Precarious Times: Temporality and History in Modern German Culture

Cornell University Press, 2019.  pp. 322. ISBN: 978-1-5017-3510-3  

In Precarious Times, Anne Fuchs explores how works of German literature, film, and photography reflect on the profound temporal anxieties precipitated by contemporary experiences of atomization, displacement, and fragmentation that bring about a loss of history and of time itself and that is peculiar to our current moment. The digital age places premiums on just-in-time deliveries, continual innovation, instantaneous connectivity, and around-the-clock availability. While some celebrate this 24/7 culture, others see it as profoundly destructive to the natural rhythm of day and night—and to human happiness. Have we entered an era of a perpetual present that depletes the future and erodes our grasp of the past? Beginning its examination around 1900, when rapid modernization was accompanied by comparably intense reflection on changing temporal experience, Precarious Times provides historical depth and perspective to current debates on the "digital now." Expanding the modern discourse on time and speed, Fuchs deploys such concepts as attention, slowness and lateness to emphasize the uneven quality of time around the world.

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"“Fuchs’ rich and important study energizes the theoretical discussions of time. Her sensitive readings reconnect time to space and provide historical depth for contemporary expressions across a wide range of literary texts, works of photography and films. By probing their aesthetic pulse, the author reveals the highly precarious quality of time as cultural frame, connector of social life and measure of individual experience.”

—Aleida Assmann, University of Konstanz