The Centre of an Imaginative Whirlpool: Nosferatu and Weimar Culture – Part 1
The Original Goth – German Expressionism, Nosferatu, and Film Noir
“I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting.” – Bram Stoker, Dracula
What were, if any, the cultural and psychological undercurrents in German Expressionism that expressed the dichotomy between the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler? In the years between World War I and II, from roughly 1919 to 1929, the fledging and the short-lived Weimar Republic in Germany witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of philosophy, arts, and sciences. According to Bollucks (2010), professor of English at UW-Milwaukee, the Weimar Republic was “remarkable for the way it emerged from a catastrophe, more remarkable for the way it vanished into a still greater catastrophe, the world of Weimar represents modernism in its most vivid manifestation” (Wikipedia, n. p.). In addition, some have termed the art movement at this time in Germany, German Expressionism. However, this movement was also evident throughout Europe.
Also, with such a thriving of art, science, and culture, how is it that a Hitler could have arisen in such a milieu? What were the cultural and psychological undercurrents in the collective unconscious that could account for such an apparent dichotomy? More specifically, what were the stated or unstated beliefs of blood and race that shaped the Weimar romantic imagination to produce the string of horror and noir films such as, The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari, The Golem, Faust, Waxworks, and Nosteratu? How much were such works influenced by the fear of Eastern Europeans; Jews and gypsies in particular?
By Robert Wiene, director, died 1938; Rudolf Meinert, producer, died 1943; Erich Pommer, producer, died 1966; Hans Janowitz, writer, died 1954; Carl Mayer, writer, died 1944; Willy Hameister, Cinematographer, died 1938; – the movie Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26998065
Finally, and more broadly speaking, why have these fascinations persisted in our psyche and popular culture today? What are the whys, ways, and means of our need to produce monsters? Is there a repeated process, a technology of monster making; of monstrosity? Is this our need to project the alien “Other,” or our shadow? Or is it, as Nelson (2001) posits in The Secret Life of Puppets, the only acceptable way of our rational, Enlightenment selves to allow the eruption and consumption of the supernatural:
The way larger mainstream culture, via works of imagination instead of official creeds, subscribes to a nonrational, supernatural, quasi-religious view of the universe: pervasively, but behind our own backs. Consuming art forms of the fantastic is only one way that we as nonbelievers allow ourselves, unconsciously to believe. (p. vii)
Are the gothic and fantasy genres our method of individuation; our preferred, acceptable method of integrating the rational and irrational? I believe that the answer to all of the above is, “yes” and these are the questions that I will explore in further depth.
By F.W. Murnau – screen capture around the 1hr 19min mark, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22848473
In a series of posts, I will show that by reflecting the themes of menace, Germany’s romantic past, the recent humiliation of war, and the liminal space of dreams, fantasy and reality, F. W. Murnau’s 1922 film, Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror) (2007) captures the unique historical imagination of the Weimar Republic and in turn reflects our continuing need for reconciling the zeitgeist of the times with the spirit of the depths. I will also examine the Dracula vampire phenomenon in later posts.
References (for the German Expressionism entire series)
Dawidziak, M. (2008). The bedside, bathtub, and armchair companion to Dracula. New York: Continuum.
Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
Eliade, M. (1961). Images and symbols: Studies in religious symbolism. New York: Sheed & Ward.
Elsaesser, T. (2000). Weimar cinema and after: Germany’s historical imaginary. London: Routledge.
Gombrich, E. H. (1964). The Story of Art, By E.H. Gombrich. London: Phaidon Press.
Jung, C. G. (2009). The red book =: Liber novus. (S. Shamdasani, Ed.) New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
McDonald, B. (2010). Recreating the world: The sacred and the profane in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In J. Lynch, Critical insights Dracula by Bram Stoker (pp. 87-137). Pasadena, CA: Salem.
Moss, S. (1998). Bram Stoker and the Society for Psychical Research. In E. Miller, Dracula: The shade and the shadow (pp. 82-92). Trowbridge: Desert Island Books.
Murnau, F. W. (Director). (2007). Nosferatu [Motion Picture]. Kino International Corporation.
Nelson, V. (2001). The secret life of puppets. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Roberts, I. (2008). German expressionist cinema: The world of light and shadow. London: Wallflower Press.
Stoker. (1997). Dracula: Authoritative text, contexts, reviews and reactions, dramatic and film variations, criticism. (N. Auerbach, & D. J. Skal, Eds.) New York: W. W. Norton.
Stoker, B. (2009). Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A documentary journey into vampire country and the Dracula phenomenon. (E. Miller, Ed.) New York: Pegasus Books.
Wikipedia. (2010). Weimar Culture. Retrieved 12 4, 2010, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_culture
Morning Person – NOT – Body Rhythms Writing Myths, Realities, and Morning Pages
We all have our ideal morning, right? We wake up refreshed, get right to our keyboard, or morning pages journal and favorite pen, with a steaming mug of our favorite caffeinated beverage. The house is quiet. We have been good and not peeked at messages or emails. We commence writing something worthy, something all our own.
Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.
― Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues
It used to be that my favorite time of day was the hour or so before I go to sleep, work and chores done, curled in bed with a book. Now, however, or for the last two weeks at least, I have conquered my natural body rhythms (sleep, and then well, some more sleep) and have woken up with the sunrise. I have stolen at least an hour each morning before my work day for writing. Am I kidding myself? When will I revert to my natural sleep-in-as-long-as-possible rhythm? Is there even such a thing as a body clock? Or are these merely habits to reinforce or break? Yes, gasp, I think I may be becoming a morning person.
Body Rhythm Myths & Realities
So, to reinforce this habit, how are we to reinvent our routines to accommodate our modern realities? While our bodies may be naturally tuned to wake at sunrise and wind down at sunset, most of us no longer keep traditional farmer schedules. In 1959, Dr. Franz Halberg coined this natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness, the circadian rhythm. Circadian comes from the Latin meaning, “about a day.”
Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, circadian rhythms are about 24-hour cycles regulated by control centers in the middle of the brain called, the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). The circadian rhythm reaches the most sleepiness in the middle of the night, reaches the least at awakening, while slight drowsiness then returns mid-afternoon. Indeed, besides sleep, there are about 100 known body functions that oscillate from high to low in a 24-hour period. With these built-in functions in mind, perhaps we should clue-in and work with them instead of against them.
Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.
Listen to Your Mother
My writing life has suffered from my need for sleep. If I don’t get 8 to 9 hours a night, I feel groggy, and by the end of the week, if I remain at a cumulative deficit, I can even become ill. Then a good chunk of my weekend is lost to catching up on sleep…then Sunday night it is hard to get to sleep and of course, Monday morning, well, sucks. But, of course, my mother, who is always right, is right and if I force myself to get up at the same time EVERY morning, then I do sleep deeper and need less sleep. I am trying this logic again; it is working for now. I am happy, I am rested, and I am writing.
A Place to Start
If you need some new tool incentives (or a fresh smelling journal), one of the first early morning writing evangelists was Julia Cameron. Her The Artist's Way book and its subsequent offshoots are a good place to begin if you want some structure around your writing morning efforts. While certainly not the inventor of the practice, she coined the term, morning pages.
The bedrock tool of a creative recovery is a daily practice called Morning Pages. – Julia Cameron
I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
While modernity, with its productive extended hours of electric light, technology, and gadgets of every sort has extended our abilities beyond nature’s boundaries, we are still tied, body and mind to the earth’s rotation and the sun’s cycles. If we remember to honor circadian rhythms in our daily schedule and activities, Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep will reward us with more deep slumber and all its benefits, including early bird writing.
Please share what your morning writing routine is like, what has helped, or your morning person (or not) experiences.
A Simple System for Blog Topics and Writing Ideas
When you only have an hour to write, that hour is precious. When that hour comes early, early in the morning (as in, before the rest of the family wakes up) that hour is a precious metal beyond name or price. The last thing you want is to squander that hour thinking about what blog topics to write about, or worse, floundering on the Internet for ideas. Some mornings I’m ready to go with an idea before I get out of bed. Others, like today, I’ve got nothing, nada. So, from now on, I will have a pre-made list with many juicy possibilities.
With that preamble, here is a simple system for you and me to create a list of interesting blog topics or article ideas that will be ready to go the next morning.
Categories or Themes
Create categories or themes that tie-in with your blog or website theme or purpose. If you don’t have a theme or purpose, well, nothing like the present. If you don’t like making lists, use mind-mapping software, a white board, or simple pencil and paper if you don’t already have a clear notion of what your themes are (or what you would like them to be). One of my favorite mind-mapping tools is Mind Meister. It is also collaborative if you work with a team.
One simple way to do mind-mapping is to put your category in the center of your page or whiteboard, draw a circle around it. Then go to the next step below (Word Association) and add the word associations around the category with connecting lines or however you want to creatively designate their connections. The idea with mind-mapping is to give your brain (or body/brain) a different way of making connections.
With each category named, for each one do some word or free association and quickly write down a word that first comes to mind. Don’t over-think this, just brainstorm. Try to come up with 2 to 3 words for each category. (You can thank Freud later…)
Word to Phrase Expansion
Now that you have 1 to 3, or more words per category, you have some choices. Depending on the time and energy that you can spend on this exercise, you can try to expand each word in each category into a phrase, sentence, or larger idea. Or, if your time is limited for the day, pick one category and expand each word in that category only. Now you should be seeing at least one or two worthy ideas to write about for your blog topics the next few mornings. Of course, if you have more time, you can map out blog topics for your entire week, or longer. Be mindful, however, that if you map out too many for the future when it comes time to write about them, you may have forgotten your intent or the idea may lose its energy or focus.
If you can do the above exercise once a day, perhaps working with one category or even one category sentence at a time, you will go a long way to greasing the wheels of your unconscious to work on the idea even further while you sleep. Don’t spend more than 30 minutes on this planning, and try to do it close to bedtime. You will be amazed what your dream time can spin. And, yes, I have a rooster.
While this simple exercise may seem obvious (now that I’ve explained it, duh) and not very sexy, I think you will find it helpful not only for article or blog topics, but also to discover your blog or website overall theme(s). For myself, I like a certain amount of freedom to discover my themes and to have the flexibility to change them. But there does come a time when it is beneficial to develop a focus. This allows you to not only target, or find a more specific audience, it also affords you the magic to begin to dig deeper into your niche and area(s) of expertise. And you might surprise yourself.
What is Today’s Little House on the Prairie?
Frontier Urban Sprawl
Recently I was horrified to watch 200-year-old to 300-year old Cottonwood trees cut down along with the demolition of a historic homestead, little house on the prairie, to make way for a new housing development. The quaint farming town of Parker, Colorado is no longer quaint, with no doubt few farmers remaining. Parker has become just another victim of Denver Metro front-range urban sprawl. When my family moved to Colorado in 1976, Parker was little more than a wide place in a 2-lane road with a mom and pop feed store (which is still hanging on).
Yes, I am part of the problem too. My family bought a home in Aurora, Colorado at its then most eastern border. Aurora too was once a small outcropping of Denver and it is now its third most populace city. Our eastern Aurora home is probably now more in its center.
Big Wide-Open Little Prairie
We have since moved much further east and south even to the point of escaping most city light pollution. Yes, we can actually see the Milky Way in the dense midnight sky. It is quiet, it is peaceful, it is rural. It is our own Little House on the Prairie. Which brings me to my long-winded point. My mother grew up reading the Little Women series of books by Louisa May Alcott. And I grew up watching the 1974-1982 TV series and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie.
Nostalgia or Irrelevance, or?
While other than the news, I don’t watch much TV these days, which leaves me wondering, is there a similar series of new books or shows for a new generation? What will introduce my grandchildren to the historic American long-gone frontier? Or, is that time now so long gone and so irrelevant that any books or shows about it will simply have no market or audience? Has this nostalgia or interest in our history gone along with the little prairie homestead and its Cottonwoods? Please let me know your thoughts and if there are some new books on an old topic that I may be missing.