Dynamist Blog

Carnival of Tomorrow

The Carnival of Tomorrow, a roundup of future-oriented blog posts, is up and definitely worth a stop.

The Carnival is illustrated with an image promoting the 1939 World's Fair--hardly "tomorrow" but still a resonantly glamorous image of the future. In my research on glamour, I'm interested in exploring exactly how and why the 1930s produced so many enduringly glamorous images, not only the motifs of Golden Age Hollywood and "the future" but streamlined moderne (a.k.a. American Art Deco) styling, superhero comic books, and all sorts of transportation imagery, among others (feel free to send me additional examples).

Thirties glamour also had a very dark side, in which the aesthetic editing of unruly details turned from propaganda tool into totalitarian reality. Frederic Spotts's 2003 book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics demonstrates that the famous "failed painter" was, in fact, an aesthetic pioneer. Here's Spotts introducing the book's thesis:

It was Hitler's aesthetic talents that also help to explain his mysterious grip on the German people. What Stalin accomplished through terror, Hitler achieved through seduction. Using a new style of politics, mediated through symbols, myths, rites, spectacles and personal dramatics, he reached the masses as did no other leader of his time. Though he took away democratic government, he gave Germans what they clearly found a more meaningful sense of political participation, transforming them from spectators into participants in National Socialist theater.

The book has photos of Hitler rehearsing his speeches, adjusting every gesture for maximum effect. Here's a good review by Jean Bethke Elshtain.

[I actually wrote this post yesterday but forgot to switch it from "draft" to "publish."]

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