Liliane Weissberg is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the “Golden Age” of the postcard, ca. 1890...
Anna-Maria Kellen Lecture
Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin Discover the Postcard
Since its mid-nineteenth-century invention, the postcard has been a popular medium for brief messages and quick communication, accompanied almost from the start by a mass-produced image. Like the postage stamp that shortly preceded it, the postcard would become a collector’s item, cherished less for its message than for its picture. The golden age of the postcard ended in the late 1920s, and in this talk Liliane Weissberg discusses two of the most enthusiastic postcard writers of the time: Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin. The former’s earliest writings are preserved on postcards, and Benjamin collected picture postcards and offered stirring reflections on their status as objects of print and popular culture. Weissberg focuses her presentation on Benjamin’s postcard correspondence with the journalist and critic Siegfried Kracauer, housed at the German Literary Archives in Marbach, and Kafka’s correspondence with his sister Ottla, which are archived in Marbach, and jointly owned by the Bodleian Library, Oxford.