Dr. Regina Karl
Regina Karl is Assistant Professor of German Studies and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University. She received her PhD from Yale University. In her research, media ecology, the history of technology, and psychoanalysis build the comprehensive framework for understanding the interplay and impact of twentieth century and contemporary literature and film.
Her current book project reassesses technological reproducibility based on a sweeping emergence of hands in German and French literature, photography, and film after the turn of the century. She has co-edited several volumes in the series Unbedingte Universitäten (diaphanes 2010) and serves on the editorial board of RISS. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse. Amongst more recent publications is an essay on the question of technology in Paul Valéry and Walter Benjamin included in Entwendungen. Walter Benjamin und seine Quellen (Paderborn: Fink, 2019), as well as her article “Technological reproduction at odds: Hand and cinematography in Robert Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac” (Cinéma&Cie, vol. XXI, no. 35, 2020).
As a Thyssen fellow at KWI, Regina will work on her book manuscript “Manipulations. The Hand as Symbol and Symptom in the Arts after 1900,” examining the manifold ways in which the hand emerges in literature and the visual arts in early modernism. It does so by dint of German and French case studies addressing literature, sculpture, photography, film, and industrial design. More than a motif, or a dominant theme, the hands of this period reflect the parameters of modern technology and industry. Due to its dual nature, operating between fragment and entity, vitality and instrumentality, intelligibility and sensibility, the hand both embodies and challenges key notions of aesthetics: namely, to what extent the production of art requires the work of hands and, vice versa, in what ways an artwork enables a tactile understanding of the world. Foregrounding the hand’s dyadic status of working and experiencing allows a deeper understanding of the sensorial aftermath of urbanization and industrialization between 1910 and 1930. For her chapter on Germaine Krull, Regina is looking forward to perusing the artist´s photographic collection at the Folkwang Museum, Essen.
In addition, Regina is currently developing a second research project engaging with the socio-political implications of contemporary European cinema and literature. Tentatively titled “Clash of Images: On the Contemporariness of Iconoclasm,” this project proposes a discourse analysis of recent phenomena of iconoclashes (Bruno Latour). Further to art’s dominantly representative function, one observes a backlash in debates about inclusion and diversity, present in such phenomena as “cancel culture,” “shitstorms,” or “viral images.” Investigating the double bind between social critique and freedom of expression, Regina seeks to examine the symbolic foundations of identity politics and community-building today.