When the Dadaist Georg Grosz referred in his autobiography to the “real or fake” Kriegszitterer (literally, “war-tremblers”) that could be encountered on every street corner in post-World War I Berlin, he alluded to the problem of knowledge that these figures posed for contemporaries. This talk examines the efforts of German psychiatrists and neurologists to address this problem through the medium of cinematography. It begins by looking at examples of wartime medical filmmaking and their contribution to the task of stabilizing the enigmatic disease picture associated with the psychological injuries of war. Turning to the postwar era, it then looks at how both scientific cinema and the cultural avant-garde further took up the issues associated with the experience and representation of wartime trauma. While the moving image remained a crucial means for capturing and making visible that experience, in the postwar era the problem of the representability of trauma became inseparable from related issues of medical power and authority, as well as of the reliability of the cinematic medium itself.
Yuval Neria, Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University, will serve as respondent.