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Paul Haacke

Adjunct Associate Professor - CCE


Paul Haacke teaches in the Humanities and Media Studies department and the Architecture Writing Program at Pratt; previously, he taught at UC Berkeley, where he received his PhD in Comparative Literature and Film Studies, and New York University. His published writings and current research engage with multiple overlapping fields: comparative literature and critical theory (including work in English, French, German, and Spanish), cinema and media studies, architecture and the built environment, urbanization and globalization, political and ethical ecologies, and history and memory.

Haacke’s recent book is The Vertical Imagination and the Crisis of Transatlantic Modernism (Oxford University Press, 2021). This wide-ranging and pointed study focuses on discourses of aspiration, catastrophe, and power in major works of European and American literature as well as film, architecture, and intellectual and cultural history. It begins with the ironies of aesthetic transcendence and the contingencies of modern urban life in fiction by Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and John Dos Passos, as well as visions of vertiginous desire in poetry by Guillaume Apollinaire, Hart Crane, and Aimé Césaire; from there, it moves on to reflections on the rise of New York City by architects and critics from Le Corbusier and Rem Koolhaas to Simone de Beauvoir and Michel de Certeau, the films of Alfred Hitchcock in relation to wartime history and theories of cinematic space and time, and forms of critical suspension and immanence in postwar and postmodern American novels by Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, and Leslie Marmon Silko, among many other examples. In tracing the rise and fall of modernist discourse over the course of the long twentieth century, this book shows how understandings of vertical elevation turned from established ideas about nature, the body, and religion to growing concerns about aesthetic distinction, technological advancement, and American capitalism and empire. It argues that spectacles of height and flight became not only symbols and icons of ambition but also direct indexes of power, and thus that the vertical transformation of modernity was both material and imagined, taking place at the same time through the rapidly expanding built environment and shifting ideological constructions of “high” and “low.”

Selected Publications:

  • The Vertical Imagination and the Crisis of Transatlantic Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).
  • “The Melancholic Voice-Over in Film Noir.”JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, vol. 58 no. 2 (Winter 2019).
  • “Enchanted Catastrophe.” Thresholds 45: Myth (2017).
  • “Kafka’s Political Animals.” Philosophy and Kafka (Lexington Books, 2013).
  • “The Brechtian Exception: From Weimar to the Cold War.” diacritics, vol. 40, no. 3 (2013).
  • “Spatial Historiography and Empire in Michael Butor’s Degr&#233s.” French Forum, vol. 34, no. 2 (Spring 2010).
  • “Meat Market Memories.” Pin-Up, no. 8 (Spring 2010).
  • “Regarding the Invisible Hand.” Baltic Triennial CCA in Vilnius and ICA in London (Winter 2003).
  • “The History of Beginnings.” In These Times (April 16, 2001).

Selected Presentations and Conference Papers:

  • “Aspiration… Terror. Suspension.. Persistence.” London Modernism Seminar (Nov. 13, 2021).
  • “The Vertical Imagination and the Crisis of Transatlantic Modernism.” Live online book talk and discussion hosted by 192 Books / Paula Cooper Gallery (June 2, 2021).
  • “Remapping Ground Zero: New York, Hiroshima, New Mexico.” Decolonizing the Map conference, Pratt Institute, New York (April, 2018).
  • “Modernist Air Rights.” American Comparative Literature Association conference, Los Angeles (March, 2018).
  • “Hitchcock’s Vertigo of Verticality.” Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, Toronto (March, 2018).
  • “V-Letters: Conscripts of the American Century.” Locating Post-45 conference, University of Pennsylvania (March, 2015).
  • “Leopold Bloom’s Liquid Modernity.” American Comparative Literature Association conference, New York (March, 2014).
  • “The Creative Destruction of Modernism.” Modernist Studies Association conference, Las Vegas (October, 2012).
  • “John Dos Passos and the Tragedy of Architecture.” Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture conference, Oxford University (June 2012).
  • “Enchanted Catastrophe: Le Corbusier and L&#233ger on the Vertical Mystique of Modernist Manhattan.” Modernist Manhattan conference, New York Institute of Technology (March 2012).
  • “The Vertical Streetscape.” American Comparative Literature Association conference, Vancouver, Canada (April 2011).
  • “Kafka’s Political Animals.” International Society for the Study of European Ideas conference, Ankara, Turkey (August 2010).
  • “Bertolt Brecht and the State of Exception.” German Studies Association conference, Oakland, California (October 2010).
  • “Alfred Hitchcock and the Age of Global Terror.” American Comparative Literature Association conference, Harvard University (March 2009).
  • “Michael Haneke’s Contradictory Realism.” Real Things conference, University of York, England (June 2007).

PhD, UC Berkeley
BA, Brown University