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Ideas on Trial: Wilhelm Dieterle and the Courtroom of Cinema
German Studies Association
October 2-5, 2008
St. Paul, MN

As a German émigré director, Wilhelm Dieterle has largely remained in the shadow
of his more illustrious compatriots: Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, and Billy
Wilder. While Ulmer, Preminger and Siodmak enjoy attention for their noir
films, Dieterle is primarily known for the biopics he made with Paul Muni (The
Story of Louis Pasteur, The Life of Emile Zola, and Juarez). There is, however,
reason to suspect that Dieterle held a very serious conception of cinema as a
factor in public life. The brilliantly staged trial scenes in Zola and The
Devil and Daniel Webster are indicative of a director who believed in cinema’s
ability to make crucial interventions in public discourse. A part of any
reconsideration of Dieterle as a director must take into account the
circumstance that Dieterle corresponded with Max Horkheimer and the Institute
for Social Research about his film projects. The time has come to look at
Dieterle again, this time as the savvy and intelligent director of a
politically engaged cinema.

For this panel I am looking for papers that address any aspect of Dieterle’s
directorial practice. Papers may focus on his German films, biopics, trial
motifs, critical theory, literary adaptation (Hunchback with Charles Laughton),
political themes, anti-fascist activities, FBI scrutiny, émigré community. I
plan on giving a paper on a postcolonial reading of The Devil and Daniel
Webster.

Please send one-page proposals to Simon Richter ([log in to unmask]) by
February 7.

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