Freund-schaft: Capturing Aura in an Unframed Literary Exchange

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Freund-schaft: Capturing Aura in an Unframed Literary Exchange

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Title: Freund-schaft: Capturing Aura in an Unframed Literary Exchange
Author: Masnatta, Clara Lucia
Citation: Masnatta, Clara Lucia. 2012. Freund-schaft: Capturing Aura in an Unframed Literary Exchange. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation charts an intellectual history of collaborations centered on the beginning of socio-critical discourse on photography. I study the critically misread oeuvre of photographer and sociologist Gisèle Freund to reconfigure a transatlantic map of concrete personal, literary, and critical connections during the 1930s and ’40s. In examining Freund’s oeuvre, I suggest a crucial intervention on the notion of aura — Walter Benjamin’s trademark for understanding the dialectics of the original and its reproduction. I advance a reading in support of aura that challenges the canonical “The Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproducibility” (1940) of Benjamin. The continuous coexistence of the terms aura, market, and photography is present in Freund – author of iconic photo-portraits of writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, André Malraux, Jorge Luis Borges or Benjamin. It contests the reduction of the original’s aura and its reproduction to mutually exclusive terms. My counter-reading in fact recovers the prior and wider aura integral to Benjamin’s “Little History of Photography” (1931). It is this cardinal yet neglected piece that inaugurated together with Freund’s La Photographie en France au dix-neuvième siècle (1936) the critical discourse on photography. Walter Benjamin’s presence is dynamically ingrained in Freund’s oeuvre. In addition to their friendship, two additional friends inform Freund’s career. Freund’s mentors were the leading cultural agents in Paris and Buenos Aires: Adrienne Monnier, the legendary French publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses, and Victoria Ocampo, the founding director of Sur, one of the key literary journals in Latin America. The network of cooperative interactions here deployed is conjugated under the critical metaphor Freund-schaft. Coined on Freund’s name, the term draws equally on the meaning of friendship and the creative making contained in the suffix –schaft (derived from the German schaffen, “to make”, “to create”, “to accomplish”). The framework hinges on the tension between history and theory. Freund-schaft brings to light omissions, conjunctions, and the debates that make up the larger structure of feelings, and makes particulars inextricable from a life-woven net.
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