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Dr. Christoph Hesse

Christoph Hesse

Division Communication History and Media Cultures

Research Associate

Garystr. 55
Room 266
14195 Berlin

Office hours

Only by arrangement.

Since March 2016: Research assistant at the IKK and the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität Berlin (Project: From Berlin to New York. Edition of the Corresponce between Hermann Borchardt und George Grosz, 1927–1950, funded by the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture)

WS 2015/2016: Lecturer at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

2013: Visiting Scholar at the School of Visual Arts, New York

2011-2014: Research assistant at the IKK and the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität Berlin (Project: German Exile Cinema in the Soviet Union, funded by the German Research Foundation DFG).

Co-editor of the Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialtheorie und Philosophie (Journal for Critical Social Theory and Philosophy, published by De Gruyter, Berlin, since 2014).

2010–2011: Lecturer at the Institute for Film Studies, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz

2007–2010: Research assistant at the IKK and the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, Freie Universität Berlin (Project: Letters to Bertolt Brecht in Exile, 1933–1949, funded by the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture)

2003–2007: Research associate at the Institute for Media Studies, Ruhr Universität Bochum, and the the collaborative research centre „Medien und kulturelle Kommunikation“ (Media and Cultural Communication), University of Cologne. Preparation of a research project on the development of film theory in Britain.

1993–1999: Studying Film and Television Studies, German Studies, and Philosophy at the Ruhr Universität Bochum (M.A. 1999, Ph.D. 2003)

  • WS 2017/18: Theories of media (Bachelor)
  • WS 2016/17: Dokumentarfilm: Vom Dokument zur Datenverarbeitung (Documentary Film: From Documenting to Computing, Master)
  • WS 2015/16: Einführung in die Filmgeschichte (Introduction to Film History, Bachelor)
  • WS 2015/16: Einführung in die Kommunikationswissenschaft (Introduction to Communication Studies, Bachelor)
  • WS 2015/16: Verschaltete Welt: Kontroversen zur sozialen Realität der Medien (A World Interconnected: Controversies on the Social Reality of Media, Master)
  • WS 2014/15: Einführung in die Filmgeschichte (Introduction to Film History, Bachelor)
  • WS 2014/15: Kritische Theorie der Medien (Critical Theory of Media, Master)
  • SoSe 2013: Die Shoah im Spielfilm (The Shoah in Fiction Film, Bachelor, with Birte Hewera)
  • WS 2012/13: Politics of Cinema (Master)
  • WS 2011/12: From Hitler to Hollywood: German film exile (Master)
  • SoSe 2010: Exiles and Emigrés in Hollywood (Bachelor)
  • WS 2009/10: Einführung in die Filmtheorie (Introduction to Film Theory, Bachelor)
  • WS 2009/10: Kommunikationsapparate (Apparatuses of Communication, Master)
  • SoSe 2009: Exilfilm in der Sowjetunion (German Exile Cinema in the Soviet Union, Bachelor)
  • WS 2008/09: Die Medien und ihre Botschaft im politischen Diskurs der Moderne (The Media and their Messages within the Political Discourse of Modernism, Master)
  • WS 2007/08: Hollywood: Produktionsweise, Ästhetik, Kritik (Hollywood: Mode of Production, Aesthetics, Criticism, Bachelor)
  • SoSe 2007: Die Filmtheorien Siegfried Kracauers (The Film Theories of Siegfried Kracauer, Bachelor)

Research Project: From Berlin to New York

The Correspondence of Hermann Borchardt and George Grosz, 1927–1950

The writer Hermann Borchardt (born 1888 in Berlin as Hermann Joelsohn) and the artist George Grosz (born 1893 in Berlin as Georg Ehrenfried Groß), intimate friends since the early days of the crisis-ridden Weimar Republic, maintained close relations to one another throughout their lives, including the different paths of exile they had to choose in 1933 when the Nazis seized power. Grosz relocated to New York City which he instantly sought to adopt as his new home-town, striving to Americanize himself both as a citizen and as an artist, while Borchardt, like so many other émigrés from Germany, initially moved to Paris and from there to the Soviet Union. But after a two-year sojourn as a teacher in Minsk, the Soviet authorities sent him back to Germany where he was immediately imprisoned. Luckily, he was set free from the Dachau concentration camp in June 1937, though severely injured from physical abuse. Thanks to Grosz’s intercession, Borchardt finally managed to leave for the United States and settle down in New York City too, where he spent the rest of his life. Grosz, a couple of years after his friend’s departure in January 1951, eventually decided to go back to his native Berlin where he died shortly on his return in 1959.

The enduring friendship of these two artists―the famous painter and caricaturist Grosz and the lesser-known writer Borchardt, whose opus magnum The Conspiracy of the Carpenters was first released in English in 1943―covers the most tumultuous period of 20th-century history. And so does their private correspondence. Their numerous letters bear witness to political turmoils and epochal changes as well as shifting cultural trends. For instance, the years of Berlin Dadaism with its playful disgust for German authoritarianism und an enthusiasm for radical social change, the quarrel with the crumbling Weimar Republic and the upcoming Nazi movement, the end of in-terwar democracy and avant-garde modernism in Germany and the beginning of the hardships of exile, the struggle against Fascism and anti-Semitism under the threat of belligerent Nazi Germany, the long good-bye from an increasingly authoritarian Communism, the experience of homelessness in both political and metaphysical terms. Grosz, ever since his Dada days rather an anarchist than a true Communist believer, eventually flirted with American liberalism, if only to tease his old allies and friends on the Left. The Jewish-born Borchardt, once an outspokenly Communist writer who in the late 1920s had closely collaborated with Bertolt Brecht, after his devastating experience in Soviet exile and subsequent imprisonment in Germany, converted to Catholic faith.

Along their ways, Borchardt and Grosz kept changing letters in which they frankly articulated their views and sentiments and described the experiences each of them went through, from everyday matters and personal relationships to global political issues and questions of art and culture. These letters, amounting to 230 in total, offer a quintessential first-hand account of their time, occasionally recorded by two perspicacious observers from within.

This project is to fully edit the correspondence of Hermann Borchardt and George Grosz for the first time, including detailed annotations to each letter, also Borchardt’s autobiographical notes on both his time in Minsk and his imprisonment in Dachau, and a comprehensive essay on the overall issue.


 – Filmexil Sowjetunion. Deutsche Emigranten in der sowjetischen Filmproduktion der 1930er und 40er Jahre. Munich: edition text+kritik, 2017.

– Filmstile. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2016 (co-authors: Oliver Keutzer, Roman Mauer, Gregory Mohr).

– Filmform und Fetisch. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2006.



 – Unreglementierte Erfahrung. Freiburg i. Br.: ça ira, 2015 (Mitherausgeber: Devi Dumbadze).

– Briefe an Bertolt Brecht im Exil 1933–1949. 3 volumes. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014 (co-editor: Hermann Haarmann).

– Friedrich Wolf – Was bleibt und was lohnt! (Einspruch. Series of the Friedrich Wolf Society, No. 3), Marburg: Tectum 2014 (co-editor: Hermann Haarmann).

– Exil in der Sowjetunion 1933–1945 (Einspruch. Series of the Friedrich Wolf Society, No. 2). Marburg: Tectum, 2010 (co-editor: Hermann Haarmann).


Selected articles & essays

 — Ereignis und Erzählung: Shoah. In: Susanne Zepp (Hg.): Le Regard du Siècle. Claude Lanzmann zum 90. Geburtstag. Marburg 2017

 — Leo Löwenthal. In Werner Bonefeld, Beverley Best, Chris O’Kane (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory (forthcoming).

– In vergnügt lärmender Verzweiflung. George Grosz: Briefe eines Europamüden. In sans phrase. Zeitschrift für Ideologiekritik, No. 10 (2017).

– Virtual Experience. In Cured Quail, N0. 1 (2017).

– Monsieur le Capital und Madame la Machine: Szenen einer Ehe. In: Navigationen. Zeitschrift für Medien und Kulturwissenschaften, Vol. 16, No. 2/2016.

– Die Unsichtbare. Carola Neher am Rande des deutschen Filmexils in der Sowjetunion. In: Reinhard Müller, Bettina Nir-Vered, Olga Reznikova, Irina Sherbakova (eds.), Carola Neher. Gefeiert auf der Bühne, gestorben im Gulag. Berlin: Lukas, 2016.

– „Dynamit der Zehntelsekunden“. Die Kontroverse über den Film zwischen Theodor W. Adorno und Walter Benjamin. In Alex Körner, Julian Kuppe, Michael Schüßler (eds.), Der Widerspruch der Kunst. Beiträge zum Verhältnis von Kunst und Gesellschaftskritik. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2016.

– Ohne Namen. Die Darstellung der Verfolgung und Vernichtung der Juden im sowjetischen Kino 1938–1945. In sans phrase. Zeitschrift für Ideologiekritik, No. 6 (2015).

– Philosophie als Mähmachendes. Die Rettung der Sprache durch Verbindlichkeit und Ausdruck. In Max Beck, Nicholas Coomann (eds.), Sprachkritik als Ideologiekritik. Studien zu AdornosJargon der Eigentlichkeit‹. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2015 (co-author: Dirk Braunstein).

– Home at a Distance. The Design of Nazi Germany in Exile Films from the Soviet Union. In Journal of Design History, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2015).

– Das drastische Medium. Über Adornos Kritik des Films. In Brigitte Marschall, Christian Schulte, Sara Vorwalder, Florian Wagner (eds.), (K)ein Ende der Kunst? Kritische Theorie, Ästhetik, Gesellschaft. Münster: LIT, 2014.

– Marxistische Medientheorie. In Jens Schröter (ed.), Handbuch Medienwissenschaft. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2014.

– Lanzmann ici et Godard ailleurs. In sans phrase. Zeitschrift für Ideologiekritik, Nr. 2 (2013).

– Solidarität angesichts der Bedrohung: Jean Améry und Claude Lanzmann. In Zwischenwelt. Zeitschrift für Kultur und Literatur des Exils und des Widerstands, Vol. 29, No. 4 (2012).

– Film als Waffe. In Dirk Braunstein, Sebastian Dittmann, Isabelle Klasen (eds.), Alles falsch. Auf verlorenem Posten gegen die Kulturindustrie. Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag, 2012.

– It Happened Elsewhere: Godard’s Last Revolt. In Cinemascope. Independent Film Journal, No. 16 (2011).

― Zeugenschaft der Toten. Über Claude Lanzmanns Film Shoah. In Falko Schmieder (ed.), Überleben. Historische und aktuelle Konstellationen. München: Fink, 2011.

― Pariser Mai im Dunkeln: Godards fröhliche Wissenschaft. In Devi Dumbadze et al. (eds.), Erkenntnis und Kritik. Zeitgenössische Positionen. Bielefeld: transcript, 2009.

― Walter Benjamin: Berliner Kindheit in Paris. In Hermann Haarmann (ed.), Berlin im Kopf. Arbeit am Berlin-Mythos der Moderne. Exil und innere Emigration 1933–1945. Berlin: B&S, 2008.

― Warenfetisch und Kulturindustrie. In Fabian Kettner, Paul Mentz (eds.), Theorie als Kritik. Freiburg: ça ira, 2008.

― Empathie mit dem Ding. Über einen Fall von Ekstase in Das Alte und das Neue. In Thomas Koebner, Fabienne Liptay, Thomas Meder (eds.), Bildtheorie und Film. Munich: edition text+kritik, 2006 (co-author: Wolfgang Beilenhoff).

― Nachwort. In Wolfgang Beilenhoff (ed.), Poetika Kino. Theorie und Praxis des Films im russischen Formalismus. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2005 (co-author: Wolfgang Beilenhoff).