editor, and managing director of
Axel Springer Verlag penned the
following editorial, published the
day after his death in Die Welt:
“T
he thought of
eliminating, or at
least reducing, the
number of nuclear weapons in the
world has been around for quite
a long time. Mikhail Gorbachev,
the last President of the Soviet
Union, spoke in Geneva last fall
of “nuclear disarmament” and
explained that it had been a “great
illusion” that nuclear weapons
had ever contributed to general
safety. Now the efforts to disarm
have obtained to international
priority thanks to President
Barack Obama’s proposal of a
“world without nuclear weapons.”
Even Russia’s President Dmitry
GEORGE SHULTZ HENRY KISSINGER
SAM NUNN WILLIAM PERRY
HELMUT SCHMIDT RICHARD VON WEIZSÄCKER HANS-DIETRICH GENSCHER
Medvedev has spoken repeatedly
of “nuclear disarmament,” and
Russia’s role as a “trustworthy
partner” in these efforts. A sum-
mit convened by Washington is to
be held in April and is supposed
to answer the call of nuclear
demobilization. The same inten-
tion has a meeting scheduled
in February at the American
Academy in Berlin, attended
by eight experts – among them
Henry Kissinger and Richard von
Weizsäcker.
All of this is necessary and
important. But the main threat
does not hail from the countries
participating in the disarmament
efforts, all of which are – to quote
Medvedev again – “assessable.”
Peril hails instead from the so-
called rogue nations and their
ruthless leaders, like Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad of Iran, Hugo
Chávez of Venezuela, or Kim
Jong-Il of North Korea. The lat-
ter in particular does not care for
international agreements. Not
only does he plan the shipment
of strategic and other weapons to
sympathetic nations – like Burma
and Iran – he also encourages his
scientists to engineer small tacti-
cal nuclear bombs that are both
easy to assemble and soon poten-
tially available to terrorists.
Last year the US already deliv-
ered a warning: ‘The dangers of
a nuclear-equipped terrorism are
real and deeply disturbing.’ Such
weapons, in the hands of reli-
gious fanatics or suicide bombers,
are the greatest menace to the
future of humankind. How to
avoid such a threat so far no poli-
tician can answer.”
By Ernst Cramer
Die Welt
January 20, 2010
Translated by K. Michalek
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News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N7
Ambassador Murphy and
the Alliance
Welcoming “Richard Nixon”
E
very American ambas-
sador serves “at the
President’s pleasure,”
some more, some less. Political
appointees are closer to the Oval
Office than career diplomats
and can sometimes even make a
phone call to the top, past all offi-
cial channels. In contrast, career
diplomats generally command
broader political experience.
Ambassador Phil Murphy has
been in Berlin for 100 days. He is,
as he occasionally remarks, not a
career diplomat but a representa-
tive of the President. The contrast
to his two predecessors appointed
by George W. Bush, one a career
politician, the other an industri-
alist, could not be more distinct.
Murphy not only emanates from
the financial world of Goldman
Sachs and has substantially
contributed to Obama’s election
fund; he is also endowed with
strong political talent, audibly
exerts himself to speak German,
and possesses a boyish charm.
On Monday evening he had a
grand entrance at the American
Academy.
Alienation and crisis in the
German-American relationship?
Murphy wanted none of that. No
bilateral relation is – or has been
since, even before the fall of the
Berlin Wall – more important for
American politics than that of
Germany. With that he pointed to
the Iron Curtain and the approxi-
F
rank who? Frank
Langella belongs to those
kinds of actors whose
name doesn’t ring a bell with
most people but whose face
is instantly recognizable. His
filmography comprises over 80
movie and TV titles. In most he
is striking as a distinctive sup-
porting character. His tall build
and observant eyes, beset with a
certain mysteriousness, convey
an aura he knows how to deploy
in both thrillers and comedies.
Langella is now shooting the
thriller Unkown White Male,
directed by Spaniard Jaume
Collet-Serra in Babelsberg. The
American Academy used the
opportunity to invite the actor,
nominated in 2009 for an
Academy Award for his role as
Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, to
an evening talk.
Langella doesn’t look his
72 years. He talks about the
profession of acting and his
experiences therein with such
enthusiasm that one forgets his
age entirely. Without being shy,
mately 16 million Americans who
– be it soldiers or family – have
served in Germany during the
Cold War.
Nowadays the cooperation
is important in a different man-
ner, whether in Afghanistan
– Germany deploys the third larg-
est detachment of soldiers and
provides substantial development
aid – in climate change issues, or
in the reinvention of nato. The
disruptions during the Iraq War
have been surmounted, if the
appearance of the Chancellor at
a joint session of both Houses of
Congress is any indication.
The Ambassador also hinted
at constraints – and that he did
very seriously. In the Middle East,
Israel must stop building settle-
ments. Concerning Iran and its
suspicious nuclear activity, there
must be willingness to negotiate.
Should that fail because of the
mullahs, “then all options are
on the table.” There’s no need
to explain to anybody what that
means. No wonder it was sudden-
ly freezing in the well-tempered
American Academy.
By Michael Stürmer
Die Welt
December 12, 2009
Translated from the
German by Kristin
Michalek
US AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY PHILIP D. MURPHY
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N8 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
T
he temperate evening
of June 8 came to a roaring
close at the Hans Arnhold
Center, with musicians from the
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
(jalc) joining in an impromptu
jam session. Members and
trustees of the orchestra were
at the Academy for a recep-
tion in honor of the orchestra’s
founder and artistic director,
Wynton Marsalis, and Sir Simon
Rattle, chief conductor and
music director of the Berliner
Philharmoniker. The two cul-
tural giants have been collaborat-
ing on a Marsalis project, Swing
Symphony, which premiered the
following evening at the Berliner
Philharmoniker.
The early evening reception
at the Academy was attended by
several trustees of New York’s
Neue Galerie and started out
he calls things as they are: The
movie he is currently shooting
with Liam Neeson is a purely
commercial project, simple pop-
corn cinema. This doesn’t hinder
his joy of working, it is just that
with instructors and students
from the Curtis Institute of
Music performing a movement
of Jean Françaix’s “Trio” for
violin, cello, and viola; pianist
Andrew Tyson playing a Chopin
mazurka, and Curtis baritone
Elliot Madore’s commanding
rendition of “Soliloquy” from
there’s a great deal more to tell
about a movie like Frost/Nixon.
Perhaps this is because Langella
hasn’t played the Nixon role just
in the movie, but also over 350
times on stage. He explains in a
friendly, unpretentious way how
he gained access to this ominous
the Rodgers and Hammerstein
musical Carousel.
After lingering hours of con-
versation, a few jalc orchestra
musicians – one of whom does
leave home without his trum-
pet – initiated a post-reception,
impromptu jam session, which
saw Wynton Marsalis and pianist
character. He talked to countless
contemporary witnesses, spent
hours in front of archive foot-
age, increasingly perplexed as
to how he should approach his
interpretation. Then he acciden-
tally pressed the slow-motion
button and finally got a glimpse of
Dan Nimmer trade fours with the
likes of German trumpet player
Til Brönner, the jalc’s trum-
peter Marcus Printup, and jazz
singer Judy Niemack-Prins of the
Hochschule für Musik Hanns
Eisler.
As the evening unfurled,
cell-phones and digital cameras
captured the atmosphere, music
sweetened the air, and legendary
bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff
sang an unrehearsed duet of a
German folk song with cabaret
baritone Max Raabe, founder and
director of the Palast Ochester.
It was after midnight
when the curtain closed on
this unplanned session that
brought out some of Berlin’s
and America’s brightest musical
stars to the fabled Hans Arnhold
Center villa.
r.j. m.
what makes Nixon tick: fear and
paranoia.
“Is acting really a form of art?”
asks actress Katja Riemann dur-
ing the Q&A with the audience.
“Oh, yes,” Langella responds. The
writer simply scribbles letters on
a piece of paper, but “through us,
the piece reaches the people; we
bring it to life.” Langella seems so
serene and composed saying this,
though what follows are critical
remarks about the current state
of film as an art form. These are
not words of cultural pessimism
but rather keen observations of
an abiding thinker. He laments
the industry’s lack of good scripts
and its obsession with youth: “In
the past one could see men and
women in the movies. Today
there are only boys and girls.”
By Barbara Schweizerhof
Die Welt
February 27, 2010
Translated from the
German by Kristin
Michalek KATJA RIEMANN, RENÉ PAPE, FRANK LANGELLA
TRADING FOURS: WYNTON MARSALIS, TRUMPET; DAN NIMMER, PIANO
Wannsee Jam
An impromptu night of music at the Hans Arnhold Center
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News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N9
dinary artistry to audiences
throughout Europe, featuring
tomorrow’s leading musicians
performing alongside celebrated
alumni and faculty.
The American Academy
extends its thanks again to Curtis
faculty and students – and to
Nina von Maltzahn for mak-
D
uring the week of
June 8 distinguished
artist-teachers from the
world renowned Curtis Institute
of Music, in Philadelphia, were
in residence at the American
Academy in Berlin, a stay made
possible through the generous
support of Academy trustee
Baroness Nina von Maltzahn.
During their residency, Curtis
faculty offered master classes
to students at the distinguished
Hochschule für Musik Hanns
Eisler and, along with a few
of their outstanding students,
performed two evening con-
certs in Berlin: One at the Hans
Arnhold Center and one at the
Hochschule für Musik Hanns
Eisler, featuring the compositions
of Beethoven, Mendelsohn, Ravel,
and Jean Françaix, among others.
Included on the roster of
teachers were Mikael Eliasen,
artistic director of the Curtis
Opera Theatre, who led classes
for voice students; Pamela Frank,
a Curtis alumna, who led violin
classes; viola students were
coached by Curtis alumnus and
current president Roberto Díaz, a
former principal violist of the
Philadelphia Orchestra. Curtis
teachers and students also gave
a private concert at the residence
of Andrea Gräfin von Bernstorff
and, later in the week, attended
a concert by the Singakademie,
also supported by Baroness
Maltzahn, and a rehearsal of the
Berliner Philharmoniker.
This is the third consecutive
year that teachers and students
from the Curtis Institute of Music
have graced the Hans Arnhold
Center with their musical charm.
Their stay each year is in fact part
of the Curtis On Tour program,
which brings the school’s extraor-
From Philadelphia to Berlin
The Curtis Institute of Music residency brings melody to the shores of the Wannsee
1. TRUSTEE NINA VON MALTZAHN
2. FROM CURTIS TO THE MET:
BARITONE ELLIOT MADORE
2.
1.
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ing this annual visit such an
anticipated gathering for lovers
of music throughout Berlin.
r.j. m.
N10 | Financial Overview of the American Academy in Berlin | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
• Financial Overview of the American Academy in Berlin •
Outlook for 2010
The global financial crisis that
swept across 2008 and 2009
has been felt by the American
Academy, as we see some
benefactors not renewing their
pledges for subsequent years. We
have responded to this situation
by reducing our expense base to
the extent that can be justified
without impinging upon our aca-
demic program commitments.
We are extraordinarily grate-
ful to the members of our Board
of Trustees, who continue to
support us unhesitatingly, as we
are to the descendents of Hans
and Ludmilla Arnhold, who from
their founding gift onwards
have continued their invaluable
support of our young institution.
Not least are we grateful to the
multiple corporations, founda-
tions, and private individuals who
continue to enable the American
Academy in Berlin to serve as a
beacon of intellectual and cultur-
al life in the German capital.
Lastly, it should be noted that
despite significant refurbish-
ments, structural renovations,
and technological upgrades due
to be completed at the Hans
Arnhold Center during the sum-
mer of 2010, we expect our insti-
tution to be close to break-even
for this financial year.
a.w.
The American Academy in Berlin
is funded exclusively by private
and corporate benefactors and
does not accept any donations
from governments or political
organizations. We depend rather
on the generosity of a widening
circle of friends on both sides of
the Atlantic.
The American Academy
operates as a Charitable Private
Corporation (gemeinnützige
GmbH) in Germany, which is
wholly owned by The American
Academy in Berlin, Inc., a 501(c)3
organization based in New York
City. Both organizations are reg-
istered charities and empowered
In line with regulations govern-
ing charitable organizations and
applicable tax rules, whenever
allowable we reinvest income
from our endowments to further
enhance the value and income-
generating potential of such
benefaction.
to receive tax-deductible dona-
tions in accordance with respec-
tive fiscal codes.
In addition to donations to our
annual fund, certain individual
benefactors, groups of benefac-
tors, and corporations have
established endowments – both
multi-year or in perpetuity – to
This increase was attributable to
a large extent to the recovery of
global stock and bond markets
during 2009.
secure the financing of named
fellowships, distinguished visi-
torships, or lectureships.
The American Academy
prepares Consolidated Financial
Statements in accordance
with US Generally Accepted
Accounting Principles, which are
audited by independent auditors.
Sources of Income and
Expenditure
Our sources of income can be
broken down as shown in the pie
charts below:
Our Consolidated Balance Sheet
as of December 2009 showed
net assets of $36.5m, compared
with $30.9m at the end of 2008.
REVENUE
2009
EXPENDITURES
2009

2008
2008
Corporate unrestricted
Private unrestricted
Corporate restricted
Private restricted
Other
Fellows & Distinguished
Visitor program
Development
General Administration
NET ASSETS BY CATEGORY:
ABRIDGED CASH FLOWS:
2009
$m
2008
$m
Available for operations: 2.1 0.3
Board-designated endowments 8.6 5.8
Fixed assets 2.6 2.8
13.3 8.9
Temporarily restricted assets 11.3 11.5
Permanently restricted assets 11.9 10.5
36.5 30.9
2009
$m
2008
$m
Net cash provided by operating activities 1.2 1.5
Net cash used in investment activities (3.0) (3.2)
Cash flows from financial activity 1.9 1.0
Exchange-rate effects (0.4) 0.9
Net (decrease)/increase in cash and
cash equivalents
(0.3) 0.2
Abridged Financial Information
News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Private Initiative – Public Outreach | N11
• Private Initiative – Public Outreach •
FRIENDS up to $2,500 Samuel Adler & Emily Freeman Brown, Liaquat Ahamed, James Attwood, Barbara Balaj, Stefan Beiten, Bialkin Family Foundation,
Jordan Bonfante, David & Katherine Bradley, Diethart Breipohl, Eckhard Bremer, Irene Bringmann, Isabella von Bülow, Christian Bunsen, Caroline Bynum,
Candia Clark, Remmel T. Dickinson, Brigitte Döring, Erika Falkenreck, Donald Fox, Michael Gellert, Marie Louise Gericke, Michael Geyer, Vartan Gregorian,
Christian Hacke, Helga Haftendorn, Niels Hansen Memorial Foundation, Karen Hsu, Janklow Foundation, Roe Jasen, Isabel von Jena, Marion Knauf, Michael Libal,
Quincy Liu, Hans-Jürgen Meyer, Dare & Themistocles Michos, Stephanie Moeller, Michael Münchehofe, Sybille & Steffen Naumann, Jan-Daniel Neumann,
Kathryn & Peter Nixdorff, Wolfram Nolte, Albert Rädler, Susan Rambow, Lawrence Ramer, Christa Freifrau & Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen, Hergard Rohwedder,
Nancy & Miles Rubin, Kim Scheppele, Volker Schlöndorff, Harald Schmid, Pamela & Philipp Scholz, Philipp Semmer, Anne-Marie Slaughter & Andrew Moravcsik,
Manfred von Sperber, Immo Stabreit, Ronald L. Steel, Fritz Stern, Teagle Foundation, Thomas von Thaden, James S. Tisch, Clarence & Melinda Trummel,
Nikolaus Weil, Richard von Weizsäcker, Manfred & Rosa Wennemer, Hayden & Margaret Brose White, Sabine & Ned Wiley, Pauline Yu
CORPORATIONS AND CORPORATE FOUNDATIONS
PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE
$25,000 and above
Alcoa Inc.
Bank of America, N.A.
Robert Bosch GmbH
Buse Heberer Fromm
Cerberus Deutschland GmbH
Daimler AG
Daimler-Fonds im Stifterverband für
die Deutsche Wissenschaft
Deloitte & Touche GmbH
Deutsche Bank AG
Deutsche Lufthansa AG
Deutsche Post AG
Germanwings
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
GÖRG Partnerschaft von
Rechtsanwälten
KPMG AG
Macy’s Corporate Services Inc.
Marsh GmbH
MSD Sharpe & Dohme GmbH
Pfizer Pharma GmbH
Philip Morris GmbH
Porsche AG
Siemens AG
Susanna Dulkinys &
Erik Spiekermann,
Edenspiekermann
Telefónica O2 Germany GmbH & Co.
OHG
Vattenfall Europe AG
BENEFACTORS
up to $25,000
American International Yacht
Club e.V., Axel Springer Stiftung,
Bayer Schering Pharma AG, Bentley
Motors Limited, Bertelsmann AG,
BMW AG, Carnegie Corporation
of New York, Christie’s, Deutsche
Bundesbank, EAG – European
Advisory Group GmbH, Fleishman-
Hillard Germany / Public Affairs &
Gov. Relations, Goldman Sachs
Foundation, Hemmerling &
Constantin GmbH & Co. KG, The
Hermes Foundation, Hotel Adlon,
Hotel Savoy, Investitionsbank
Berlin, Märkischer Golfclub
Potsdam, Nextstop Inc., Foundation
“Remembrance, Responsibility and
Future,” Robert Bosch Stiftung,
Rudolf August Oetker Stiftung, Villa
Grisebach (Berlin)
INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILY FOUNDATIONS
FOUNDERS’ CIRCLE
$1 million and above
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen
Foundation and the descendants of
Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold
CHAIRMAN’S CIRCLE
$25,000 and above
The Arnhold Foundation
Joel Bell & Marife Hernandez
Constance & John P. Birkelund
Lester Crown
Marina Kellen French
Werner Gegenbauer
Richard Goeltz
C. Boyden Gray
Mary Ellen & Karl M. von der Heyden
Richard C. Holbrooke
Nina von Maltzahn
William von Mueffling
Christopher Freiherr von Oppenheim
Maren Otto
Norman Pearlstine &
Jane Boon Pearlstine
David M. Rubenstein
Kurt Viermetz
TRUSTEES’ CIRCLE
$10,000 and above
Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams
Charitable Foundation
Inge Groth-Fromm & Hartmut Fromm
Helga & Erivan Haub
Stefan von Holtzbrinck
Dr. Pia & Klaus Krone
Neubauer Family Foundation
Rafael J. Roth
Mary Ellen von Schacky-Schultz &
Bernd Schultz
PATRONS
$2,500 and above
Robert Z. Aliber, Heinrich J. Barth,
Waldtraut & Günter Braun, Stephen
B. Burbank, Gahl Hodges Burt,
Dennis & Hannelore Carter, Avna
Cassinelli, Matthias & Christa Druba,
Jean-Marie & Elizabeth Eveillard,
Julie Finley, Georg & Doris Gafron,
Egon Geerkens, Hans-Michael &
Almut Giesen, Marisa & Carl Hahn,
Ina Vonnegut-Hartung & Wilhelm
Hartung, Klaus & Lily Heiliger, Ben
W. Heinemann, Erika & Jan Hummel,
Henry A. Kissinger, Martin Köhler, John
C. Kornblum, Renate Küchler, Jürgen &
Serap Leibfried, Regine Leibinger &
Frank Barkow, Lawrence Lessig, Erich
Marx, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Julie
Mehretu, Jens Odewald, Jeane Freifrau
von Oppenheim, Thomas H. Pohlmann,
Annette & Heinrich von Rantzau,
William D. & Nancy Ellison Rollnick,
Daniel & Joanna Rose Fund, The Sage
Foundation, Gjertrud Schnackenberg,
Hannes & Renate Schneider, Richard E.
Snyder, Peter Y. Solmssen, Annaliese
Soros, Bernhard Speyer, Gesa & Klaus
Vogt, Will Foundation (Hans George
Will), Roger M. & Jill J. Witten
This list reflects contributions made to the American Academy from May 2009 to May 2010.
FELLOWSHIPS AND DISTINGUISHED
VISITORSHIPS ESTABLISHED IN PERPETUITY
John P. Birkelund Berlin Prize in the Humanities
Daimler Berlin Prize
German Transatlantic Program Berlin Prize
Supported by European Recovery Program funds
granted through the Transatlantic Program of the
Federal Republic of Germany
Ellen Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize
Nina Maria Gorrissen Berlin Prize in History
Mary Ellen von der Heyden Berlin Prize for Fiction
Holtzbrinck Berlin Prize
Anna-Maria Kellen Berlin Prize
Marina Kellen French Berlin Prize in Music
Guna S. Mundheim Berlin Prize in the Visual Arts
Lloyd Cutler Distinguished Visitorship in Law
EADS Distinguished Visitorship
Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Visitorship
Stephen M. Kellen Distinguished Visitorship
John W. Kluge Distinguished Visitorship
Kurt Viermetz Distinguished Visitorship
Richard von Weizsäcker Distinguished Visitorship
ANNUALLY FUNDED FELLOWSHIPS AND
DISTINGUISHED VISITORSHIPS
Bosch Berlin Prize in Public Policy
Berthold Leibinger Berlin Prize
Metro Berlin Prize
Siemens Berlin Prize
Axel Springer Berlin Prize
David Rubenstein Foreign Policy Forum
ENDOWMENT GIVING
Max Beckmann Distinguished Visitorship in the
Visual Arts
Deutsche Börse AG, Villa Grisebach (Berlin), Mary
Ellen von Schacky-Schultz & Bernd Schultz
Marcus Bierich Distinguished Visitorship in the
Humanities
Dr. Aldinger & Fischer Grundbesitz und
Vermarktungs GmbH, Deutsche Bank AG, Villa
Grisebach (Berlin), Mary Ellen von Schacky-
Schultz & Bernd Schultz
EADS Distinguished Visitorship
EADS
Lloyd Cutler Distinguished Visitorship in Law
Ruben Clark, Stephen M. Cutler, Dennis M.
Flannery, Carol F. Lee, Daniel & Maeva Marcus,
Joseph C. Pillman, David Westin, Roger M. and
Jill J. Witten, Verband der Automobilindustrie,
WilmerHale
N12 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
• Life & Letters •
BRIGID COHEN
Contrary to its seemingly
national boundaries, much mod-
ernist art is actually the work of
émigrés, cosmopolitans, and
refugees. This quiet fact goes
too often unnoticed in theories
of modernism, argues Berlin
Prize Fellow Brigid Cohen, and
it is particularly invisible in his-
tories of the musical avant-garde.
Cohen, an assistant professor
of music at the University of
North Carolina, would like to
correct the oversight with her
project “Sounds of Translation:
Musical Modernism beyond
the Nation,” which reframes the
history of musical modernism,
taking it beyond the nation as it is
practiced by musical thinkers in
response to the uprooted condi-
tions of their times.
Cohen holds a PhD from
Harvard University, a Master
of Music from King’s College
London, and a BA from Wellesley
College. She has received fellow-
ships from the German Academic
Exchange Service (daad), the
Getty Research Institute, the
Minda de Gunzberg Center for
European Studies at Harvard, the
Paul Sacher Foundation, and the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
STANLEY CORNGOLD
Franz Kaf ka was one of the great-
est miners of human darkness
at the fin de siècle. He also hap-
pened to work at an insurance
company. Stanley Corngold,
a professor emeritus of com-
parative literature at Princeton
University, has taught Kaf ka for
decades and sees some links here:
His new project aims to adum-
brate the aspects of European
law, philosophy, and the culture
of insurance that threaded
themselves into Kaf ka’s thought.
Corngold’s book project “Franz
Kaf ka: Scintillating Perspectives,”
which he aims to complete dur-
ing his Berlin Prize Fellowship,
involves the collaboration of
University of Siegen professor
Benno Wagner, a fellow expert on
Kaf ka’s legal writings.
A graduate of Columbia and
Cornell universities, Corngold
taught at Princeton University
from 1981 to 2009 and has pub-
lished widely on German writ-
ers and thinkers as diverse as
Dilthey, Nietzsche, Musil, Kraus,
Mann, Benjamin, and Adorno.
Corngold received the Howard T.
Behrman Prize for Distinguished
Achievement in the Humanities
upon retiring from Princeton.
Among his books are Lambent
Traces: Franz Kaf ka (2004) and
The Fate of the Self: German
Writers and French Theory (1986).
AARON CURRY
Aaron Curry, the fall 2010
Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in
the Visual Arts, has repeatedly
turned to some hallowed fig-
ures of early twentieth-century
European modernism for inspira-
tion. His work successfully bal-
ances the search for modernist
“mash-up” references with an
originality of vision in a tight aes-
thetic dialectic. In “Pierced Line
(Brown Goblinoid)” (2008), a flat
plywood anthropomorphic form
precariously balances on its spin-
dly legs like a Dali half-person
laced with lines of spray paint; in
his collages, the racy and banal
semiotics of pop-culture icons
meet face-to-face with African
sculptures; and in “Ohnedaruth”
(2009), a towering Dubuffet-like
horse-form is comprised of col-
lapsed, interlocked pieces of a
mammoth steel puzzle.
A graduate of the School of
the Art Institute of Chicago,
Curry completed his mfa at the
Art Center College of Design
in Pasadena, California, and
has shown at Galerie Daniel
Buchholz in Berlin and Cologne,
the Michael Werner Gallery in
London, and the David Kordansky
Gallery in Los Angeles. He has
also been included in group exhi-
bitions at the New Museum of
Contemporary Art in New York,
the Museum of Contemporary Art
in Detroit, and the Contemporary
Museum in Honolulu. In 2009
the Vault Gallery at ucl a’s
Hammer Museum hosted Curry’s
first solo museum show.
LAURA ENGELSTEIN
Modern liberal thought is a hard-
wrought set of principles that
cannot stand without political
and institutional support. Laura
Engelstein, the Henry S. McNeil
Professor of Russian History and
chair of the history department
at Yale University, is interested in
how modern liberalism became
an ideology of resistance among
Russian and Polish dissent intel-
lectuals and public figures who
came of age in the decades pre-
ceding the decisive year of 1917.
Caught between revolutionary
violence and mob-appeal anti-
Semitism, these figures hewed
a moderate course in defense of
liberal values: individual and civic
rights guaranteed by a democrati-
cally elected government under
the rule of law. In her project
“People Out of Place: Liberalism as
a Form of Resistance” Engelstein
Profiles in Scholarship
The fall 2010 class of American Academy fellows
News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N13
intends to draw a group portrait
of this generation and thereby
focus on figures that transcended
traditional boundaries – in per-
sonal histories, class and cultural
expectations, and, consequently,
in forced or voluntary emigration.
The author of The Keys to
Happiness: Sex and the Search
for Modernity in Fin-de-Siècle
Russia (1992) and, most recently,
Slavophile Empire: Imperial
Russia’s Illiberal Path (2009),
Engelstein’s research has focused
on the social and cultural his-
tory of late imperial Russia, with
special focus on the role of law,
medicine, sexuality, and the arts
in public life.
CATHERINE GALLAGHER
What would have happened if
the South had won the American
Civil War? Or if Vesuvius had
never erupted? Catherine
Gallagher, Eggers Professor
of English Literature at the
University of California, Berkeley,
is interested in two closely
related phenomena: the writing
of counterfactual history and
alternate history in the novel.
Against common misapprehen-
sions that the two are recent
innovations, Gallagher explains
that their roots go as far back
as the seventeenth century. As
the Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow
at the Academy, she will further
detail where and why these hypo-
thetical and speculative modes of
writing originated. Gallagher’s
prior work in cultural history
has resulted in books such as
Nobody’s Story: the Vanishing
Acts of Women Writers in the
Marketplace, 1670–1820 (2004),
which won the MLA’s James
Russell Lowell Prize for an out-
standing literary study, and The
Body Economic: Life, Death, and
Sensation in Political Economy
and the Victorian Novel (2006).
Co-chair of the editorial board of
the journal Representations and
a member of the editorial board
of Flashpoints, Gallagher has
received fellowships from the
Guggenheim Foundation and
the National Endowment for the
Humanities, among others.
ANNE HULL
Walt Disney World is the largest
recreation resort on earth, cover-
ing some 25,000 acres. But what
now encompasses four theme
parks, two water parks, two
dozen on-site hotels, and two
health spas was once pure Florida
pasture. Journalist Anne Hull
experienced this shift in ecology
as a young girl, and her project
as a Holtzbrinck Fellow – “The
Bright State of Dislocation:
Transformation, Racial Divides
and Family’s Vanishing Place in
Agriculture” – will tell the story of
her 1970s citrus-growing family
and community. Imperiled by the
transformative arrival of commer-
cialism, they were swept up in the
tradeoff of the area’s identity and
economy for “the false paradise of
Walt Disney World.”
As a national correspondent
for the St. Petersburg Times
(1985–2000), Hull covered
topics ranging from welfare
reform and capital punishment
to immigration. Her writing at
the Washington Post, where she
has been for the past decade, has
covered social policy, two presi-
dential campaigns, Hurricane
Katrina, and the terrorist attacks
of September 11, 2001. In 2008
Hull was awarded the Pulitzer
Prize for Public Service for expos-
ing the neglect and mistreatment
of wounded soldiers at the Walter
PASSING THE TORCH: THE SPRING 2010 FELLOWS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY IN BERLIN (FROM LEFT TO RIGHT): SUNIL KHILNANI, FRANCISCO
GOLDMAN, CAMILO JOSÉ VERGARA, JEFFREY CHIPPS SMITH, DAVID ABRAHAM, JUDITH WECHSLER, ANDREW NORMAN, PETER WORTSMAN,
MICHAEL QUEENLAND, CHARLES MARSH, AND JANET GEZARI. (NOT PICTURED: LEONARD BARKAN, ALEX STAR, AMY WALDMAN)
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Reed Army Medical Center. The
series also received the Robert
F. Kennedy Journalism Award,
the Selden Ring Award for
Investigative Journalism, the
American Society of Newspapers
Local Coverage Award, and the
Heywood Broun Award.
TAMAR JACOBY
Tamar Jacoby is president and
ceo of ImmigrationWorks
usa, a national federation of
employers working to advance
better immigration law. She will
transpose her research questions
on US immigrant integration
to Germany during her Bosch
Public Policy fellowship at the
Academy. Jacoby is particularly
interested in how Germans have
come to terms with the new face
of an increasingly immigrant
population: Do even the most
far-sighted elites understand the
transformation that is necessary?
What are Germany’s most inno-
vative approaches to integration?
Can the country develop a nation-
al identity that is compelling to
newcomers yet open enough to
hold a diverse citizenry together?
From 1989 to 2007 Jacoby was
a senior fellow at the Manhattan
Institute, and prior, a senior writ-
er and justice editor for Newsweek
and, from 1981 to 1987, deputy
editor of the New York Times
op-ed page. Author of Someone
Else’s House: America’s Unfinished
Struggle for Integration (2000),
her articles have appeared in
the Washington Post, Wall Street
Journal, and Foreign Affairs,
among other publications.
MARTIN JAY
Perhaps the most critical cae-
sura between the Middle Ages
and the modern era is a line of
thought called nominalism. In
short, nominalism assumes that
the things of the world are indi-
vidual and particular rather than
reflections of a “real” thing that
existed in the heavens – in a word,
universals. Intellectual historian
Martin Jay of the University of
California, Berkeley, is one of
the world’s foremost experts on
European intellectual history
(Permanent Exiles, 1985), the
Frankfurt School (The Dialectical
Imagination, 1973), critical theory
(Marxism and Totality, 1983), and
visual culture (Downcast Eyes,
1993). He is now looking again
at nominalism and its influence
on the very birth of photography.
His Academy project as the Ellen
Maria Gorrissen Fellow, “Magical
Nominalism: Photography and
the Reenchantment of the World,”
has the rarified aim of explain-
ing how nominalism has had
an impact on twentieth-century
visual culture generally.
The author of scores of
academic articles on German
intellectual history, Marxist and
post-structural theory, and visual
culture, Jay has taught at Harvard
University, the University
of California at Berkeley,
Dartmouth College, UC Irvine,
and the School of Criticism and
Theory at Cornell University.
KIRK W. JOHNSON
Kirk W. Johnson began work-
ing for usaid in December
2004. He served in Baghdad as
the mission’s chief information
officer and was then appointed
to usaid’s senior staff as the
agency’s first emissary to the city
of Fallujah, in Anbar Province,
and then on to other increasingly
weighty positions. Throughout
his time in the war zone, Johnson
wondered how Iraqis who helped
the US were going to rebuild
their lives – whether in their own
country or elsewhere. “Since
returning from Iraq,” he says,
“I’ve become deeply enmeshed
with the tragedy that has befallen
Iraqis who risked their lives to
help us.” So Johnson founded
The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi
Allies, a leading public advocacy
group for Iraqis who assisted the
US government. To help people
on The List, Johnson has gath-
ered over a hundred attorneys
from two leading law firms to
offer thousands of hours of pro
bono representation. His Bosch
Public Policy fellowship at the
Academy will be devoted to a
book about this project, tenta-
tively entitled Human Rubble:
the Tragedy of Iraqis Who Believed
in America, the first account of
Iraqis whose aid to American
occupying forces has cost them
their country.
HAN ONG
Born in the Philippines, writer
Han Ong moved to the US at
age 16. He wrote his first play
at age 17, and in 1994 moved to
New York, where he received
near instantaneous critical
acclaim as a playwright. Ong’s
literary preoccupations have
concerned the immigrant
and outsider experience and
sometimes-resentful visitors to
“foreign” social hierarchies. At age
29 he became one of the young-
est recipients of the prestigious
MacArthur Fellowship – and has
since received grants from the
Guggenheim Foundation and the
National Endowment for the Arts.
Ong’s two novels, Fixer Chao
(2002) and The Disinherited
(2005), address themes of homo-
sexual love and clashes of class
and cultural values. In Fixer
Chao a male prostitute infiltrates
New York high society posing as
a feng-shui expert, unraveling
a host of resentments and social
tensions. The novel was selected
a Los Angeles Times Best Book of
the Year and was nominated for
a Stephen Crane First Fiction
Award. The Disinherited is about
the estranged son of a sugar mag-
nate who leaves his teaching job at
Columbia University to bury his
father in the Philippines. During
his Holtzbrinck fellowship at the
Academy, Ong will work on a third
novel: the story of an American
philanthropist who decides to
retire to the Philippines, where he
sponsors local students and their
dreams of attending college.
KEN UENO
Sets of opposites gyrate through-
out composer Ken Ueno’s music:
visceral energy and contemplative
repose, hyperactivity and stillness,
tightly wound complexity and
sprawling expanse. Engaging in
multiple modes of musical con-
struction, Ueno, an assistant pro-
fessor of music at the University
of California, Berkeley, is at once
a composer of acoustic and elec-
tronic works, a performer, and a
vocal improviser specializing in
“extended techniques.” Such tonal
and compositional variety has
been infused by Ueno’s experi-
ence as an electric guitarist and
overtone singer, his fascination
with Japanese underground elec-
tronic music, and his awareness of
late European modernism.
A graduate of West Point,
Ueno holds degrees from
Berklee College of Music, Boston
University, the Yale School of
Music, and a PhD from Harvard
University. During his Berlin
Prize in Music Composition fel-
lowship, Ueno intends to score a
twenty-minute solo percussion
piece for Dame Evelyn Glennie
and a thirty-minute work featur-
ing himself as the vocal soloist.
JAMES WOOD
Anyone with English-language
literary affinities over the past
two decades knows the work of
James Wood. From 1992 to 1995
he was the chief literary critic of
News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N15
the Guardian, then a senior editor
at the New Republic, and, begin-
ning in 2007, a staff writer at the
New Yorker. Wood has focused on
contemporary fiction and literary
aesthetics – and their sometimes
“hysterical” practitioners.
Alongside his criticism in
periodicals, Wood has stepped
into bigger pools of literary reflec-
tion, such as in his bestselling
book How Fiction Works (2008),
two essay collections on criticism,
The Broken Estate (1999) and The
Irresponsible Self (2004), and a
quasi-autobiographical novel,
The Book Against God (2003). His
reviews and essays have appeared
in the New York Times, the New
York Review of Books, and the
London Review of Books, where he
is a member of the editorial board.
Since September 2003 Wood
has taught literary criticism at
Harvard University. During his
time as the Berthold Leibinger
Fellow, he will work on “The
Nearest Thing to Life: the Idea of
Character in Fiction,” a histori-
cal, practical, and philosophical
examination of the changing con-
ception of the fictional character.
JOHN WRAY
One sunny morning, Will Heller,
a 16-year-old paranoid schizo-
phrenic, gets on an uptown
B-train in New York City. As the
subway car rambles along, Will
realizes he holds the key to saving
the planet from global warming:
he has to cool down his own body.
But to do so he has to find a girl
named Emily Wallace. What fol-
lows in John Wray’s novel Lowboy
(2008) is a twisting and haunted
tale of Heller’s sometimes fantas-
tic, sometimes terrifying odyssey
through the tunnels and dead
ends of Manhattan, as a delusion-
al young man searches for his
one great hope for contemporary
America and the world. Lowboy,
Wray’s third novel, has been
hailed for its gripping, unsenti-
mental account of mental illness
and unstoppable narrative force.
Wray won a Whiting Writers’
Award for his first book, The Right
Hand of Sleep (2001), and his
second, Canaan’s Tongue (2005),
led to Wray being named one of
America’s Best Young Novelists
by Granta. As a Mary Ellen von der
Heyden Fellow at the Academy,
Wray will work on a new work,
tentatively entitled “The Lost
Time Accidents,” which will follow
a central European family from
1890 to the present over the course
of four generations. The Toula
family encounters a great many of
the twentieth century’s political
and social ideologies – Marxism,
fascism, communism, environ-
mentalism, neo- conservativism –
yet their great passion is decidedly
non-ideological: physics, spe-
cifically the study of the nature
of time. r.j. m.
The American Academy in Berlin invites applications for residen-
tial fellowships for the 2011–2012 and future academic years. The
application deadline is October 1, 2010. Prizes will be awarded in
February 2011 and announced in the spring of 2011. Approximately
two dozen fellowships are awarded to established scholars, writ-
ers, and professionals who wish to engage in independent study in
Berlin. Prizes are conferred annually for an academic semester and
on occasion for an entire academic year, and include round-trip air-
fare, housing, partial board, and a monthly stipend of $5,000.
Fellows are expected to reside at the Hans Arnhold Center dur-
ing the entire term of the award. Fellowships are restricted to can-
didates based permanently in the US. American citizenship is not
required and American expatriates are not eligible. Candidates in
academic disciplines must have completed a doctorate at the time of
application. The Academy gives priority to a proposal’s significance
and scholarly merit rather than its specific relevance to Germany.
While it is helpful to explain how a Berlin residency might contrib-
ute to the project’s further development, candidates need not be
working on German topics.
Application forms may be submitted through the Academy’s
website, www.americanacademy.de.
Call for Applications
T
he incoming cl ass of
spring fellows promises yet
another high-caliber lineup
of intellectual and cultural pro-
gramming. James Der Derian,
professor of international stud-
ies at Brown University, looks at
the ethical issues of technology,
social science, and war. Historian
of modern Germany Astrid
Eckert of Emory University
reconsiders West Germany’s
former borderland. Princeton
University professor of art and
archaeology and one of America’s
most prominent art critics, Hal
Foster, reinvestigates modernity’s
aeshetic gambit; novelist Rivka
Galchen summons a fake
prophet who begins to believe her
own machinations; social critic
and professor of journalism Todd
Gitlin takes on the problems
of the American media; Peiter
Judson, a professor of history
at Swarthmore College, traces
the Habsburg Monarchy’s impe-
rial campaign for unity during
the modern period; and Ellen
Kennedy, a political scientist at
the University of Pennsylvania,
praises the macroeconomics of
Walter Eucken, one of the archi-
tects of the German social market
economy. Dave McKenzie, a
multi-media artist, will be the
Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the
Visual Arts; and esteemed his-
torian H.C. Erik Midelfort
delves into censorship culture in
early modern Germany. Norman
Naimark, the chair of East
European History at Stanford
University, will study some con-
crete issues of Russia’s role in
shaping post-Cold War Europe;
and David Ruderman, a profes-
sor of modern Jewish history and
Director of the Center for Modern
Judaic Studies at the University of
Pennsylvania, re-opens a book by
an eighteenth-century Jewish mys-
tic to trace its portals into modern
philosophy; and, lastly, P. Adams
Sitney, a professor of humani-
ties and visual arts at Princeton
University, looks at the poetry of
the cinematic sublime in the works
of filmmakers Pier Paolo Pasolini
and Andrey Tarkovsky and consid-
ers the influence of Jean Cocteau
on American film. r.j. m.
Sneak Preview
Announcing the spring 2011 fellows
N16 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center
Alumni Books
Recent releases from former fellows
WARD JUST
Exiles in the Garden
Harcourt, 2009
W.J.T. MITCHELL (EDITOR)
Critical Terms for Media Studies
University of Chicago Press, 2010
JERRY Z. MULLER
Capitalism and the Jews
Princeton University Press, 2010
SIGRID NUNEZ
Salvation City
Riverhead Books, 2010
JOHN PHILLIP SANTOS
The Farthest Home is in an Empire
of Fire: A Tejano Elegy
Viking, 2010
PAUL BERMAN
Flight of the Intellectuals
Melville House, 2010
BENJAMIN BUCHLOH
(CO-AUTHOR)
Gabriel Orozco
Museum of Modern Art, 2009
SVETLANA BOYM
Another Freedom: The Alternative
History of an Idea
University of Chicago Press, 2010
ANNE CARSON
Nox
New Directions, 2010
HENRI COLE
Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems,
1982–2007
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010
MILAD DOUEIHI (WITH JANE
MARIE TODD)
Augustine and Spinoza
Harvard University Press, 2010
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
Eating Animals
Little, Brown and Company, 2009
RICHARD B. FREEMAN
Reforming the Welfare State:
Recovery and Beyond in Sweden
University of Chicago Press, 2010
THOMAS GEOGHEGAN
Were You Born on the Wrong
Continent? How the European
Model Can Help You Get a Life
New Press, 2010
SANDER GILMAN
Obesity: The Biography
Oxford University Press, 2010
GARY SHTEYNGART
Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel
Random House, 2010
HELEN VENDLER
Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens,
Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill
(The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the
Fine Arts)
Princeton University Press, 2010
HAYDEN V. WHITE
The Fiction of Narrative: Essays
on History, Literature, and Theory,
1957–2007
Johns Hopkins University Press,
2010
CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD (WITH
ALEXANDER NAGEL)
Anachronic Renaissance
Zone Books, 2010
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 33
UNCANNY REMA
A homecoming glean
By Rivka Galchen
THE FOLLOWING IS AN EARLY DRAFT OF THE OPENING TO MY NOVEL ATMOSPHERIC DISTURBANCES, ABOUT
A MAN WHO KNOWS THAT THE WOMAN WHO COMES HOME ONE DAY AND CLAIMS TO BE HIS WIFE IS, IN
FACT, NO LONGER HIS WIFE. MY NARRATOR ARGUED WITH ME, ALTERED HIS CHARACTER, MADE CERTAIN
PREFATORY AND ANXIOUS THROAT-CLEARINGS OF HIS NO LONGER “IN CHARACTER.” BUT I REMAINED FOND
OF THAT ALTERNATELY DIFFICULT LEO THAT NEVER CAME TO BE AND WAS SAD TO SEE HIM REPLACED.
GREGORY CREWDSON, UNTITLED (BENEATH THE ROSES), 2003, DIGITAL CHROMOGENIC PRINT 144.8 X 223.6 CM
©

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34 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
I’
m trying to introduce myself.
The ancient Greek writings on rheto-
ric explain that an introduction is only
appropriate, or necessary, when dealing
with a “hostile” audience, or an ignorant
one. I don’t know who I will have as readers
– hopefully my minor prominence will gain
me a sizeable audience despite allegations
of my mental decline – but lacking even
the briefest self-disclosing banter from you,
I offer this brief intro, by way of making
assumptions on the side of caution, and
politeness.
I am a fifty-year-old male psychiatrist
with no previous hospitalizations and no
relevant past medical, social, or family
history. I alone know Rema is missing. I
and, maybe, Tzvi Gal-Chen. This and other
private knowledge leads me to behavior
that seems outwardly strange, particularly
to the woman living in my old apartment
who calls herself “Rema.” But I would like
to find Rema. And even failing that I would
like to be allowed to return to my normal
life – as much as is possible – among
friends and colleagues. I will therefore
herein attempt to set out the origins and
contents of my current state of knowledge,
so that the apparent eccentricities of my
words and behavior can reveal their inher-
ent sense.
And so that certain recent “natural”
disasters may be more properly understood,
and addressed.
AN ERSATZ REMA APPEARS ON
A TEMPERATE STORMY NIGHT
O
ne unusually rainy evening
last December, when I was home
early with a migraine, a woman
entered my apartment who looked exactly
like my wife Rema. This woman closed the
door casually behind herself. Her hair was
wet. Peering over the edge of Rema’s pale
blue leather shoulder bag – that’s what this
other woman was carrying – was a russet-
faced puppy. The real Rema doesn’t like
dogs. A hayfeverishly fresh scent of sham-
poo, of Rema’s shampoo, was filling the
air yellowly, and through the brashness
of that grassy scent I squinted at the dop-
pelganger, and at that dog, acknowledging
to myself only a deep sense that something
– something – was extraordinarily wrong.
Yes. Extraordinarily wrong. It was those
words precisely that came to me, turning
up unexpectedly, like an old movie stub
found in the pocket of a coat not worn for
years.
I remember her standing by the door.
Her hair obscured her face somewhat as
she leaned down to de-shoe, but I could see:
same unzipping of wrinkly boots, same
taking off of same baby-blue coat with over-
sized charcoal buttons, same tucking of
dyed cornsilk-blonde hair behind ears, thus
enabling me a better view of: same wide
cheekbones, bite-sized nose, dove-dark
eyes. Same bangs cut straight across like
on those dolls done up in native costumes
that live their whole lives in plastic cases
held up by a metal wire around the waist.
Same everything, but it wasn’t Rema. How
I knew? Just a feeling. But what is a feel-
ing but a thought groping its way towards
articulation? Like the moment near the
end of a dream when I am sometimes able
to whisper to myself, “I am dreaming.” I
remember once waking up from a dream
in which my mother, dead now for decades,
was sipping tea at my kitchen table, read-
ing a newspaper on the back of which there
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 35
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was a headline, “Wrong Man, Right Name,
Convicted in Murder Trial.” I was trying to
read the smaller print of the article, but my
mother kept moving the paper, readjusting,
turning pages. When I woke up I searched
all through the house for that newspaper,
and through the garbage outside as well,
but I never found it.
“Oh,” the simulacrum said quietly, seem-
ing to notice the dimmed lights. “I’m
sorry,” she added; her imitation of Rema’s
Argentine accent was pitch-perfect.
The simulacrum held that other mon-
ster, that puppy, against her chest, blocking
my view of that camisole line as she began
a remarkable imitation of Rema’s slightly
irregularly rhythmed walk across the room,
past me, into the kitchen. I heard her set-
ting the teakettle to boil.
“You look odd,” I found myself saying.
“Yes, a dog,” she called out happily from
the kitchen. She began to speak at length,
maybe about the dog, maybe not, I couldn’t
quite concentrate. She said something
about Chinatown. Not seeing her, just
hearing her voice, and the rhythm of her
customary evasions, made it seem like she
was really Rema.
But this strange look-alike woman, when
she kissed my forehead, I blushed.
“I’m sorry about yesterday,” she said with
a pout. “I’m sorry I was making theater.”
Which was a Rema turn of phrase. I cov-
ered my eyes with my hands so I wouldn’t
have to look at her. My migraine winced
and pulsed, as if in time with that grassy
scented shampoo that always makes my
head feel tinny and that I love in an empty-
stomach kind of way. I didn’t want to think
what I was thinking. I was thinking: How
can I stop thinking these thoughts? I’m too old
for a schizophrenic break, I thought, trying
to break the other inarticulate thoughts.
And too tired for this to be mania. And too
young for – But when something unfore-
seen happens it can only be realized itera-
tively, in retrospect, gaining in reality one
facet at a time.
“Monster?” she whispered loudly, which
is Rema’s pet name for me.
“I don’t think – ” I said suddenly, sur-
prised by my own words, “you’re Rema.”
“You’re mad with me?”
“No,” I said, and turned to hide my face in
the sofa’s cushions. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled
to the small-weave wool of the cushion’s
covering. And when I felt a hand on my
shoulder, “I feel so rainy today,” I whispered,
“It must be the tired.”
B
y the time the water neared its
boil – the ascending pitches of our tea-
kettle’s tremble are so familiar to me –
I was considering a diagnosis of Migraine-
Induced Psychosis. Or if not migraine
psychosis then I’d settle for simply the catch-
all Psychotic Disorder nos (Not Otherwise
Specified), which I hoped over time would
reveal itself to be that ineffable but essential-
ly harmless imp, a Brief Psychotic Episode.
All this oversimplified diagnostic non-
sense I offer simply because I’d like to
emphasize that I began this investigation
with many of the same hypotheses that oth-
ers are still considering. But now I’ve moved
beyond them.
µ
Rivka Galchen is the author of
Atmospheric Disturbances (2008) and
in 2010 was selected one of The New
Yorker’s 20 Best Writers Under 40.
In spring 2011 she is a Mary Ellen von
der Heyden Fellow in Fiction at the
American Academy in Berlin.
36 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
I
n August and September of 1938
the avant-garde émigré composer Stefan
Wolpe delivered two speeches at the
World Center for Jewish Music (wcjm)
in Jerusalem advocating a sweeping set
of agendas and programs in response to
what he called “the stench of looming
disasters across the world.” Founded in
1937 by the musical activist Salli Levy, a
student of Wolpe’s since 1935, the wcjm
realized Levy’s long-standing dream to
link Jewish musicians worldwide through
a central organization that would preserve
and encourage Jewish musical activities
through research, concert management,
and publication.
Wolpe’s speeches expressed even
vaster ambitions. He thought the wcjm
should work as a “helping hand” to
facilitate a reconfiguration of music educa-
tional throughout the British Mandate of
Palestine in order to promote cross-cultural
understanding and a pluralism of musical
practice. Delivered at the height of the Arab
Riots, Wolpe’s plan assumed staggering
proportions. He envisioned a corps of “fly-
ing instructors” that would teach the music
of “different peoples” and diverse compo-
sitional techniques across Jewish rural
settlements; advocated hiring “master-prac-
titioners” of non-Western, especially Arab
music at conservatories; suggested enlist-
ing the Palestine Broadcasting Service
to record musical traditions worldwide,
including in soon-to-be Nazi-occupied
parts of central Europe; proposed a national
conference to debate the complex implica-
tions of appropriating “folklore” in Western
notated composition; and called for a press,
THESE LABYRINTHS OF
TERRIBLE DIFFERENCES
Composer Stefan Wolpe aimed to reconcile the most heated of national identities by
making music beyond the nation.
By Brigid Cohen
a statewide magazine on musical culture,
and diverse neighborhood choruses to
transform musical life in the region. As the
composer would later state, he sought “to
heighten the energy with which the most
different kinds of cultures and productive-
ness, such as one finds in Palestine, unite.”
Wolpe’s proposals may seem dreamy
and speculative, all the more so since the
composer immigrated to New York only a
few months after delivering his speeches at
the end of 1938. Yet if aesthetic modernism
is understood – in the manner of Walter
Benjamin and Michel Foucault – as an ethic
and attitude that urgently signifies the pres-
ent and imagines the world otherwise, then
Wolpe’s plan remains relevant as a richly
theorized collection of cultural possibilities.
W
olpe’s utopianism had solid
roots. As a young man in the
early 1920s, he had studied at the
Bauhaus, the utopian socialist experiment
in art education that challenged boundar-
ies between art and everyday life. Before
the collapse of the Weimar republic, he
had dedicated himself to antifascist, revo-
lutionary Marxist politics, composing for
agitprop theater troupes, conducting work-
ers’ choruses, and spending a month in the
Soviet Union, in May 1933. Wolpe firmly
believed in music’s capacity to spur social
change through transformative aesthetic
experience. And he believed that such expe-
riences of transformation, when fostered
in intimate community contexts, could
eventually carry across many segments of
society. This belief led him to stake a par-
ticularly optimistic and affirmative posi-
tion on music and its potential for political
efficacy. As he wrote in 1933:
Of course I know that all music can only
be heard as music. But since all music
at the same time emotionally trans-
forms in the heart and concentration of
the listener and the impression in the
same way is received (in the energy of
its rushing movements) like a ball – the
listening person transmits the move-
ment further, that means it participates
in his life, it leads him, educates him,
moves, drives, and in the most extreme
way it changes him.
It is striking to note that Wolpe wrote these
deeply affirmative words about music’s
capacity for inspiring change while in
flight after the Nazi takeover in 1933. Yet
it was precisely this seemingly hopeless
political environment that made such hope-
ful ideals all the more necessary as a means
of surviving and finding motivation in the
midst of humanitarian catastrophe.
While Wolpe’s Weimar-era political
activity had centered overwhelmingly on
causes of class struggle and revolution, his
arrival in Palestine – where he immigrated
in January 1934 after his wife, the pianist
Irma Schoenberg, secured him a valid visa –
saw renewed commitment and a growing
focus on dilemmas of human plurality.
Wolpe’s political activism through music
took a new turn.
From 1934 to 1938 he staked out a
unique place within Jerusalem’s small
Western art music scene, becoming one of
the most dedicated and legitimate spokes-
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 37
some of whom had arrived alone without
parents. Many regarded Wolpe as a father-
figure who helped them to adapt to the
trauma of their displacement. In the com-
poser’s own idiosyncratic words, he taught
Zweiheimigkeit or “two-homedness,” in
addition to composition and theory. Many
students recalled how they were drawn to
his personal warmth, unconventional peda-
gogy, and aspirations toward a reconstruct-
ed way of life and community in Palestine.
Wolpe’s student Herbert Brün described
how the composer taught them to be atten-
tive to the cultural artifacts and practices of
their new home that they might otherwise
have simply dismissed or ignored. Brün’s
words vividly capture Wolpe’s style of inter-
action and teaching:
While walking to your lesson you
already heard his voice loudly pro-
claiming something, singing, holler-
ing, screaming, all the time making
enormous noises. Everything was sig-
nificant; everything was of the greatest
importance right now; and when you
then entered and walked up the stairs,
you entered a situation of full concern
with a terrific warmth and enthusiasm
and eagerness, and it didn’t make any
difference whether you were in or out –
you just came into it, and it immediately
continued, the last sentence he was just
saying; he turned his eyes on you and
continued it as if you had been there all
day . . . . I learned from Wolpe, although
he was not a philosopher; he demon-
strated, he did not philosophize, he
demonstrated unmistakably that things
are not interesting; you take an inter-
est in them. You look at a thing, and it
becomes.
In Brün’s account, the “full concern” Wolpe
exhibited toward his students, in turn,
inspired in them an attentiveness toward
the things of their new home. This ethic of
attentiveness brought the possibility of new
forms of identification to compensate for
their lost pre-exile relationships and secure
national identity.
Wolpe’s own attention was consumed
by the study of what he called “musics of
today,” which included post-tonal idioms
and local non-Western musics, rather than
the modal counterpoint, fugues, and Bach-
style chorales traditional to German music
education. He interpreted Arab musics
with the ear of a modernist composer
encountering it for the first time; he mar-
veled at what appeared to be breathtakingly
novel approaches to form, texture, timbre,
and tonality. He admired Arab classical
musics for their “smallest shadow-like
variations, the art of developing melodi-
cally wild ideas, fantastic instrumentation,
thrilling variation of dynamic transitions
and manners of playing [with a] tonality so
much more richly imbued.”
In response to this heritage, Wolpe
sought to create new compositional idioms,
combining European and Middle Eastern
traditions, which he called “amalgams.” His
1936 composition Suite im Hexachord, fi

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men for the city’s nascent avant-garde. He
was the only composer in the Yishuv – the
Jewish community in Palestine – to develop
a consistent following of students, both
in the city and at various kibbutzim. He
also taught composition and theory at the
Palestine Conservatory, and as many as
sixty of his students frequented Wolpe’s
home, where – as student Josef Tal
recalled – they came so closely to identify
with the composer that they “even assumed
his physiognomy.”
Many of Wolpe’s underlings in Palestine
were young German-speaking refugees,
STEFAN WOLPE, CIRCA 1936
38 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
written for oboe and clarinet, exemplifies
this idea: The second movement begins
with a sustained arpeggiation in the oboe
and clarinet, after which the oboe breaks
out in melody against the drone of the
clarinet. The melodic shape of the oboe
line very clearly draws from Arab musics,
with its smooth, stepwise motion and its
subtly altering turns, trills, and staccato fig-
ures that precede and ornament sustained
tones. The oboe and clarinet also tend
toward heterophonic textures at the ends of
phrases – another feature surely intended
to reference Arab traditions. The Suite im
Hexachord does not make use of functional
diatonic harmony; rather the entire piece
makes use of only six pitches – the hexa-
chord of its title. This approach reflects not
only Wolpe’s modernist interest in non-
diatonic pitch collections, but also the com-
poser’s study of the Arab maqam, a system
of modes that links pitch-class collections
with melodic patterns and modes of orna-
mentation. While the Suite im Hexachord
surely connects with the long European
tradition of Orientalist composition, it also
signified in richer and more complicated
ways than mere exoticism, given Wolpe’s
position in Palestine and his association of
the music with a specific project of cultural
reconciliation.
In Jerusalem, works like the Suite im
Hexachord were performed in a monthly
informal public concert series organized
especially for friends and students, who
also premiered their own compositions.
These monthly performances, held in
friends’ homes and rented auditoriums,
were supplemented by Wolpe’s weekly
student gatherings. In this context, it is
not surprising that the composer became
thrilled when some of his students also
became invested in the idea of creating
culturally “amalgamated” musics. Wolpe
would later speak admiringly of his stu-
dents’ “most beautiful [musical] thoughts”
that show “traces of the influences of Arab
neighborly surroundings.”
In the early- to mid-1930s Wolpe and his
circle’s interest in local indigenous tradi-
tions was indeed unusual. The Yishuv’s
Western musical performance and edu-
cational institutions were known for their
repertory narrowness, which focused on
German and East European national tradi-
tions. Wolpe chafed at widespread prejudic-
es against Arab musics in the Yishuv and
within the German immigrant community.
His work was rather in keeping with his
friend the comparative musicologist Robert
Lachmann’s call to hear Arab musics “with
sympathy rather than disdain.” Wolpe
encouraged this attitude among his stu-
dents who composed in genres ranging
from chamber music to work songs to
music for kibbutzim celebrations to songs
for the Yishuv’s thriving new folk-song
repertory.
A
s Wolpe’s speeches at the
World Center for Jewish Music
reveal, such cosmopolitanism could
motivate a wider national political vision.
In 1938 the stakes were impossibly high.
The Arab revolt brought an abrupt deterio-
ration in Arab-Jewish relations, with Arab
and Zionist leaderships hardening in their
determination to cease negotiations. The
period witnessed an intensification of mili-
tant nationalist discourses in the Yishuv,
intensified by the mounting humanitarian
catastrophe in Europe. Wolpe’s alarm at the
nationalist tides in Europe and the Middle
East motivated his state-wide cross-cultural
education plan. He wrote:
I engage [at the wcjm] in a good
unified-front effort against the stu-
pidification and coarse conformist
distortion [Verblödung und Verblökung]
of living cultural concepts, in a coun-
try – large like an apple tree – that in a
radio commission meeting a few days
ago expressed the piece of wisdom that
“Music – whatever kind – from Jews
– whatever kind – from the beginning of
time has always been good!!” Those are
the ways of a people forced to endure
the derision and outright activist idiocy
of some other peoples [the Germans] –
oh the terrible proportions [of this]! and
added to the already country-wide sum
of gruesomeness which passes on a
relatively dangerous stupidity.
The exemplary model of nationalism that
fueled Wolpe’s fears was, of course, Nazism,
with its violently enforced claims of moral
superiority and racially bounded identity.
After his flight from Germany, in fact,
Wolpe suffered repeated nervous break-
downs in response to his violent memories
of the Nazi takeover.
This recent past fueled the panicked
tone of Wolpe’s personal writings, in which
he railed against essentialist notions of race,
ethnicity, and nation – especially as they
shaped concepts of musical culture and the
impulse to identify a Jewish national or eth-
nic style in music. At the same time, he was
responding to a newly emerging composi-
tional trend that would eventually be called
the Mediterranean School of Composition,
associated with composers such as Marc
Lavri, Paul Ben-Haim, Eric W. Sternberg,
and Alexander Boskovitch.
From the late 1930s onward these
composers looked eastward for sources
of Jewish identity, integrating Middle-
Eastern and East European musical idioms
marked as “Jewish” within concert works
based on Romantic and classical forms.
Wolpe agonized over this trend, which in
some ways resembled his own search for
musical amalgams that had preceded the
Mediterranean movement by only a year or
two. Ultimately Wolpe bitterly concluded –
alongside his friend Lachmann – that the
Mediterranean School of Composition
showed little regard for Arab culture. In
the composer’s words, it sought “to force
[Arab musics] – just like the quarters where
it is expressed – into dependency through
a correspondingly moderate domesticated
tonality.” With this judgmental assess-
ment Wolpe compared British military
and Jewish paramilitary pacification of the
Arab quarters during the 1938 riots with
the absorption of non-Western musical
materials within a prevailingly European
aesthetic. This far-flung and hyperbolic
comparison speaks to Wolpe’s tendency to
interpret aesthetic cultural practices and
attitudes as bound up with drastic human
actions. Wolpe was so disturbed by the
Mediterraneanist movement in composi-
tion that he also questioned the politics
of his own efforts to write “amalgamated”
musics, which he worried might amount to
little more than cultural thievery. Intense
expressions of self-recrimination emerged
in his personal writings. “There is an
abundance of guilt that must be brought
to account,” he wrote. To encourage a more
nuanced understanding of Jewish and Arab
cultural identities, “[We] must precisely fix
the education through which young people
are to be raised.”
W
olpe’s speeches at the wcjm
can be understood as a last-ditch
effort to spread his ideas about
national music pedagogy reform during
a time when he contemplated leaving
Palestine. His decision to immigrate to
New York at the end of 1938 was based
on several factors, including his nervous
breakdowns during the Arab riots; his seri-
ous hospitalization following his car being
run off the road by an Arab driver; his
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 39
wife’s fear that the Axis powers might move
through North Africa into the Middle East;
and professional problems caused by his
unpopular cultural politics and modernist
aesthetic and his frustration at what he per-
ceived as the parochialness of the art music
scene in the Mandate.
After moving to the United States Wolpe
wrote a letter to his friend Salli Levi asking
what had become of his initiatives at the
wcjm and expressing regret that they had
been met with silence. He remained in
close contact with his friends in Jerusalem,
all the while pursuing new commu-
nity involvements New York’s art-music
scenes and bebop circles, among Abstract
Expressionist artists, at Black Mountain
College, and at the Darmstadt Summer
Courses for New Music.
During these years in America Wolpe
vacillated wildly in the appraisal of his work
and life in Palestine. At his most self-criti-
cal, in 1944, he accused himself of exploit-
ative musical imperialism. Moreover, as a
composer, he had become, in his words, a
“thief of a history that had become foreign
to him.” He despaired of his dream to par-
ticipate in the creation of a new multiethnic
nation in the Middle East. Recalling the
cultural-political paradoxes of his work
there, Wolpe wrote in 1944 that the excite-
ment of creating music for a new nation
“succeeds, and in succeeding, points to a
magical power, which always makes me
contemplative and in the joy of the encoun-
ter also deeply sad. (Because of such doubts
I left Palestine. I no longer believed in such
national intimacies and magic circles.)”
Wolpe apparently saw his national ambi-
tions as having depended on forms of magi-
cal thinking or fantasy that were at once
attractive and deceptive. The composer
subsequently referred to his departures
from Germany and Palestine as his “double
loss.” After his immigration to America, he
avoided characterizing his work in national
terms. He no longer envisioned his work as
transforming society at a national level, but
instead recognized a potential within avant-
garde communities to preserve and acknowl-
edge vital forms of cultural plurality.
Wolpe’s pedagogical and cultural ambi-
tions in Mandate-era Palestine may appear
failed and abortive, especially given their
lack of implementation and Wolpe’s harsh
self-judgment. In recent decades, however,
increasing support has accrued to Wolpe
and Lachmann’s belief in cross-cultural
education as an indispensible step toward
political reconciliation. In music, this
aspiration is most visibly represented in
Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said’s East-
West Divan Orchestra, the high-profile
project that brings together young Israeli,
Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian,
and Egyptian musicans in performances
across the Middle East. As Wolpe’s friend
and student Yohenan Boehm remarked in
an interview the 1980s, his teacher was “a
terribly impractical man [whose political]
outlook was . . . ahead of its time.”
Stefan Wolpe’s case may reveal a
moment when the most seemingly neces-
sary actions were also utterly impossible in
the midst of intractable political dilemmas.
But one must endure and persevere, as he
said, in “these labyrinths of terrible dif-
ferences, dilemmas of truths, disappoint-
ments, and adaptations.” µ
Brigid Cohen is an assistant professor
of music at the University of North
Carolina and a fall 2010 Berlin Prize
Fellow at the American Academy.
4414_germanwings_berlin_journal_210x135_RZ.indd 1 14.06.2010 16:40:32 Uhr
40 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
THE PRICE OF ENTRY
Whatever happened to Zusammengehörigkeitsgefühl?
By David Abraham
CAMILO JOSÉ VERGARA, 6 ADALBERTSTRASSE, BERLIN, 2010
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 41
I
n recent years the topic of immi-
gration has become increasingly dif-
ficult and painful, particularly for the
liberal left. In the prosperous, immigrant-
receiving nations of the North, two paired,
often unuttered questions have risen to
near the top of legal and political agendas:
Who belongs to the national, political, and
social community of the “we”; and, What
does belonging entail in the way of rights
and obligations? Under the impact of
unprecedented free mobility of both capital
and labor, in addition to multiple crises of
the welfare state, the borders and bonds of
citizenship have been changing – and for
the most part weakening.
If we consider two countries, Germany
and the United States, a general trend of
immigration begins to emerge: There is
an inverse relationship between the ease of
access to citizenship and what that citizen-
ship actually offers. Citizenship is easiest
to acquire in the United States, but it is
of less social and economic value, and it
offers less of a premium over mere legal
residence. “Hyphenated Americanism”
– Thai-American, Mexican-American, and
the like – has presented a viable integration
strategy for most groups, and it fits into a
dominant ideology of a weak state and plu-
ralistic society. Germany, in turn, has until
very recently had a very restrictive immi-
gration policy, offering permanent admis-
sion and prospective citizenship on a very
selective (and largely ethnic) basis and, as
is well known, has had a difficult time inte-
grating its non-EU foreign-born residents.
Neither multiculturalism nor explicit inte-
grationism has been especially successful.
Yet entrance into Germany’s social-market
society, on the other hand, offers a panoply
of social and economic rights that could not
even be contemplated in America’s free-
market liberal individualist society.
The difference between the two coun-
tries’ policies has much to do with demo-
graphics, history, and ideology. When it
comes to incorporating new immigrants,
historic and crowded places like Europe
are at a distinct disadvantage compared
to America, a land whose law is libertar-
ian and which values toleration and some
trust – but is no friend to social solidarity
and puts little premium on citizenship.
Insofar as democratic citizenship involves,
as the political scientist Jean Cohen has
written, “the sovereign self-determination
of a people, and the will to act in its name
and make sacrifices,” a “we” to which
members belong and “in whose delibera-
tions they have a voice,” American citizen-
ship is indeed weak. To the extent that the
American demos is experienced in civic
and political, albeit historically embedded
rather than in ethno-cultural terms, it is
open and egalitarian. The combination of
easy entry for newcomers, decentralized
labor markets, modest social transfers, and
weak democratic self-rule has prevented
American citizenship from thickening
culturally over time. But most unchosen,
pre-political, and exclusionary elements are
now marginal compared to other times and
other places. “Common sympathies” and
“proper patriotism” are not hard for new-
comers to come by in the US.
While American-style civic national-
ism may have the potential to create a
“level playing field” for free individuals, it
is unsuited for the “solidarity” of social
justice. Most American rights are negative
liberties – Keep the government off my back –
and they are accorded to all persons rather
than just to citizens. Human-rights liberal-
ism in its current form makes few social
demands and thus works well as an adjust-
ment to the American way. Ideologically, if
not in perfect reality, America gives every-
one a level playing field, but not a ladder.
And certainly it does not fix the floor.
But some thicker sense of affinity, simi-
larity, shared identity, or social cohesion
may be necessary for social-rights citizen-
ship. Over the years Germany has indeed
advanced this model. Acceptance of the
multicultural, or at least pluralist, composi-
tion of German society has been gaining
ground in theory as well as practice. The
years 1999/2005 saw the first German
Citizenship Laws embodying jus soli (birth
on the soil) principles, and 2003 then saw
the formulation of the first immigrant-
attracting immigration law in modern
German history (Zuwanderungsgesetz).
Naturalization in Germany is now possible
after a shorter period of time and with
fewer behavioral requirements. Almost
everywhere in Europe, in fact, there is now a
legal entitlement to citizenship for second-
generation migrants through jus soli fi

ACCEPTANCE OF THE
MULTICULTURAL, OR AT LEAST
PLURALIST, COMPOSITION OF
GERMAN SOCIETY HAS BEEN
GAINING GROUND IN THEORY AS
WELL AS PRACTICE.

42 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
principles; it is no longer a matter of excep-
tion or grace. Still, while most European
states and the US have come to accept dual
citizenship, Germany has not.
What was the central goal of German
naturalization law? To ease access into
German society for all those born in
Germany. Legally, that meant introducing
birthright citizenship to the children of
long-term resident aliens and easing the
naturalization process for those residents
not born in the country. By thus distancing,
if not divorcing, citizenship and member-
ship from ethnicity, reformers sought to
facilitate integration into a more capacious
German identity and society. Immigrants
would more easily and more willingly
become German, while “German” itself
would come to mean something broader.
Naturalization provisions and citizenship
criteria were symbolically moved from
the Aliens Act (renamed the Residence
Act) to the Citizenship and Nationality
Act. The chief object of the new legislation
was to institute jus soli, naturalization as
a matter of right, and language-centered,
Constitution-affirming integration com-
mitment. In so doing, Germany legislated a
civic national identity open to all, including
the 10-to-12 percent of the population clas-
sified as foreigners (and of whom one-fifth
were German-born).
But even civic national identities are
culturally inherited artifacts, developing
as they pass from generation to generation.
National belonging is more than rational
attachment; it assumes some measure of
shared pre-political community arching
over any agreement on legal-procedural
rules and makes a nation more than a polit-
ical community organized around volun-
tary association. Perhaps it demands inte-
gration not just mutual respect. German
administrators may have been naively
optimistic when they wrote in 2000, “The
acquisition of nationality marks the begin-
ning of social integration.” Legal status
first, integration second.
Here is where Germany has had some
problems, reflected in the continued poor
educational and social-economic per-
formance of immigrants and increased
tensions between “secularized Christian”
liberalism and Muslim self-assertion. Long
term, inadequate integration threatens
Germany’s high collective social-wage and
solidarity principles. Social policies in the
welfare state operationalized citizenship
and provided a domain where it was con-
stituted – albeit not equally for everyone –
through a political economy. A much more
individualized, neoliberal, “thinner” soci-
ety would perhaps be in a better position to
pursue integration around civic-constitu-
tional and cultural principles.
S
urveying a wide swath of
evidence in Germany, sociologists
Hermann Kurthen and Schmitter
Heisler hypothesize that the market sec-
tor has been less integrated over time
in Germany than in the US, “reflecting
Germany’s more controlled and less
flexible labor-market structures and
highly institutionalized credentialism
(i.e. apprenticeships),” compared to the
US’s “more flexible labor market, espe-
cially in the low-wage sector, low degree of
unionization, and lower degree of creden-
tialism.” Contrariwise, they find “more
integration in the welfare benefits sector
in Germany, reflecting the more generous
and more inclusive German welfare state,
potentially compensating for the lower
degree of labor market integration.” And
in the cultural sector, notwithstanding
a variety of barriers, Mexicans are “com-
paratively more integrated than (Muslim)
Turks,” suffer less exclusion, and express
more positive identification with their
new country, though both groups con-
tinue to show poor school and language
performance. In all cases, the effects of
low human, social, and economic capital
are hard to overcome.
There is a long tradition of explaining
America’s inequality and lack of redis-
tribution by pointing to its diversity. Yet
ethnic and cultural diversity may very
well have the same type of negative eco-
nomic impact in Europe. Over a decade’s
worth of very careful work by Harvard
economist Alberto Alesina and colleagues
has produced some troubling findings
– troubling for those who support the wel-
fare state and who would simultaneously
value liberalism’s equal desire to accept
difference. In this bivalent desire they
have found a rub.
Among Alesina’s findings are that if
those who are “different” are concentrated
among the poor, then programs that sup-
port the poor become the objects of public
hostility. For example, half the gap between
welfare spending in the US and Europe
is explained by American heterogene-
ity. That is, it is possible that generalized
trust, reciprocity, and loyalty are negatively
related to a community’s diversity; or, the
more diverse a community, the less social
trust. Second, flows of foreigners are nega-
tively related to spending on welfare state
programs. Even some of the staunchest
defenders of the multicultural immigra-
tion model have concluded that the typical
industrial society would be spending 15
to 20 percent more than it does now on
social services had it kept its foreign-born
percentage where it was in 1970. In light of
this, newcomers, more often than not poor-
er than the resident population, are easily
seen as exploiting social benefits.
Political and social psychologists have
long concerned themselves with issues of
in-group/out-group behaviors and what
we now call “othering.” Opponents of
discrimination and exclusion have long
argued that contact with difference can cre-
ate tolerance and that humans have a cos-
mopolitan as well as a parochial potential.
Indeed, the welfare state attempts to fur-
ther this possibility by creating institutions
of reciprocity. Let us help each other through
each of our rough times. Such altruism may
be calculated over repeated encounters or
predicted on the basis of a broader empathy.
If I am “my brother’s keeper” I either want
to be confident of reciprocity or of familial
resemblance.
I
deally, the welfare state creates
virtuous circles of reciprocity and builds
the trust that would fight off political
entrepreneurs who would use “weak fam-
ily resemblance” to divide people. The
creation of social solidarity and trust is an
outcome of a successful welfare state, while
the welfare state is the product of a depen-
dence upon a society with a considerable
degree of social solidarity. The feedback is
such that the social rights of citizenship
constitute expectations, the satisfaction of
which strengthens trust in the state and
the sense of social belonging that then
augments trust. Either way, “the welfare
state,” as political scientist Gary Freeman
observed long ago, “rests on a moral and
political consensus, binding members of
the national community in a set of recipro-
cal relationships” directed toward equality
on the bordered inside.
NATIONAL BELONGING IS MORE
THAN RATIONAL ATTACHMENT;
IT ASSUMES SOME MEASURE
OF SHARED PRE-POLITICAL
COMMUNITY

Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 43
Policy acknowledgement of these incon-
venient facts can be seen on both sides of
the Atlantic: In Germany, for one, in the
limiting of jus soli benefits to children born
to mothers legally or enjoying “genuine”
ties to the country. There has also been an
effort, in Germany but also elsewhere, to
make it more difficult to access migration
and citizenship through marriage. Despite
the Grundgesetz’s strong commitment to
family rights, the importation of “country
girl” wives from the old country is widely
seen as setting back integration and lan-
guage acquisition. Lastly, in an effort
to hold the center, as political scientist
Christian Joppke describes, one increas-
ingly sees “the attempt by states to tie
citizenship more firmly to shared identities
and civic competence,” thereby combating
the “centrifugal tendencies” of increasingly
diverse societies. As a consequence, new
citizens (unlike born citizens) are called
upon to consent to a contractual idea of
membership; they are joining an already
existing association, one with specific rules,
a specific history, and maybe specific politi-
cal and cultural norms and values. Contra
Groucho Marx: You have to want to belong
to a club that would have someone like you
as a member.
G
iven these various tendencies,
we are impelled toward a rather
unattractive conclusion: The US is
more successful in integrating immigrants,
and immigrants are more successful there,
precisely because the US is marked by low
levels of solidarity and a weak welfare state.
Immigrants are on their own – along with
the rest of us. In social democratic Europe,
where social bonds and the welfare state are
thicker, more thoroughgoing integration
will remain necessary to preserve social
solidarity and maintain the welfare state,
with immigrants as functioning partici-
pants. The “sink or swim” of America may,
perversely, be good for immigrants while
impoverishing us all.
µ
David Abraham is a professor of law
at the University of Miami School of
Law and was a Bosch Fellow in Public
Policy in spring 2010.
CAMILO JOSÉ VERGARA, 18 SCHLESISCHE STRASSE, BERLIN, 2010
Chilean-born documentary pho-
tographer Camilo José Vergara has
been shooting America’s ghettos and
broken cities for over three decades.
His photographs and accompanying
stories have resulted in books such as
American Ruins (1999), Unexpected
Chicagoland (2001), and How the Other
Half Worships (2005). At the American
Academy in spring 2010 as a Berlin
Fellow in the Visual Arts, Vergara took
his documentary eye into the German
capital, meandering through its open
streets and hidden corners, through
its past and present, in search of the
city’s distinct personality. The result
has been a stunning array of faces and
façades, train-riders, shop windows,
subway stations, and public spaces. The
two photographs featured here are part
of Vergara’s in-progress Berlin project,
ongoing throughout 2011.
44 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
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OUTCAST EYES
The medieval philosophy of nominalism has rippled through the centuries and into
our ways of making meaning out of what we see.
By Martin Jay
DAN GLUIBIZZI, JR., I-LINES [B], 2009, WATERCOLOR ON PAPER, 20 X 16 INCHES
Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 45
E
ver since its invention, in
the 1830s, photography has posed a
daunting challenge to the legion of
theorists who have sought to make sense
of its revolutionary implications. Variously
a tool of scientific inquiry, artistic cre-
ation, and social memory, it has exploded
conventional wisdom about visual experi-
ence, testing our sense of what an image
is, how mimetic representation duplicates
the world, and even how time itself can be
frozen in a perpetual instant or captured in
the flow of its movement. With the recent
development of digital technologies, which
seem to undermine the photograph’s func-
tion as a reliable recorder of an actual event
or object in the world, many of these issues
have been raised anew with no consensus
yet arriving about their possible resolution.
Sometimes it is useful to return to past
moments in the history of thought to help
us deal with present questions. In the case
of photography, one possible yet rarefied
resource is a tradition that emerged in
medieval philosophy and that has had a lin-
gering impact ever since: Nominalism.
Beginning with the fourteenth-century
Franciscan friar William of Ockham,
whose celebrated razor was wielded to cut
away imagined entities unnecessary to
explain the world of experience, nominal-
ism has been understood as promoting
a principle of parsimony or economy. It
sought to purify philosophy, in particular
the reigning Scholastic orthodoxy of the
medieval Church, of its excessive conceptu-
al baggage, freeing it to confront the world
as it existed in all its motley particularity.
The nominalists’ favorite target was
the alleged existence of supra-individual
universals – abstractions – wrongly taken
to be more real than the particulars that
embodied them. Because it did so, nomi-
nalism has been understood as deeply
anti-realist in its hostility to the essentialist
Aristotelian ontology of the Scholastic tra-
dition. For abstract universals it substituted
the conventionalist linguistic name that we
mere humans give to groupings of individ-
ual entities in the world that seem to share
attributes – chairs, birds, oceans – thus
earning the designation of “nominalism,”
from the Latin word for name, nomen.
Ridding the mental universe of unnec-
essary real universals and abstract objects,
however, could open the door for some-
thing else. For when doubts about knowl-
edge or the sufficiency of human reason
were put forward, the way was opened for
faith alone to be the sole source of certainty.
We may lack the means to sense or know
real universals or abstract objects, but we
can still believe that they exist. For Ockham,
revelation was the only access we have to
such entities as the soul’s immortality or
the inherent attributes of God, such as His
unfettered sovereign will.
When it came to mundane matters,
nominalism cleared the way for a less exalt-
ed source than God’s will. Nominalism
says the categories we bestow upon the
world are the product of human invention,
an assumption which led to the self-asser-
tion of the species in the face of a world
that no longer could be read as a legible text
filled with meanings written by God and
available to human understanding – the so-
called Great Chain of Being. The sovereign
will of God unconstrained by innate ratio-
nal rules or essential forms is mimicked by
the assertion of humankind producing an
order that is less found than made. Modern
science, for one, is indebted to this radical
transformation: However much it pretends
to passive discovery, its hidden corollary is
the domination of pliant nature.
As Ockham’s razor sliced through the
building blocks of dominant medieval
optics, it hit the idea of the “visible species,”
which allowed an object to appear mean-
ingful to the eyes that beheld it. Sight, in
medieval optics, worked through the trans-
missions of these forms, from the object to
the eye and vice versa. “Extramission,” as
it was called, involved the sending out of
species from the eye to meet those coming
in through “intromission.” But Ockham
rejected this idea as unnecessary, for it
added an extraneous general concept,
which he thought could be jettisoned in
favor of understanding sight as simply an
intuitive grasping of particular objects at a
distance.
Ockham’s razor also severed the
Scholastic concept of organic aesthetic
form, which, as Aquinas held, was com-
prised of an object’s integrity, clarity, and
proportion, qualities believed to be univer-
sal norms. While subsequent efforts were
made to rescue a generic metaphysics of
beauty (neo-Platonism returned during the
Renaissance and the eighteenth century;
neo-Aristotelianism enjoyed a twentieth-
century theoretical revival), the nominal-
ist challenge remained. It contributed,
for example, to the rise of the novel, that
entirely anti-generic genre that defies vir-
tually all of the traditional rules of beauty
and form; and in musical compositions, in
the works of, for example, Gustav Mahler,
who denied an ontology of pre-given musi-
cal forms. In visual culture, nominalism’s
dominant exemplar has been photography,
a medium that insists on capturing images
of only specific things in the world. But
photography has done so by instantiating a
version of the nominalist impulse I want to
call “magical,” with a nod to the novelists
who have developed a similar doctrine of
“magical realism.” To make my case, let me
take a detour through the work of a figure
in the visual arts who carried the nominal-
ist impulse to its extreme, the French (anti-)
artist Marcel Duchamp. In inventing the
brilliant provocation that came to be called
“the readymade,” an object from everyday
life that was selected as “art” rather than
made by the skill of the artist, he denied
the very idea of organic formal beauty.
Duchamp himself understood his work,
to cite a lapidary and cryptic note from
his White Box in 1914, as “a kind of picto-
rial Nominalism,” a term that appeared
throughout Duchamp’s writings.
H
ow does Duchampian nomi-
nalism fit with our understanding
of photography in nominalist
terms? For one, whereas mainstream mod-
ernist abstraction pursued the elusive goal
of the essential purity of the medium – as
Clement Greenberg never tired of remind-
ing us – Duchamp performatively rejected
that quest by giving up painting itself.
Abandoning not only the mimetic task of
painting – copying what was on the other
side of a framed, transparent window onto
the world – Duchamp also rejected the
claim that the flat canvas was an opaque
surface on which experiments in color,
form, and a texture might be pursued.
Instead, he decried all “retinal art” meant
to provide pleasure to the eye, in favor of
an art that was named as such by someone
with the cultural capital to have his act of
enunciation taken seriously. In other words,
one meaning of pictorial nominalism was
the idea that the intrinsic qualities of the
object were less important than the act of
naming it a work of art and getting fi

IN VISUAL CULTURE,
NOMINALISM’S DOMINANT
EXEMPLAR HAS BEEN
PHOTOGRAPHY, A MEDIUM THAT
INSISTS ON CAPTURING IMAGES
OF ONLY SPECIFIC THINGS
IN THE WORLD.
46 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
the legitimating institutions – museums,
galleries, collectors, historians of art – to
accept the act as valid. Eschewing the
older ideal of creative genius in which the
gifted artist somehow channeled the same
innovative spirit that God has shown in
willing the world into being, miraculously
making the invisible visible, Duchamp
effaced himself, or at least his talent as a
traditional artist, and became the more
modest designator – the namer – of found
objects as readymade works worthy of dis-
play in museums. In this sense, pictorial
nominalism was a variation of the older
impulse found in Ockham, which denied
that inherent qualities existed in the world
that could serve as standards of beauty. It
was a radical conventionalism in which the
decision of the enunciator – the one who
can get away with saying this bottle rack or
this urinal is a work of art and should be in
a museum – trumped any intrinsic rules of
formal beauty, such as proportion, organic
wholeness, or integrity.
There was, however, another sense in
which pictorial nominalism moved beyond
this conventionalist usage and gestured
towards a kind of nominalism that was
no longer understandable solely in terms
of denial and disenchantment. It is this
second kind that I want to call “magical
nominalism.”
Duchamp wanted to reduce words to
their non-communicative status, express-
ing nothing of the intention of the mind
that might speak them or descriptive of
an external world to which they might
refer. Ideally spoken by no one, they defy
both interpretation into something else
and their subsumption under a generic
concept. If words are to be understood as
names, it is not in the sense of a linguistic
sign but rather that of the proper name,
which does nothing to describe the char-
acteristics of the person to whom it refers
or to subsume him under a concept, but
rather rigidly designates him or her as a
unique entity.
Magical nominalism has to be differ-
entiated from its conventionalist cousin in
its relative de-emphasis of the enunciative
function of the artist, that moment of self-
assertion ex nihilo, a critical implication of
the Ockhamist critique of real universals.
Duchamp sensed that it was only by diving
into the nostalgic past that he could carry
out his nominalist function. The ready-
made is something given by history, not
created by the artist in the present, and is
then re-named an “art object” – not a paint-
ing or a sculpture, but simply “art object.”
As such, it means nothing aside from that
name, no longer an object of use, not an
object of formal beauty within a generic
tradition. Its value, we might say, lies solely
in what it is now designated.
T
o understand the implications of
all this for photography will require
a quick glance at the writings of two
critics, who at one time or another had
illuminating things to say about art in gen-
eral and photography in particular: Walter
Benjamin and Rosalind Krauss.
In Benjamin’s seminal 1916 essay “On
Language as Such and On the Language
of Man,” he adopted what has been called
an “Adamic” view of languages: the Fall
into a Babel of different tongues was pre-
ceded by an Ursprache, an original pure
language. He began by expanding the word
“language” beyond a tool of human com-
munication or mental expression to include
everything in animate and inanimate
nature.
Whereas conventional notions of lan-
guage privilege communication between
humans about a world of objects, the more
expansive notion “knows no means, no
object, and no addressee of communication.
It means: in the name, the mental being of
man communicates itself to God.” Although
only God possesses the perfect language
in which name is equivalent to thing, man
approximates it through the giving of prop-
er names: “The theory of proper names is
the theory of the frontier between finite
and infinite language.”
Language in this expanded sense is
therefore more than mere signs, more
DAN GLUIBIZZI, JR., MW I-LINES, 2009. ACRYLIC ON CANVAS, 20 X 16 INCHES
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Fall 2010 | Number Nineteen | The Berlin Journal | 47
than arbitrary conventions invented to
communicate abstract ideas or enact inter-
subjective performatives. After the Fall
into Babel, however, the project of regain-
ing the perfect language was thwarted
by what Benjamin calls “overnaming,”
which produces the melancholy of a dis-
enchanted natural world no longer at one
with its original names. For Benjamin it
is the act of translation that offers hope of
reunification: it aims at getting beyond the
inadequacies of individual languages and
approaching the Ursprache beneath them.
Here, in Benjamin, we have a nominal-
ism that fully earns the adjective “magical”
in the sense that it rejects both abstract
universals in the Scholastic tradition and
conventional names in its Ockhamist
nominalist opponent. Instead it posits the
possibility of regaining original names,
“true” names, as designating, indeed being
at one with, the specific, qualitatively
unique things to which they had been
equivalent before the Fall into Babel and
conventionalist pluralism of different
human languages. But like Duchamp’s
pictorial nominalism, Benjamin’s sought-
after restoration also dislocates objects
from their functional contexts of use and
resituates them in a new realm in which
they are without any communicative
meaning beyond their existence as qualita-
tively distinct things.
We are, to be sure, still a far cry from
photography. And here Rosalind Krauss’s
influential essay of 1977, “Notes on the
Index,” comes briefly to our aid. In the
context of an explanation of Duchamp’s
rejection of painting and his overcom-
ing of self-depiction, she turned to the
importance of the photograph’s indexical
relationship – or factual trace, like tracks
in the snow or handprints on a wall – to the
world. Drawing on C.S. Peirce’s distinction
of icon, symbol, and index, Krauss argued
that “the photograph heralds a disruption
in the autonomy of the sign. A meaning-
lessness surrounds it which can only be
filled by the addition of a text.” She then
audaciously linked Duchamps’s ready-
mades with the photograph, writing that it
was “not surprising that Duchamp should
have described the readymade in just these
terms. It was to be a ‘snapshot’ to which
there was attached a tremendous arbitrari-
ness with regard to meaning, a breakdown
of the relatedness of the linguistic sign.”
There was a parallel between the way ready-
mades and photographs were produced:
both were “uncoded events” that extracted
signs from their contexts.
W
ith these points in mind,
let us return to our point of
departure: William of Ockham’s
nominalism may have denied the intrinsic
intelligibility of the world in terms of real
universals, but, as noted, it opened the door
for faith. Magical nominalism can perhaps
be understood as one variant of that faith,
which is revived in visual terms most pow-
erfully in the case of the photograph.


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THERE WAS A PARALLEL BETWEEN THE WAY READYMADES AND
PHOTOGRAPHS WERE PRODUCED: BOTH WERE “UNCODED EVENTS”
THAT EXTRACTED SIGNS FROM THEIR CONTEXTS.
48 | The Berlin Journal | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
What precisely is the object of that faith?
Why do photographs grab us and demand
our attention, telling us to stop the flow of
time and pause in our rush into the future?
Here, of course, we can only conjecture. But
if we agree that they do not affirm a world
of inherent ontological universals, or even
an aesthetic canon of conventional forms,
we can say that photographs somehow
want to be understood as the visual equiva-
lents of the Adamic names – the “true”
names – Benjamin hoped to rescue from
the “overnaming” of linguistic conven-
tionalism. They want to remain stubbornly
meaningless in the sense that they resist
being paraphrased in terms that reduce
their singularity to an exemplar or case of
a larger category or even as a metaphor of
something else. More precisely, despite
all efforts to saturate them with meaning,
photographs insist that they always contain
a measure of excess that defies paraphrastic
reduction.
As Roland Barthes’ classic Camera
Lucida observes, photography stresses
the melancholy implication of its image
as memento mori, a mark of the inevitably
passing of time, implying our finitude.
But if we see the photograph instead as a
miraculous freezing of a single ephemeral
moment, a moment that is utterly irre-
ducible to what came before or after, an
uncanny moment that somehow is present
when the image is later viewed despite its
absence, then perhaps it can be understood
to betoken something magical. Like a
fetish, wrested out of the contextual flow of
linear time, the conventional time of his-
torical narrative, it resists being absorbed
into a cultural whole. Like a proper name,
it refers only to one singular object at one
instant of its existence. And as such, it lim-
its the sovereign power of the constitutive
subject.
Although we know that photographs,
even before the age of digitalization, are
amalgams of the instant of their being
taken and the subsequent work on them
in the developing, printing, and dis-
playing processes, that instant is never
entirely absorbed into those posterior
interventions.
The photograph, in short, is a reminder
that the world is more than human pro-
jection or construction, more than the
categories we impose on it, more than the
meanings we impute to it. Rather than the
humanist self-assertion that some have
seen as a consequence of conventionalist
nominalism, it implies what we might
call the counter-assertion of the world, a
world more readymade than the product
of human will, a world that somehow
stubbornly thwarts all of our most valiant
efforts to disenchant it.
µ
Martin Jay is the Sidney Hellman
Ehrman Professor of History at the
University of California, Berkeley, and
the fall 2010 Ellen Maria Gorrissen
Fellow at the American Academy.
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In this issue:
David Abraham
Brigid Cohen
Stanley Corngold
Rivka Galchen
David Gelernter
Todd Gitlin
Martin Indyk
Martin Jay
H.C. Erik Midelfort
Camilo José Vergara
James Wood
A Magazine from the American Academy in Berlin | Number Nineteen | Fall 2010
THE BERLIN JOURNAL