Warburg on Luther and Dürer: Media Wars and the Freedom to Think

Warburg on Luther and Dürer: Media Wars and the Freedom to Think
20 Feb 2019, 17:30 to 21 Feb 2019, 19:30
Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB

 Warburg on Luther and Dürer: Media Wars and the Freedom to Think

Wednesday, 20 February, 17.30 - 18.30

Presented by Jane O. Newman, Professor of Comparative Literature at UC-Irvine.

Today’s mad landscape of fake news is not unique; a “sensationalizing press” (Sensationspresse) has sought to stir up public opinion, and even to provoke social and political upheaval, countless times in the past. This lecture will take as their starting point Aby Warburg’s 1920 essay on the ‘media wars’ of the sixteenth century, in which he claims to see a battle being waged against this trend by Martin Luther and Albrecht Dürer. Their “sense for the truth” made them into early modern heroes of reason for Warburg, as they fought on behalf of the “freedom to think” carefully and critically in the face of irrationalisms of all kinds. Their example as seekers of truth were especially meaningful in his own post-war period.  Is Warburg’s way of resisting fake news a model for us? A close reading of his examples asks us to consider who is to lead whom toward greater ‘truths’, if and when partisanship becomes the norm across the ranks?

Part of the 'Word and Image in Times of Crisis' series. View accompanying events below: 

Display of Materials relating to Aby Warburg’s work on early modern prints and the media of his time 
(Introduction by Steffen Haug and Claudia Wedepohl)

Thursday, 21 February, 4:30pm (Lecture Room)

This display of materials from Aby Warburg’s personal collections relates to the “Word and Image in Times of Crisis” events, inspired by Warburg’s scholarly work during the First World War. The public is invited to look at books and other documents he collected, alarmed by the use of images in reports that were biased and written for propagandistic purposes. To Warburg the persuasive potential of the image seemed appropriated by a manipulating press that took advantage of mass reproduction to induce anxiety through innuendo and implication. Eager to maintain a critical distance from these practices and to comprehend their psychological underpinning Warburg analysed similar processes at work in the confessional conflicts of the sixteenth century. Steffen Haug and Claudia Wedepohl will explain how these materials were fundamental for Warburg’s work on Luther and the Reformation.

 Spaces limited - no booking required. 

Round table Discussion: Word and Image in times of Crisis

Thursday, 21 February, 17.30 - 18.30

This roundtable brings together a group of historians, art historians and media theorists to discuss the role of images in digital communication, the continuously increasing speed with which information travels, and the interdependences of technological innovations and political culture. Thus, the panel’s structure responds to approaches proposed by Aby Warburg’s study of early modern prints in the age of reformation, by which he responded to the conflict of his time: the First World War and its propaganda.

Johannes von Müller (Bilderfahrzeuge Project), Introduction

Claudia Wedepohl (Warburg Institute Archive), Chair

James Curran (Goldsmiths)

Jane O. Newman (UC Irvine)

Steffen Haug (Bilderfahrzeuge Project)

Separate booking required - more information and book your place. 

Image credit: Johann Carion, The Prediction and Explanation of the Great Flooding (Prognosticatio und  erklerung der grossen wesserung) (Leipzig, 1521) 


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