1. Andrew Klavans, "What Bush and Batman Have in Common," July 25, 2008, A15: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121694247343
5. Ernst Bloch, Literary Essays, 309. Although Batman is no longer heroic by the end of the film, Gotham’s elites still conspire to create necessary illusions for the masses. This incomplete demythologization allows for the apotheosis of Harvey Dent, whose failures are hidden from view (and indeed, assigned to Batman, who becomes a sort of “sin-eater” for all of Gotham).
11. As a bibliographic aside, I would direct the reader to several secondary sources that I found helpful. The best guide to Bloch is Vincent Geoghegan’s Ernst Bloch (NY: Routledge, 1996), which breaks the subject into five parts: “Life and Concepts,” “Culture,” “Religion,” “Fascism and Marxism,” and “Natural Law, Utopianism and Nature.” Also useful is Wayne Hudson’s The Marxist Philosophy of Ernst Bloch (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1982), one of the earliest critical appraisals of Bloch’s work. Hudson’s chapter on “Marxism and Utopia” (Chapter 2: pp. 21-67) is of particular interest. Finally, the translators’ introduction to Bloch’s The Principle of Hope: Volume One contains useful biographical information as well as astute critical commentary on themes such as “Bloch and tradition” and “The Style of ‘The Principle of Hope.’” See Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight’s introduction to their translation of The Principle of Hope: Volume One, pp. 3-20, which leads the reader to the precipice of Bloch’s own writing. Because few readers have the time to read the three volumes of The Principle of Hope in their entirety, it should be some comfort that these books reward even a desultory approach to their immensely varied contents.
Volume One is distinguished by poignant chapters on “What Is Left to Wish for in Old Age” and “What the Mirror Tells Us Today,” as well as sections on Marx, the Ku Klux Klan, dreaming, and medical utopias. Volume Two continues Bloch’s encyclopedic approach with examinations of art, opera, poetry, and philosophy, while Volume Three deals with technology, social change, and the promise of the future, especially if we embrace the generative power of utopian longing. Readers should also be directed to an equally fascinating, and perhaps more accessible, volume called Literary Essays that ranges across a vast landscape including film, advertising, wine, Wagner, Venice, Spengler, and the Strasbourg Cathedral. Readers in film studies will find his short pieces on cinema of particular interest: “Significant Change in Cinematic Fables” (59-62), “On Music in the Cinema” (156-159), and “The Musical Stratum in Cinema, Revisited” (159-162). However, it is important to note that many of Bloch’s non-cinematic writings also have relevance to scholars working in visual studies, and for this reason, I offer the above suggestions only as starting points.
13. For Bloch, cultural production is always "simultaneously describing, satirizing, undermining and hoping," as Vincent Geoghegan puts it in Ernst Bloch (NY: Routledge, 1996), 65. The best introduction to how Bloch “accentuates the positive, the utopian-emancipatory possibilities” of cultural texts is in Douglas Kellner’s excellent article, “Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique,” available online at
Kellner (and Michael Ryan) also wrote one of the first (and still best) books on the politics of popular film: Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988). I am grateful for the work of Doug Kellner, which has been foundational for my own writing over the past two decades.
15. The story of Bloch’s U.S. exile and eventual return to Germany is a little more complicated. During his decade in the United States, he suffered from cultural isolation, political suspicions, and professional disappointment. Despite Adorno’s support, the left-leaning philosopher was unable to secure an appropriate position at an U.S. university. Although Bloch eventually obtained U.S. citizenship in the late forties, he returned to Germany in 1949 with high hopes for his new academic position in Leipzig. Yet his homecoming was marred by political attacks. Bloch had been initially celebrated as a central voice in German philosophy, but he soon fell out of favor with the ruling state party of the GDR. His ideological troubles prompted him to move to West Germany in 1961, and for the remainder of the sixties he served as a popular mentor to students at Tubingen university. A major theorist of the utopian impulse, which he saw as a propelling force behind socialism, Bloch died in 1977 at the age of 97. In the three decades since his death, his work has gained some admirers outside of philosophy departments, but film studies and media studies have been slow to appreciate his relevance, even though his work speaks eloquently to many issues in visual studies. Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice, and Paul Knight’s introduction to The Principle of Hope: Volume I, ix-xxxiiix.
20. For more on the “not-yet-conscious,” see Geoghegan, Ernst Bloch, 34. On another point, Bloch argues that "'America' will disappear only after it has been completely discovered — meaning that the revolutionary path goes straight through capitalism, not around it" (Literary Essays, 309). Despite the noisy commercial trappings of The Dark Knight and the blandishments of The Wall Street Journal, a Blochian interpretation suggests that the revolutionary path might run straight through the film.
Bloch, Ernst. "Disrupted Language, Disrupted Culture," Direction, December 1939, 16-17, 36.
Bloch, Ernst. Literary Essays, trans.Andrew Joron. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope: Volume I, trans. Neville Plaice. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986.
Bloch, Ernst. The Principle of Hope: Volume III, trans.Neville Plaice. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995.
Farrelly, Elizabeth. Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Geoghegan, Vincent. Ernst Bloch. NY: Routledge, 1996.
Hudson, Wayne. The Marxist Philosophy of Ernst Bloch. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.
Kellner, Douglas, and Ryan, Michael. Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Kellner, Douglas. "Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique," online at
Klavans, Andrew. "What Bush and Batman Have in Common," July 25, 2008, A15:
Nolan Christopher, "Q+A Director's Chair," Entertainment Weekly, August 1, 2008.
Rickey, Carrie. "‘Dark Knight' Glimmers through Gloom," The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 18, 2008, W5.