This essay examines the ways divergent theories of materiality influenced the practices and critical assessments of literary reportage in primarily two interwar avant-garde movements—German New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) and Soviet Factography. The essay turns first to the reportage writing of Joseph Roth and Ilya Ehrenburg as representative examples of the conceptualizations of the “object” and the “fact” put forward by these movements, and the second half of the essay shows how and to what political effect works of reportage by Siegfried Kracauer and Walter Benjamin blur these philosophical and aesthetic distinctions. In doing so it demonstrates how interwar Marxist debates about the representation of object-ness in avant-garde literature might help assess the theoretical viability of the new materialist thought for literary studies today.

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