Between the Money-Image and the Museum: Ulrich Peltzer’s Theory of the (Contemporary) Work of (Installation) Art

Abstract: If money’s status as dominant medium guiding what Jochen Hörisch once called the ontosemiological framework of modern culture has really yielded to the empire of audio-visual media, then why is so much contemporary German literature still so obsessed with money? This presentation considers how one such example—Ulrich Peltzer’s 2015 novel Das bessere Leben, a work whose very title signals its investment in correlating being and meaning—has tracked the convergence of money and image in our contemporary moment but in so doing has also called literature’s powers of critical observation into question. By indexing the museum as a privileged space of aesthetic experience, Peltzer’s novel invites us to reconsider once again some of Walter Benjamin’s fundamental concepts laid down in his seminal essay on the work of art as they apply to our age of digital reproducibility.

Bio: Richard Langston is an associate professor of German at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of a forthcoming monograph on Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt entitled Dark Matter (Verso Books, 2020). In addition to his book Visions of Violence (Northwestern UP, 2008), he is also the author of the German Film Classics volume The Patriot (Camden House, forthcoming in 2020). Langston is the editor of both Difference and Orientation: An Alexander Kluge Reader (Cornell UP, forthcoming in the summer of 2019) and the most recent, sixth issue of the Alexander Kluge-Jahrbuch (v&r uniPress, forthcoming in late 2019). He is also the editor of the second issue of the Kluge-Jahrbuch (v&r uniPress, 2015) and the lead translator of Kluge and Negt’s History and Obstinacy (Zone Books, 2014). He has most recently published articles in The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical TheoryZeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, and German Politics and Society. His is currently working on a monograph-length study of the money-image in contemporary German fiction as well as another anthology for Bloomsbury Publishing’s series Critical Theory and the Critique of Society, name the first English-language collection of Oskar Negt’s writings.