This lecture considers August Sander’s photographic portrait of German society, People of the Twentieth Century, as an implicit rebuke of Leo Frobenius’s anthropological stance and as a seminal monument for our self(ie)-obsessed “manic moment.”
Ezra Pound once lamented that the American public had resolved the face-off “Freud vs. Frobenius” in favor of the former. Pound took Leo Frobenius as the representative of a (manic) anthropological discourse, rooted in the triumphant colonialism of the age, as opposed to the (depressive) psychoanalytic diagnosis of civilization’s discontents. By the time Pound’s statement was recorded, he was confined to a mental institution following his collaboration with Italian Fascism, and the assertion itself had become an ironic commentary on Pound’s own personal and political failure, as well as the failure of the brand of anthropology and the colonial project Frobenius espoused.
Davide Stimilli (Ph.D., Yale University, Comparative Literature) is Associate Professor of German, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has written extensively on Franz Kafka, Aby Warburg, and Orson Welles. His broader interests include literary criticism and theory, intellectual history, art theory, and film studies. Currently he is a Fulbright/IFK_Senior Fellow.