More than three and a half decades have passed since the publication of Susan Sontag’s Fascinating Fascism, an essay so influential that it still serves as the obligatory starting point in discussions about fascist aesthetics. Fascination, to be sure, is etymologically linked with fascism; both terms have a history—as does the fascination exercised by fascism. Indeed, since Sontag’s intervention of 1974, an international array of artists, rock stars, and filmmakers as well as critics and scholars have offered round-the-clock replays of Hitler’s Hit Parade. But they surely have not only done so for the reasons and with the effects which Sontag had in mind. The time has come to revisit her canonical contribution and, in the light of postwar and postmillennial experience, update the long history of fascism’s continuing—and, in distinct regards, problematic–fascination.
About the Speaker: Eric Rentschler is the Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University where he is also the Chair of the Standing Committee on Film and Visual Studies. His books include West German Film in the Course of Time (Redgrave, 1984), The Ministry of Illusion (Harvard University Press, 1996), and Neuer Deutscher Film 1962-1985 (with Hans Helmut Prinzler, Reclam, 2012). His current book project is Haunted by Hitler: The Return of the Nazi Undead (to be published by Harvard University Press).