"To great writers," Walter Benjamin once wrote, "finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they labor their entire lives." Conceived in Paris in 1927 and still in progress when Benjamin fled the Occupation in 1940, The Arcades Project (in German, Das Passagen-Werk) is a monumental ruin, meticulously constructed over the course of thirteen years--"the theater," as Benjamin called it, "of all my struggles and all my ideas."Focusing on the arcades of nineteenth-century Paris-glass-roofed rows of shops that were early centers of consumerism--Benjamin presents a montage of quotations from, and reflections on, hundreds of published sources, arranging them in thirty-six categories with descriptive rubrics such as "Fashion," "Boredom," "Dream City," "Photography," "Catacombs," "Advertising," "Prostitution," "Baudelaire," and "Theory of Progress." His central preoccupation is what he calls the commodification of things--a process in which he locates the decisive shift to the modern age.The Arcades Project is Benjamin's effort to represent and to critique the bourgeois experience of nineteenth-century history, and, in so doing, to liberate the suppressed "true history" that underlay the ideological mask. In the bustling, cluttered arcades, street and interior merge and historical time is broken up into kaleidoscopic distractions and displays of ephemera. Here, at a distance from what is normally meant by "progress," Benjamin finds the lost time(s) embedded in the spaces of things.
Since Neobaroque reconstitutions necessarily reference the European Baroque, this volume begins with the reevaluation of the Baroque that evolved in Europe during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth. Foundational essays by Friedrich Nietzsche, Heinrich Wölfflin, Walter Benjamin, Eugenio d’Ors, René Wellek, and Mario Praz recuperate and redefine the historical Baroque. Their essays lay the groundwork for the revisionist Latin American essays, many of which have not been translated into English until now. Authors including Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, Severo Sarduy, Édouard Glissant, Haroldo de Campos, and Carlos Fuentes understand the New World Baroque and Neobaroque as decolonizing strategies in Latin America and other postcolonial contexts. This collection moves between art history and literary criticism to provide a rich interdisciplinary discussion of the transcultural forms and functions of the Baroque.
Contributors. Dorothy Z. Baker, Walter Benjamin, Christine Buci-Glucksmann, José Pascual Buxó, Leo Cabranes-Grant, Haroldo de Campos, Alejo Carpentier, Irlemar Chiampi, William Childers, Gonzalo Celorio, Eugenio d’Ors, Jorge Ruedas de la Serna, Carlos Fuentes, Édouard Glissant, Roberto González Echevarría, Ángel Guido, Monika Kaup, José Lezama Lima, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mario Praz, Timothy J. Reiss, Alfonso Reyes, Severo Sarduy, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Maarten van Delden, René Wellek, Christopher Winks, Heinrich Wölfflin, Lois Parkinson Zamora
“There is no world of thought that is not a world of language,” Walter Benjamin remarked, “and one only sees in the world what is preconditioned by language.” In this book, Samuel Weber, a leading theorist on literature and media, reveals a new and productive aspect of Benjamin’s thought by focusing on a little-discussed stylistic trait in his formulation of concepts.Weber’s focus is the critical suffix “-ability” that Benjamin so tellingly deploys in his work. The “-ability” (-barkeit, in German) of concepts and literary forms traverses the whole of Benjamin’s oeuvre, from “impartibility” and “criticizability” through the well-known formulations of “citability,” “translatability,” and, most famously, the “reproducibility” of “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.” Nouns formed with this suffix, Weber points out, refer to a possibility or potentiality, to a capacity rather than an existing reality. This insight allows for a consistent and enlightening reading of Benjamin’s writings.Weber first situates Benjamin’s engagement with the “-ability” of various concepts in the context of his entire corpus and in relation to the philosophical tradition, from Kant to Derrida. Subsequent chapters deepen the implications of the use of this suffix in a wide variety of contexts, including Benjamin’s Trauerspiel book, his relation to Carl Schmitt, and a reading of Wagner’s Ring. The result is an illuminating perspective on Benjamin’s thought by way of his language—and one of the most penetrating and comprehensive accounts of Benjamin’s work ever written.
Begun in Poveromo, Italy, in 1932, and extensively revised in 1938, Berlin Childhood around 1900 remained unpublished during Walter Benjamin's lifetime, one of his "large-scale defeats." Now translated into English for the first time in book form, on the basis of the recently discovered "final version" that contains the author's own arrangement of a suite of luminous vignettes, it can be more widely appreciated as one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century prose writing.Not an autobiography in the customary sense, Benjamin's recollection of his childhood in an upper-middle-class Jewish home in Berlin's West End at the turn of the century becomes an occasion for unified "expeditions into the depths of memory." In this diagram of his life, Benjamin focuses not on persons or events but on places and things, all seen from the perspective of a child--a collector, flaneur, and allegorist in one.This book is also one of Benjamin's great city texts, bringing to life the cocoon of his childhood--the parks, streets, schoolrooms, and interiors of an emerging metropolis. It reads the city as palimpsest and labyrinth, revealing unexpected lyricism in the heart of the familiar.As an added gem, a preface by Howard Eiland discusses the genesis and structure of the work, which marks the culmination of Benjamin's attempt to do philosophy concretely.
The correspondence between Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, which appears here for the first time in its entirety in English translation, must rank among the most significant to have come down to us from that notable age of barbarism, the twentieth century. Benjamin and Adorno formed a uniquely powerful pair. Benjamin, riddle-like in his personality and given to tactical evasion, and Adorno, full of his own importance, alternately support and compete with each other throughout the correspondence, until its imminent tragic end becomes apparent to both writers. Each had met his match, and happily, in the other. This book is the story of an elective affinity. Adorno was the only person who managed to sustain an intimate intellectual relationship with Benjamin for nearly twenty years. No one else, not even Gershom Scholem, coaxed so much out of Benjamin.The more than one hundred letters in this book will allow readers to trace the developing character of Benjamin's and Adorno's attitudes toward each other and toward their many friends. When this book appeared in German, it caused a sensation because it includes passages previously excised from other German editions of the letters--passages in which the two friends celebrate their own intimacy with frank remarks about other people. Ideas presented elliptically in the theoretical writings are set forth here with much greater clarity. Not least, the letters provide material crucial for understanding the genesis of Benjamin's Arcades Project.
“I speak in what others often hear as a strange accent. My past can’t be located. I live in Buffalo, New York, an exile from the South. But these aren’t Yankee dreams, even though my past seems like a fabrication, a dreamworld in which I’m a paper character and not a historical participant, with scars from barbed wire ripping under the pressure and flying through the air like a swarm of bees, or a horse rearing up and banging its head into mine from within, exploding my forehead.” —from the Preface
Wisteria draped on a soldier’s coffin, sent home to Alabama from a Virginia battlefield. The oldest standing house in the county, painted gray and flanked by a pecan orchard. A black steel fence tool, now perched atop a pile of books like a prehistoric bird of prey. In Dreamworlds of Alabama, Allen Shelton explores physical, historical, and social landscapes of northeastern Alabama. His homeplace near the Appalachian foothills provides the setting for a rich examination of cultural practices, a place where the language of place and things resonates with as much vitality and emotional urgency as the language of humans.
Throughout the book, Shelton demonstrates how deeply culture is inscribed in the land and in the most intimate spaces of the person—places of belonging and loss, insight and memory.
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Alabama, Allen Shelton is associate professor of sociology at Buffalo State College.
Walter Benjamin became a published writer at the age of seventeen. Yet the first stirrings of this most original of critical minds—penned during the years in which he transformed himself from the comfortable son of a haute-bourgeois German Jewish family into the nomadic, uncompromising philosopher-critic we have since come to appreciate—have until now remained largely unavailable in English. Early Writings, 1910-1917 rectifies this situation, documenting the formative intellectual experiences of one of the twentieth century's most resolutely independent thinkers.Here we see the young Benjamin in his various roles as moralist, cultural critic, school reformer, and poet-philosopher. The diversity of interest and profundity of thought characteristic of his better-known work from the 1920s and 30s are already in evidence, as we witness the emergence of critical projects that would occupy Benjamin throughout his intellectual career: the role of the present in historical remembrance, the relationship of the intellectual to political action, the idea of truth in works of art, and the investigation of language as the veiled medium of experience.Even at this early stage, a recognizably Benjaminian way of thinking comes into view—a daring, boundary-crossing enterprise that does away with classical antitheses in favor of the relentlessly-seeking critical consciousness that produced the groundbreaking works of his later years. With the publication of these early writings, our portrait of one of the most significant intellects of the twentieth century edges closer to completion.
In the most comprehensive account to date of Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of language, Alexander Stern explores the nature of meaning by putting Benjamin in dialogue with Wittgenstein.Known largely for his essays on culture, aesthetics, and literature, Walter Benjamin also wrote on the philosophy of language. This early work is famously obscure and considered hopelessly mystical by some. But for Alexander Stern, it contains important insights and anticipates—in some respects surpasses—the later thought of a central figure in the philosophy of language, Ludwig Wittgenstein.As described in The Fall of Language, Benjamin argues that “language as such” is not a means for communicating an extra-linguistic reality but an all-encompassing medium of expression in which everything shares. Borrowing from Johann Georg Hamann’s understanding of God’s creation as communication to humankind, Benjamin writes that all things express meanings, and that human language does not impose meaning on the objective world but translates meanings already extant in it. He describes the transformations that language as such undergoes while making its way into human language as the “fall of language.” This is a fall from “names”—language that responds mimetically to reality—to signs that designate reality arbitrarily.While Benjamin’s approach initially seems alien to Wittgenstein’s, both reject a designative understanding of language; both are preoccupied with Russell’s paradox; and both try to treat what Wittgenstein calls “the bewitchment of our understanding by means of language.” Putting Wittgenstein’s work in dialogue with Benjamin’s sheds light on its historical provenance and on the turn in Wittgenstein’s thought. Although the two philosophies diverge in crucial ways, in their comparison Stern finds paths for understanding what language is and what it does.
Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno were intellectual giants of the first half of the twentieth century. The drama Foreplay explores their deeply human and psychologically intriguing private lives, focusing on professional and personal jealousies, the mutual dislike of Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt, the association between Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille, and the border between erotica and pornography.
The life of the German-Jewish literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) is a veritable allegory of the life of letters in the twentieth century. Benjamin’s intellectual odyssey culminated in his death by suicide on the Franco–Spanish border, pursued by the Nazis, but long before he had traveled to the Soviet Union. His stunning account of that journey is unique among Benjamin’s writings for the frank, merciless way he struggles with his motives and conscience.Perhaps the primary reason for his trip was his affection for Asja Lācis, a Latvian Bolshevik whom he had first met in Capri in 1924 and who would remain an important intellectual and erotic influence on him throughout the twenties and thirties. Asja Lācis resided in Moscow, eking out a living as a journalist, and Benjamin’s diary is, on one level, the account of his masochistic love affair with this elusive—and rather unsympathetic—object of desire. On another level, it is the story of a failed romance with the Russian Revolution; for Benjamin had journeyed to Russia not only to inform himself firsthand about Soviet society, but also to arrive at an eventual decision about joining the Communist Party. Benjamin’s diary paints the dilemma of a writer seduced by the promises of the Revolution yet unwilling to blinker himself to its human and institutional failings.Moscow Diary is more than a record of ideological ambivalence; its literary value is considerable. Benjamin is one of the great twentieth-century physiognomists of the city, and his portrait of hibernal Moscow stands beside his brilliant evocations of Berlin, Naples, Marseilles, and Paris. Students of this particularly interesting period will find Benjamin’s eyewitness account of Moscow extraordinarily illuminating.
In four elegant chapters, Robert Alter explains the prismlike radiance created by the association of three modern masters: Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Gershom Scholem. The volume pinpoints the intersections of these divergent witnesses to the modern condition of doubt, the no-man’s-land between traditional religion and modern secular culture.Scholem, the devoted Zionist and master historian of Jewish mysticism, and Benjamin, the Marxist cultural critic, dedicated much of their thought and correspondence to Kafka, the explorer in fiction of radical alienation. Kafka’s sense of spiritual complexities was an inspiration to both thinkers in their resistance to the murderous simplification of totalitarian ideology. In Necessary Angels, Alter uncovers a moment when the future of modernism is revealed in its preoccupation with the past. The angel of the title is first Kafka’s: on June 25, 1914, the writer recorded in his diary a dream vision of an angel that turned into the painted wooden figurehead of a ship. In 1940, at the end of his life, Walter Benjamin devoted the ninth of his Theses on the Philosophy of History to a meditation on an angel by the artist Paul Klee, first quoting a poem he had written on that painting. In Benjamin’s vision, the figure from Klee becomes an angel of history, sucked into the future by the storm of progress, his face looking back to Eden. Benjamin bequeathed the Klee oil painting to Scholem; it hung in the living room of Scholem’s home on Abarbanel Street in Jerusalem until 1989, when his widow placed it in the Israel Museum.Alter’s focus on the epiphanic force of memory on these three great modernists shows with sometimes startling, sometimes prophetic clarity that a complete break with tradition is not essential to modernism. Necessary Angels itself continues the necessary discovery of the future in the past.
Walter Benjamin's posthumously published collection of writings on hashish is a detailed blueprint for a book that was never written--a "truly exceptional book about hashish," as Benjamin describes it in a letter to his friend Gershom Scholem. A series of "protocols of drug experiments," written by himself and his co-participants between 1927 and 1934, together with short prose pieces that he published during his lifetime, On Hashish provides a peculiarly intimate portrait of Benjamin, venturesome as ever at the end of the Weimar Republic, and of his unique form of thought.Consciously placing himself in a tradition of literary drug-connoisseurs from Baudelaire to Hermann Hesse, Benjamin looked to hashish and other drugs for an initiation into what he called "profane illumination." At issue here, as everywhere in Benjamin's work, is a new way of seeing, a new connection to the ordinary world. Under the influence of hashish, as time and space become inseparable, experiences become subtly stratified and resonant: we inhabit more than one plane in time. What Benjamin, in his contemporaneous study of Surrealism, calls "image space" comes vividly to life in this philosophical immersion in the sensuous.This English-language edition of On Hashish features a section of supplementary materials--drawn from Benjamin's essays, letters, and sketches--relating to hashish use, as well as a reminiscence by his friend Jean Selz, which concerns a night of opium-smoking in Ibiza. A preface by Howard Eiland discusses the leading motifs of Benjamin's reflections on intoxication.
One-Way Street is a thoroughfare unlike anything else in literature—by turns exhilarating and bewildering, requiring mental agility and a special kind of urban literacy. Presented here in a new edition with expanded notes, this genre-defying meditation on the semiotics of late-1920s Weimar culture offers a fresh opportunity to encounter Walter Benjamin at his most virtuosic and experimental, writing in a vein that anticipates later masterpieces such as “On the Concept of History” and The Arcades Project.Composed of sixty short prose pieces that vary wildly in style and theme, One-Way Street evokes a dense cityscape of shops, cafes, and apartments, alive with the hubbub of social interactions and papered over with public inscriptions of all kinds: advertisements, signs, posters, slogans. Benjamin avoids all semblance of linear narrative, enticing readers with a seemingly random sequence of aphorisms, reminiscences, jokes, off-the-cuff observations, dreamlike fantasias, serious philosophical inquiries, apparently unserious philosophical parodies, and trenchant political commentaries. Providing remarkable insight into the occluded meanings of everyday things, Benjamin time and again proves himself the unrivalled interpreter of what he called “the soul of the commodity.”Despite the diversity of its individual sections, Benjamin’s text is far from formless. Drawing on the avant-garde aesthetics of Dada, Constructivism, and Surrealism, its unusual construction implies a practice of reading that cannot be reduced to simple formulas. Still refractory, still radical, One-Way Street is a work in perpetual progress.
Origin of the German Trauerspiel was Walter Benjamin’s first full, historically oriented analysis of modernity. Readers of English know it as “The Origin of German Tragic Drama,” but in fact the subject is something else—the play of mourning. Howard Eiland’s completely new English translation, the first since 1977, is closer to the German text and more consistent with Benjamin’s philosophical idiom.Focusing on the extravagant seventeenth-century theatrical genre of the trauerspiel, precursor of the opera, Benjamin identifies allegory as the constitutive trope of the Baroque and of modernity itself. Allegorical perception bespeaks a world of mutability and equivocation, a melancholy sense of eternal transience without access to the transcendentals of the medieval mystery plays—though no less haunted and bedeviled. History as trauerspiel is the condition as well as subject of modern allegory in its inscription of the abyssal.Benjamin’s investigation of the trauerspiel includes German texts and late Renaissance European drama such as Hamlet and Calderón’s Life Is a Dream. The prologue is one of his most important and difficult pieces of writing. It lays out his method of indirection and his idea of the “constellation” as a key means of grasping the world, making dynamic unities out of the myriad bits of daily life. Thoroughly annotated with a philological and historical introduction and other explanatory and supplementary material, this rigorous and elegant new translation brings fresh understanding to a cardinal work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest literary critics.
Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno both turned to canonical literary narratives to determine why the Enlightenment project was derailed and how this failure might be remedied. The resultant works, Benjamin’s major essay on Goethe’s Elective Affinities and Adorno’s meditation on the Odyssey in Dialectic of Enlightenment, are centrally concerned with the very act of narration. Márton Dornbach’s groundbreaking book reconstructs a hitherto unnoticed, wide-ranging dialogue between these foundational texts of the Frankfurt School.
At the heart of Dornbach’s argument is a critical model that Benjamin built around the concept of caesura, a model Adorno subsequently reworked. Countering an obscurantism that would become complicit in the rise of fascism, the two theorists aligned moments of arrest in narratives mired in unreason. Although this model responded to a specific historical emergency, it can be adapted to identify utopian impulses in a variety of works.
The Saving Line throws fresh light on the intellectual exchange and disagreements between Benjamin and Adorno, the problematic conjunction of secular reason and negative theology in their thinking, and their appropriations of ancient and modern legacies. It will interest scholars of philosophy and literature, critical theory, German Jewish thought, classical reception studies, and narratology.
“This is a sophisticated and fascinating argument written in a very enjoyably entertaining style. It is hard for me to see how readers initially interested in these texts will not be ‘swept off their feet’ by the core assertions of this author, and the devastatingly comprehensive way in which he demonstrates those arguments.”
—Brent Steele, University of Kansas
In Textual Conspiracies, James R. Martel applies the literary, theological, and philosophical insights of Walter Benjamin to the question of politics and the predicament of the contemporary left. Through the lens of Benjamin’s theories, as influenced by Kafka, of the fetishization of political symbols and signs, Martel looks at the ways in which various political and literary texts “speak” to each other across the gulf of time and space, thereby creating a “textual conspiracy” that destabilizes grand narratives of power and authority and makes the narratives of alternative political communities more apparent.
However, in keeping with Benjamin’s insistence that even he is complicit with the fetishism that he battles, Martel decentralizes Benjamin’s position as the key theorist for this conspiracy and contextualizes Benjamin in what he calls a “constellation” of pairs of thinkers and writers throughout history, including Alexis de Tocqueville and Edgar Allen Poe, Hannah Arendt and Federico García Lorca, and Frantz Fanon and Assia Djebar.
What is the place of individual genius in a global world of hyper-information— a world in which, as Walter Benjamin predicted more than seventy years ago, everyone is potentially an author? For poets in such a climate, "originality" begins to take a back seat to what can be done with other people’s words—framing, citing, recycling, and otherwise mediating available words and sentences, and sometimes entire texts. Marjorie Perloff here explores this intriguing development in contemporary poetry: the embrace of "unoriginal" writing. Paradoxically, she argues, such citational and often constraint-based poetry is more accessible and, in a sense, "personal" than was the hermetic poetry of the 1980s and 90s.
Perloff traces this poetics of "unoriginal genius" from its paradigmatic work, Benjamin’s encyclopedic Arcades Project, a book largely made up of citations. She discusses the processes of choice, framing, and reconfiguration in the work of Brazilian Concretism and Oulipo, both movements now understood as precursors of such hybrid citational texts as Charles Bernstein’s opera libretto Shadowtime and Susan Howe’s documentary lyric sequence The Midnight. Perloff also finds that the new syncretism extends to language: for example, to the French-Norwegian Caroline Bergvall writing in English and the Japanese Yoko Tawada, in German. Unoriginal Genius concludes with a discussion of Kenneth Goldsmith’s conceptualist book Traffic—a seemingly "pure’" radio transcript of one holiday weekend’s worth of traffic reports. In these instances and many others, Perloff shows us "poetry by other means" of great ingenuity, wit, and complexity.
Walter Benjamin is one of the twentieth century's most important intellectuals, and also one of its most elusive. His writings—mosaics incorporating philosophy, literary criticism, Marxist analysis, and a syncretistic theology—defy simple categorization. And his mobile, often improvised existence has proven irresistible to mythologizers. His writing career moved from the brilliant esotericism of his early writings through his emergence as a central voice in Weimar culture and on to the exile years, with its pioneering studies of modern media and the rise of urban commodity capitalism in Paris. That career was played out amid some of the most catastrophic decades of modern European history: the horror of the First World War, the turbulence of the Weimar Republic, and the lengthening shadow of fascism. Now, a major new biography from two of the world's foremost Benjamin scholars reaches beyond the mosaic and the mythical to present this intriguing figure in full.Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings make available for the first time a rich store of information which augments and corrects the record of an extraordinary life. They offer a comprehensive portrait of Benjamin and his times as well as extensive commentaries on his major works, including "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," the essays on Baudelaire, and the great study of the German Trauerspiel. Sure to become the standard reference biography of this seminal thinker, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life will prove a source of inexhaustible interest for Benjamin scholars and novices alike.
Walter Benjamin is often viewed as a cultural critic who produced a vast array of brilliant and idiosyncratic pieces of writing with little more to unify them than the feeling that they all bear the stamp of his "unclassifiable" genius. Eli Friedlander argues that Walter Benjamin's corpus of writings must be recognized as a unique configuration of philosophy with an overarching coherence and a deep-seated commitment to engage the philosophical tradition.Friedlander finds in Benjamin's early works initial formulations of the different dimensions of his philosophical thinking. He leads through them to Benjamin's views on the dialectical image, the nature of language, the relation of beauty and truth, embodiment, dream and historical awakening, myth and history, as well as the afterlife and realization of meaning. Those notions are articulated both in themselves and in relation to central figures of the philosophical tradition. They are further viewed as leading to and coming together in The Arcades Project. Friedlander takes that incomplete work to be the central theater where these earlier philosophical preoccupations were to be played out. Benjamin envisaged in it the possibility of the highest order of thought taking the form of writing whose contents are the concrete time-bound particularities of human experience. Addressing the question of the possibility of such a presentation of philosophical truth provides the guiding thread for constellating the disparate moments of Benjamin's writings.
In light of the legendary difficulty of Walter Benjamin's works, it is a strange and intriguing fact that from 1929 to 1933 the great critic and cultural theorist wrote—and broadcast—numerous scripts, on the order of fireside chats, for children. Invited to speak on whatever subject he considered appropriate, Benjamin talked to the children of Frankfurt and Berlin about the destruction of Pompeii, an earthquake in Lisbon, and a railroad disaster at the Firth of Tay. He spoke about bootlegging and swindling, cataclysm and suicide, Faust and Cagliostro. In this first sustained analysis of the thirty surviving scripts, Jeffrey Mehlman demonstrates how Benjamin used the unlikely forum of children's radio to pursue some of his central philosophical and theological concerns.
, readers will encounter a host of intertextual surprises: an evocation of the flooding of the Mississippi informed by the argument of "The Task of the Translator;" a discussion of scams in stamp-collecting that turns into "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction;" a tale of bootlegging in the American South that converges with the best of Benjamin's essays on fiction. Mehlman superimposes a dual series of texts dealing with catastrophe, on the one hand, and fraud, on the other, that resonate with the false-messianic theology of Sabbatianism as it came to focus the attention and enthusiasm of Benjamin's friend Gershom Scholem during the same years. The radio scripts for children, that is, offer an unexpected byway, on the eve of the apocalypse, into Benjamin's messianic preoccupations.
A child's garden of deconstruction, these twenty-minute talks—from the perspective of childhood, before an invisible audience, on whatever happened to cross the critic's mind—are also by their very nature the closest we may ever come to a transcript of a psychoanalysis of Walter Benjamin. Particularly alive to that circumstance, Mehlman explores the themes of the radio broadcasts and brilliantly illuminates their hidden connections to Benjamin's life and work.
This lucid analysis brings to light some of the least researched and understood aspects of Walter Benjamin's thought. It will interest and provoke literary theorists and philosophers of culture, as well as anyone who hopes to understand one of this century's most suggestive and perplexing critics.
In the frenzied final years of the Weimar Republic, amid economic collapse and mounting political catastrophe, Walter Benjamin emerged as the most original practicing literary critic and public intellectual in the German-speaking world. Volume 2 of the Selected Writings is now available in paperback in two parts.In Part 1, Benjamin is represented by two of his greatest literary essays, "Surrealism" and "On the Image of Proust," as well as by a long article on Goethe and a generous selection of his wide-ranging commentary for Weimar Germany's newspapers.Part 2 contains, in addition to the important longer essays, "Franz Kafka," "Karl Kraus," and "The Author as Producer," the extended autobiographical meditation "A Berlin Chronicle," and extended discussions of the history of photography and the social situation of the French writer, previously untranslated shorter pieces on such subjects as language and memory, theological criticism and literary history, astrology and the newspaper, and on such influential figures as Paul Valery, Stefan George, Hitler, and Mickey Mouse.
Radical critic of a European civilization plunging into darkness, yet commemorator of the humane traditions of the old bourgeoisie--such was Walter Benjamin in the later 1930s. This volume, the third in a four-volume set, offers twenty-seven brilliant pieces, nineteen of which have never before been translated.The centerpiece, A Berlin Childhood around 1900, marks the first appearance in English of one of the greatest German works of the twentieth century: a profound and beautiful account of the vanished world of Benjamin's privileged boyhood, recollected in exile. No less remarkable are the previously untranslated second version of Benjamin's most famous essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," with its striking insights into the relations between technology and aesthetics, and German Men and Women, a book in which Benjamin collects twenty-six letters by distinguished Germans from 1783 to 1883 in an effort to preserve what he called the true humanity of German tradition from the debasement of fascism.Volume 3 also offers extensively annotated translations of essays that are key to Benjamin's rewriting of the story of modernism and modernity--such as "The Storyteller" and "Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century"--as well as a fascinating diary from 1938 and penetrating studies of Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, and Eduard Fuchs. A narrative chronology details Benjamin's life during these four harrowing years of his exile in France and Denmark. This is an essential collection for anyone interested in his work.
"Every line we succeed in publishing today...is a victory wrested from the powers of darkness." So wrote Walter Benjamin in January 1940. Not long afterward, he himself would fall prey to those powers, a victim of suicide following a failed attempt to flee the Nazis. However insistently the idea of catastrophe hangs over Benjamin's writings in the final years of his life, the "victories wrested" in this period nonetheless constitute some of the most remarkable twentieth-century analyses of the emergence of modern society. The essays on Charles Baudelaire are the distillation of a lifetime of thinking about the nature of modernity. They record the crisis of meaning experienced by a civilization sliding into the abyss, even as they testify to Benjamin's own faith in the written word.This volume ranges from studies of Baudelaire, Brecht, and the historian Carl Jochmann to appraisals of photography, film, and poetry. At their core is the question of how art can survive and thrive in a tumultuous time. Here we see Benjamin laying out an ethic for the critic and artist--a subdued but resilient heroism. At the same time, he was setting forth a sociohistorical account of how art adapts in an age of violence and repression.Working at the height of his powers to the very end, Benjamin refined his theory of the mass media that culminated in the final version of his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility." Also included in this volume is his influential piece "On the Concept of History," completed just before his death. The book is remarkable for its inquiry into the nature of "the modern" (especially as revealed in Baudelaire), for its ideas about the transmogrification of art and the radical discontinuities of history, and for its examples of humane life and thought in the midst of barbarism. The entire collection is eloquent testimony to the indomitable spirit of humanity under siege.
In the frenzied final years of the Weimar Republic, amid economic collapse and mourning political catastrophe, Walter Benjamin emerged as the most original practicing literary critic and public intellectual in the German-speaking world. Volume 2 of Selected Writings, covering the years 1927 to 1934, displays the full spectrum of Benjamin's achievements at this pivotal stage in his career.
Previously concerned chiefly with literary theory, Benjamin during these Years does pioneering work in new areas, from the stud of popular Culture (a discipline he virtually created) to theories of the media and the visual arts. His writings on the theory of modernity-most of them new to readers of English--develop ideas as important to an understanding of the twentieth century as an contained in his widely anthologiied essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility.
This volume brings together previously untranslated writings on major figures such as Brecht, ValÃƒÂ©ry and Gide, and on subjects ranging from film, radio, and the novel to memory, kitsch, and the theory of language. We find the manifoldly inquisitive Benjamin musing on the new modes of perception opened tip by techniques of photographic enlargement and cinematic montage, on the life and work of & Goethe at Weimar, on the fascination of old toys and the mysteries of food, and on the allegorical significance of Mickey Mouse.
Moscow, 1927 Dream Kitsch The Political Groupings of Russian Writers On the Present Situation of Russian Film Reply to Oscar A. H. Schmitz Introductory Remarks on a Series for L'HumanitÃƒÂ© Moscow Review of Gladkov's Cement Journalism Gottfried Keller Diary of my Journey to the Loire Review of Soupault's le Coeur d'or The Idea of a Mystery Review of Hessel's Heimliches Berlin A State Monopoly on Pornography
Image Imperatives, 1928 Curriculum Vitae (III) AndrÃƒÂ© Gide and Germany Main Features of My Second Impression of Hashish Conversation with AndrÃƒÂ© Gide Old Toys Hugo von Hofmannsthal's der Turm Moonlit Nights on the rue la BoÃƒÂ©tie Karl Kraus Reads Offenbach The Cultural History of Toys Toys and Play Everything is Thought Books by the Mentally Ill Review of the Mendelssohns' der Mensch in der Handschrift Food Fair Paris as Goddess The Path to Success, in Thirteen Theses Weimar The Fireside Saga News about Flowers Review of Green's Adrienne Mesurat Goethe Karl Kraus (Fragment)
The Return of the FlÃƒÂ¢neur, 1929 Chaplin Program for a Proletarian Children's Theater Surrealism Chaplin in Retrospect Chambermaids' Romances of the Past Century Marseilles On the Image of Proust The Great Art of Making Things Seem Closer Together Milieu Theoreticians Children's Literature Robert Walser The Return of the FlÃƒÂ¢neur Short Shadows (I) A Communist Pedagogy Notes on a Conversation with BÃƒÂ©la BalÃƒÂ¡sz Some Remarks on Folk Art Tip for Patrons
Crisis and Critique, 1930 Notes (II) Notes (III) Program for Literary Criticism Notes on a Theory of Gambling The Crisis of the Novel An Outsider Makes His Mark Theories of German Fascism Demonic Berlin Hashish, Beginning of March 1930 Julien Green Paris Diary Review of Kracauer's die Angestellten Food Bert Brecht The First Form of Criticism that Refuses to Judge From the Brecht Commentary Against a Masterpiece Myslovice--Braunschweig--Marseilles A Critique of the Publishing Industry Graphology Old and New Characterization of the New Generation The Need to Take the Mediating Character of Bourgeois Writing Seriously False Criticism Antitheses
The Destructive Character, 1931 In Parallel with My Actual Diary Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History Critique of the New Objectivity We Ought to Reexamine the Link between Teaching and Research Hofmannsthal and Aleco Dossena Left-Wing Melancholy Theological Criticism Karl Kraus Literary History and the Study of Literature German Letters May-June 1931 Unpacking My Library Franz Kafka: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer Diary from August 7, 1931, to the Day of My Death Little History of Photography Paul ValÃƒÂ©ry The Lisbon Earthquake The Destructive Character Reflections on Radio Mickey Mouse In Almost Every Example We Have of Materialist Literary History The Task of the Critic
Ibizan Sequence, 1932 Experience On Ships, Mine Shafts, and Crucifixes in Bottles On the Trail of Old Letters A Family Drama in the Epic Theater The Railway Disaster at the Firth of Tay Privileged Thinking Excavation and Memory Oedipus, or Rational Myth On Proverbs Theater and Radio Ibizan Sequence A Berlin Chronicle Spain, 1932 Light from Obscurantists The Handkerchief In the Sun The Rigorous Study of Art Hashish in Marseilles The Eve of Departure On Astrology "Try to Ensure that Everything in Life Has a Consequence" Notes (IV)
Thought Figures, 1933 The Lamp Doctrine of the Similar Short Shadows (II) Kierkegaard Stefan George in Retrospect Agesilaus Santander (First Version) Agesilaus Santander (Second Version) Antitheses Concerning Word and Name On the Mimetic Faculty Thought Figures Little Tricks of the Trade Experience and Poverty
The Author's Producer, 1934 Once Is as Good as Never The Newspaper Venal but Unusable The Present Social Situation of the French Writer The Author as Producer Notes from Svendborg, Summer 1934 Hitler's Diminished Masculinity Franz Kafka
A Note on the Texts Chronology, 1927-1934 Index
Benjamin’s famous “Work of Art” essay sets out his boldest thoughts—on media and on culture in general—in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought.This essay, however, is only the beginning of a vast collection of writings that the editors have assembled to demonstrate what was revolutionary about Benjamin’s explorations on media. Long before Marshall McLuhan, Benjamin saw that the way a bullet rips into its victim is exactly the way a movie or pop song lodges in the soul.This book contains the second, and most daring, of the four versions of the “Work of Art” essay—the one that addresses the utopian developments of the modern media. The collection tracks Benjamin’s observations on the media as they are revealed in essays on the production and reception of art; on film, radio, and photography; and on the modern transformations of literature and painting. The volume contains some of Benjamin’s best-known work alongside fascinating, little-known essays—some appearing for the first time in English. In the context of his passionate engagement with questions of aesthetics, the scope of Benjamin’s media theory can be fully appreciated.
Walter Benjamin's essays on the great French lyric poet Charles Baudelaire revolutionized not just the way we think about Baudelaire, but our understanding of modernity and modernism as well. In these essays, Benjamin challenges the image of Baudelaire as late-Romantic dreamer, and evokes instead the modern poet caught in a life-or-death struggle with the forces of the urban commodity capitalism that had emerged in Paris around 1850. The Baudelaire who steps forth from these pages is the flâneur who affixes images as he strolls through mercantile Paris, the ragpicker who collects urban detritus only to turn it into poetry, the modern hero willing to be marked by modern life in its contradictions and paradoxes. He is in every instance the modern artist forced to commodify his literary production: "Baudelaire knew how it stood with the poet: as a flâneur he went to the market; to look it over, as he thought, but in reality to find a buyer." Benjamin reveals Baudelaire as a social poet of the very first rank.The introduction to this volume presents each of Benjamin's essays on Baudelaire in chronological order. The introduction, intended for an undergraduate audience, aims to articulate and analyze the major motifs and problems in these essays, and to reveal the relationship between the essays and Benjamin's other central statements on literature, its criticism, and its relation to the society that produces it.
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