The Arcades Project
Walter Benjamin Harvard University Press, 1999 Library of Congress PT2603.E455P33513 1999 | Dewey Decimal 944.361081
"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.
"Dialectics at a Standstill," by Rolf Tiedemann "The Story of Old Benjamin," by Lisa Fittko
Translators' Notes Guide to Names and Terms Index
Reviews of this book: Benjamin's crowning achievement...The Harvard University Press edition of Benjamin now in monumental progress is an admirably generous undertaking. --George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement
Reviews of this book: Arcades is an assemblage of quotations, notes and theses that wrestle with themselves to extraordinary effect. In his lifetime, Benjamin saw published only the fragmentary collection One-Way Street, and he initially conceived The Arcades Project as a continuation of that book'It is a privilege, through this collection, to gain access to the workings of such a distinctive mind. --Guy Mannes Abbott, New Statesman
Reviews of this book: Some of us don't read fiction. We live on history, biography, criticism, reporting and what used to be called belles-lettres. We will be feasting on Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project for years to come. Just published in its first full English edition, The Arcades Project should also win readers with broader tastes. By any standard, the appearance of this long-awaited work is a towering literary event. A sprawling, fragmented meditation on the ethos of 19th-century Paris, The Arcades Project was left incomplete on Benjamin's death in 1940. In recent decades, as portions of the book have appeared in English, the unfinished opus has acquired legendary status. The Arcades Project surpasses its legend. It captures the relationship between a writer and a city in a form as richly developed as those presented in the great cosmopolitan novels of Proust, Joyce, Musil and Isherwood. Those who fall under Benjamin's spell may find themselves less willing to suspend their disbelief in fiction. The city will offer sufficient fantasy to meet most needs. --Herbert Muschamp, New York Times
Reviews of this book: At last, we can glimpse Benjamin's avowed masterpiece, The Arcades Project, and pay homage to this strange, vulnerable man, for whom letters and thought and books were everything. It was thirteen years in the making, and scribbled beneath the 'painted sky of summer'--the huge ceiling mural of Paris' BibliothÃƒÂ¨que Nationale...Benjamin claimed The Arcades Project was 'the theater of all my struggles and all my ideas.' This struggle, and those ideas, aimed to chronicle the whole history of the nineteenth century, over which Paris, majestically, presided, whose arcades symbolized the city's heart laid bare...Harvard's Belknap [Press] is brave to publish such an esoteric and pricey specimen. Along with its two recent volumes of Benjamin's Selected Writings, and with a concluding collection in its way soon, we are now much better able to assess the man--foibles and all--and his legacy as a creative whole. --Andy Merrifield, The Nation
Reviews of this book: The Arcades Project was a legend before it became a book...This large volume reproduces every relevant scrap in the Benjamin archives, reprinting, verbatim, every entry in the more than 30 notebooks that Benjamin had meticulously maintained to organize his observations and pertinent passages from books pertaining to a variety of different topics and themes, from 'Fashion' and 'Boredom' to 'Barricade Fighting' and 'the Seine.' --James Miller, New York Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: [Benjamin's] style of writing has a narcotic effect that soon envelops the reader in Parisian ambiance. Picking up The Arcades Project is like visiting a ghostly city. One becomes familiar with its thematic streets and alleys, its peculiar cultural constructs, its architecture, and its literatures...The Arcades Project is indeed a sort of magic encyclopedia, freeing its subject from traditional historical and literary interpretations and re-inventing it as a living, breathing picture. It is a maze of small revelations, its pages as seductive and confused as the streets, dreams, and arcades of Paris. --Jason Cons, Boston Book Review
Reviews of this book: A painstaking act of literary reconstruction has fleshed out Walter Benjamin's lost masterpiece...We may consider here Benjamin's wonderful remark that 'knowledge comes only in lightning flashes. The text is the long roll of thunder that follows.' The Arcades Project is the reverberation of that thunder in a thousand different directions...This posthumous volume suggests that, in its incomplete and fissiparous state, his reflections are themselves an unflawed mirror for the world which he was attempting to explore. He seems to have retrieved everything, and anticipated everything. --Peter Ackroyd, The Times
Reviews of this book: [Benjamin's] magnum opus, The Arcades Project, has finally been translated into English...If the low price for such a large academic volume is anything to go by, the publishers expect this to be a major event. --Julian Roberts, The Guardian
Reviews of this book: Benjamin was a vital member of what cultural and art historian Robert Hughes has called the 'modernist laboratory' of the early part of the 20th century, and, like Virginia Woolf or Paul Cezanne or any other modernist worth her salt, his masterwork presents its own form as worthy of as much interest as its content...Fragment or not, The Arcades Project is a vast creative work that is one part realist novel, one part cultural anthropology, and one part social history and critique. --Matt Weiland, National and Financial Post
Reviews of this book: Walter's Benjamin's The Arcades Project, a doorstopper of a book by one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, starts with the specifics of the technologically innovative Parisian shopping arcade, then spins off into a vast and complex universe of ideas about art, architecture, politics and consumer culture. Not unlike the novels of Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon, The Arcades Project uses the template of the past to demystify the present. --Joe Uris, Portland Oregonian
Reviews of this book: Because his ideas never cohered into a doctrine, The Arcades remained a treatise about everything that never amounted to anything. But, like the vanished bohemia it documented in such obsessive detail, this ruin of a book has its own sublime grandeur. --Daniel Johnson, Daily Telegraph
Reviews of this book: This is a treasure: a translation of Benjamin's great unfinished--and unfinishable--work, a study of the imagination in nineteenth-century Paris, the capital of the nineteenth century, and hence an archaeology of our own strange and wondrous 'consumer society.' --ChristianityToday.com
Reviews of this book: The Arcades Project is truly a kaleidoscopic montage of a dream of the meanings of society, a dream deferred by the advance of Nazis into Paris. In 1940, when Benjamin fled, he left behind the sprawling, incomplete masterpiece he had begun in 1927. But by then, it had already become, he wrote, 'the theater of all my struggles and all my ideas.' --Forrest Gander, Providence Journal-Bulletin
Reviews of this book: Finally available in English, Walter Benjamin's study of nineteenth-century Paris is brilliant...Benjamin wrote many marvelous essays in the 1930s, but his main energy went into a giant enterprise that he called 'the Arcades project.' The forerunners of modern-day department stores, the arcades of nineteenth-century Paris were arched passageways with shops on each side. Benjamin was confident that the book would be his masterpiece. Not only would it grasp the structure of life and thought and art in Paris circa 1848, it would explain all modern art, politics, and life...Harvard University Press has given [The Arcades Project] to us in English in a sumptuous volume. --Marshall Berman, Metropolis
Reviews of this book: If The Arcades Project is still worth reading today, it is not only for the quixotic pleasures of its dead ends, but for the traces of hope it finds within 'the guilty context of the living' (as Benjamin wrote elsewhere). Through an analysis of the 'collective dream' of the 19th century, Benjamin hopes to liberate the 20th. --Diana George, The Stranger
Reviews of this book: [Readers can] enjoy the book's open-endedness and follow personal itineraries...As Harvard gradually publishes his collected works, Benjamin's strengths become evident. --Andrew Mead, Architects Journal
Reviews of this book: Because of its standing as Benjamin's final, and unfinished, work, this tome will prove a curious blessing for those wearing the right equipment...This kaleidoscopic work is arranged in 36 categories with such loosely descriptive headings as 'Prostitution,' 'Boredom,' 'Catacombs,' 'Dream City,' and 'Theory of Progress.' It makes sense why Benjamin would refer to this work as 'the theater of all of my struggles and ideas.' Everything seems to be in there, making it at once awe-inspiring and inscrutable in its present form. Had the war not kept him from its final flower, this theater might have been one of the greatest intellectual works of the century. As it stands, it is merely brilliant. --Kirkus Reviews
Reviews of this book: Now, at last, American readers too have access to [Benjamin's] final, great unfinished work in an edition that is both well translated and helpfully annotated by the editor of the German edition, Rolf Tiedemann. In 1927, Benjamin began taking notes for a book that would critique the cultural, politic, artistic and commercial life of Paris, a city Benjamin thought of as the 'capital of the nineteenth century'...This edition is comprised of the fastidious notes he made from this never-completed study...His perspective is largely Marxist, but not in any conventional or dogmatic sense. Benjamin's chief virtue is an uncanny originality of vision and insight that transcends the constraints of ideology. --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: The Arcades Project, which Benjamin worked on for 13 years before his death, was an attempt to capture the reality that he believed underlay the political, economic, and technological world of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the phenomenon of the Paris arcades, Benjamin saw a turning away from a communal society based on mutual concern to one based on material well-being and economic gain. To fortify his argument, Benjamin used quotations from a variety of published literary, philosophical, and artistic sources and added his own reflections and commentary. Because of Benjamin's untimely and tragic death, this is not a finished work, but, nonetheless, the architectonic of the whole is impressive in its breadth and as an attempt at historical comprehension. Also included is a poignant, beautifully written eyewitness account of Benjamin's last days and hours. --Leon H. Brody, Library Journal
Reviews of this book: Presenting some wonderful social history, The Arcades Project is an incomparable work that only Benjamin could have written. It permits readers who would otherwise never have the luxury of comprehension to examine the workings of one of the most remarkable thinkers of 20th-century Europe. --S. Gittleman, Choice
Reviews of this book: [This] edition does a fine job with this wild, often intractable material. Its apparatus is helpful, and properly spare'By and large, the edition is a heroic achievement. --T.J. Clark, London Review of Books
Reviews of this book: Walter Benjamin's effort to unlock the mystery of industrial culture became his central mission, which he pursued by combing the streets of the Paris he loved--or, more exactly, by combing old books about these streets. The materials he culled from these books and his commentary on them constitute The Arcades Project, his masterpiece, which he worked on for 13 years...For students of urban life and industrial culture, The Arcades Project is a gold mine of insights and apercus. --Los Angeles Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: "[The Arcades Project] suggests a new way of writing about a civilization using its rubbish as materials rather than its artworks: history from below rather than above. And [Benjamin's] call elsewhere for a history centered on the sufferings of the vanquished, rather than on the achievements of the victors, is prophetic of the way in which history writing has begun to think of itself in our lifetime..."What does The Arcades Project have to offer? The briefest of lists would include: a treasure hoard of curious information about Paris, a multitude of thought-provoking questions, the harvest of an acute and idiosyncratic mind's trawl through thousands of books, succinct observations, polished to a high aphoristic sheen, on a range of subjects...and glimpses of Benjamin toying with a new way of seeing himself: as a compiler of a 'magic encyclopedia'...[A] magnificent opus." --J. M. Coetzee, The Guardian
Reviews of this book: Whether the theme is fashion, collecting, gambling--or any other key to the period--Benjamin lays out a gripping commentary on each. The result is a city-in-miniature. But it is the method underpinning the work that is perhaps the most interesting. In the methodological convolute 'N' Benjamin refers to it as a form of 'literary montage'--Benjamin's shorthand way of saying that each convolute is composed of numerous quotations which are lifted from various sources and then spliced together on the same page. The method enables Benjamin to blast away at received notions of art and cultural history...Besides a useful introduction, this first English edition also contains a number of early drafts and the as yet untranslated second expos' from 1939. Together, these pieces give an insight into Benjamin's anarchic working method, whereby he constantly reshuffles his material. --Alex Coles, Parachute
Quite simply, the Passagen-Werk is one of the twentieth century's great efforts at historical comprehension--some would say the greatest. --T. J. Clark
Benjamin's work is the most advanced, most complex, and most comprehensive study of the dominant motifs and unresolved tendencies of the nineteenth century that continue to be of critical importance for us today. No other study has measured up to its methodological inventiveness, or so exemplarily met its demand that history writing be reinvented for every topic and on every occasion. --Werner Hamacher
Knowledge of The Arcades Project is essential for a full comprehension of Benjamin's intentions and achievement in the 1930s--especially his highly original and influential attempt to define the idea of the modern. --Michael W. Jennings
In Archiveology Catherine Russell uses the work of Walter Benjamin to explore how the practice of archiveology—the reuse, recycling, appropriation, and borrowing of archival sounds and images by filmmakers—provides ways to imagine the past and the future. Noting how the film archive does not function simply as a place where moving images are preserved, Russell examines a range of films alongside Benjamin's conceptions of memory, document, excavation, and historiography. She shows how city films such as Nicole Védrès's Paris 1900 (1947) and Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) reconstruct notions of urban life and uses Christian Marclay's The Clock (2010) to draw parallels between critical cinephilia and Benjamin's theory of the phantasmagoria. Russell also discusses practices of collecting in archiveological film and rereads films by Joseph Cornell and Rania Stephan to explore an archival practice that dislocates and relocates the female image in film. In so doing, she not only shows how Benjamin's work is as relevant to film theory as ever; she shows how archiveology can awaken artists and audiences to critical forms of history and memory.
Baroque New Worlds traces the changing nature of Baroque representation in Europe and the Americas across four centuries, from its seventeenth-century origins as a Catholic and monarchical aesthetic and ideology to its contemporary function as a postcolonial ideology aimed at disrupting entrenched power structures and perceptual categories. Baroque forms are exuberant, ample, dynamic, and porous, and in the regions colonized by Catholic Europe, the Baroque was itself eventually colonized. In the New World, its transplants immediately began to reflect the cultural perspectives and iconographies of the indigenous and African artisans who built and decorated Catholic structures, and Europe’s own cultural products were radically altered in turn. Today, under the rubric of the Neobaroque, this transculturated Baroque continues to impel artistic expression in literature, the visual arts, architecture, and popular entertainment worldwide.
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
This book brings together two of the most important figures of twentieth-century criticism, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, to consider a topic that was central to their thinking: the place of and reason for art in society and culture. Thijs Lijster takes us through points of agreement and disagreement between the two on such key topics as the relationship between art and historical experience, between avant-garde art and mass culture, and between the intellectual and the public. He also addresses the continuing relevance of Benjamin and Adorno to ongoing debates in contemporary aesthetics, such as the end of art, the historical meaning of art, and the role of the critic.
Walter Benjamin (1896-1940) has been called by Hannah Arendt the "greatest critic of the century." While an increasing number of Anglo-American literary critics draw upon Benjamin's writings in their own works, their colleagues in the philosophical community remain relatively unacquainted with his legacy. In the European intellectual world, by contrast, Benjamin's critical epistemological program, his philosophies of history and language, and his aesthetics have long since become part of philosophical discourse. The present collection of articles, many of which were contained in earlier versions in the Winter 1983 special issue of the journal The Philosophical Forum, initiates the project of establishing Benjamin's importance to philosophy.
A balance of original work by Benjamin and important commentary on his works, this volume includes the crucial chapter from Benjamin's magnum opus The Arcades Project, his "Program of the Coming Philosophy," and "Central Park," as well as essays by leading scholars (including Theodor W. Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, and Rolf Tiedemann) that treat single philosophical themes and relate his ideas to those of other thinkers such as Gadamer, Goodmann, and Rosenzweig. Gary Smith's introduction to the volume provides an extremely useful and sophisticated entrée for readers unaccustomed to the breadth of Benjamin's philosophical allusions, as well as an informative summation of the contents of the volume. This book will be of interest to philosophers, literary theorists, art historians, anthropologists, and other social scientists.
Samuel Weber Harvard University Press, 2008 Library of Congress B3209.B584W43 2008 | Dewey Decimal 193
In this book, Weber, a leading theorist on literature and media, reveals a new and productive aspect of Benjamin's thought by focusing the critical suffix "-ability" that Benjamin so tellingly deploys in his work. 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.
What is it like to travel to Berlin today, particularly as a Jew, and bring with you the baggage of history? And what happens when an American Jew, raised by a secular family, falls in love with Berlin not in spite of his being a Jew but because of it? The answer is Berlin for Jews. Part history and part travel companion, Leonard Barkan’s personal love letter to the city shows how its long Jewish heritage, despite the atrocities of the Nazi era, has left an inspiring imprint on the vibrant metropolis of today.
Barkan, voraciously curious and witty, offers a self-deprecating guide to the history of Jewish life in Berlin, revealing how, beginning in the early nineteenth century, Jews became prominent in the arts, the sciences, and the city’s public life. With him, we tour the ivy-covered confines of the Schönhauser Allee cemetery, where many distinguished Jewish Berliners have been buried, and we stroll through Bayerisches Viertel, an elegant neighborhood created by a Jewish developer and that came to be called Berlin’s “Jewish Switzerland.” We travel back to the early nineteenth century to the salon of Rahel Varnhagen, a Jewish society doyenne, who frequently hosted famous artists, writers, politicians, and the occasional royal. Barkan also introduces us to James Simon, a turn-of-the-century philanthropist and art collector, and we explore the life of Walter Benjamin, who wrote a memoir of his childhood in Berlin as a member of the assimilated Jewish upper-middle class. Throughout, Barkan muses about his own Jewishness, while celebrating the rich Jewish culture on view in today’s Berlin.
A winning, idiosyncratic travel companion, Berlin for Jews offers a way to engage with German history, to acknowledge the unspeakable while extolling the indelible influence of Jewish culture.
Called “the most important critic of his time” by Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin has only become more influential over the years, as his work has assumed a crucial place in current debates over the interactions of art, culture, and meaning. A “natural and extraordinary talent for letter writing was one of the most captivating facets of his nature,” writes Gershom Scholem in his Foreword to this volume; and Benjamin's correspondence reveals the evolution of some of his most powerful ideas, while also offering an intimate picture of Benjamin himself and the times in which he lived.
Writing at length to Scholem and Theodor Adorno, and exchanging letters with Rainer Maria Rilke, Hannah Arendt, Max Brod, and Bertolt Brecht, Benjamin elaborates on his ideas about metaphor and language. He reflects on literary figures from Kafka to Karl Kraus, and expounds his personal attitudes toward such subjects as Marxism and French national character. Providing an indispensable tool for any scholar wrestling with Benjamin’s work, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, 1910–1940 is a revelatory look at the man behind much of the twentieth century’s most significant criticism.
Dreamworlds of Alabama
Allen Shelton University of Minnesota Press, 2007 Library of Congress F334.J33S54 2007 | Dewey Decimal 976.163
“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.
Known for his essays on culture, aesthetics, and literature, Walter Benjamin also wrote on the philosophy of language. For Alexander Stern, his famously obscure—and, for some, hopelessly mystical—early work contains important insights, anticipating and in some respects surpassing Wittgenstein’s later thinking on the philosophy of language.
In Five Portraits, one of the most acute critical thinkers of our time presents essays on five of the most important writers of the past hundred years: Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Celan, Robert Musil, Martin Heidegger, and Walter Benjamin. The result is a remarkable examination of a moment when these writers, caught between the dream of creating an abiding masterpiece and the reality of a brutal culture fascinated by apocalyptic catastrophe, deliberately put themselves and their work at the center of the storm. Written in elegant and jargon-free prose, Michael Andre Bernstein's essays create a vivid image of an epoch whose aspirations and torments continues to shape the world we inhabit today.
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.
Djerassi’s extensive biographical research brings to light many fascinating details revealed in the dialogues among the characters, including Adorno’s obsession with his dreams, Benjamin’s admiration for Franz Kafka, and the intimate correspondence between Gretel Adorno and Walter Benjamin. The introduction of a fictitious character, Fräulein X, intensifies the complex interplay among the four lead protagonists and allows for a comparison of Adorno’s philandering and the similar behavior of Martin Heidegger, whose affair with Hannah Arendt is well known. Foreplay brims with intrigue and the friction created when strong personalities clash.
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.
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
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
Reviews of this book: For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Selected Writings: Volume 2, spanning the period from his abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows the writer at his sparkling best...All his published work of this time is included here, from a few longer essays on themes as varied as the history of photography and Kafka to three-page pieces on recent French fiction, art history, 'the crisis of the novel,' food and the effects of hashish. The new book also includes a generous selection of Benjamin's notes, diary entries and drafts. Interesting in themselves, and indispensable to anyone seeking insight into Benjamin's thinking, they also offer a view of the writer at work, developing different aspects of a thought or recycling successful paragraphs from one assignment to another. --Paul Mattick, New York Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: Volume 2 of the Harvard edition, a welcome project that I cannot praise enough, is filled with astonishingly 'annihilating trivia,' as astonishing, I dare say, as Benjamin's half-dozen fully realized monographs. Thanks to it, his luminosity, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of his premature death, is happily in focus. --Ilan Stavans, Forward
Reviews of this book: The period from 1927 to 1934 spanned in this volume was for Walter Benjamin both grievous and fertile...The range of topics and perspectives is immense. It extends from considerations on kitsch and pornography to repeated encounters, personal or indirect, with Gide, Kierkegaard and surrealism. The cultural history of toys fascinates Benjamin as he records his own Berlin childhood. Insights into 'Left-Wing Melancholy' alternate with thoughts on Mickey Mouse, on Chaplin, and on graphology, which Benjamin practised to eke out his earnings. --George Steiner, The Observer
Reviews of this book: No matter how seemingly idiosyncratic the topic, Benjamin drills deep until, almost invariably, he excavates prose that sparkles with a high specific density: hard aphoristically gem-like, and often brilliant...Benjamin's Selected Writings, Volume 2, should, I think, bowl over and beguile any who, caring about the life of the mind, have not yet succumbed to the bearish charms of this gloomy observer of his besotted times. Wherever he turned his incisive gaze the clarity of morning's first light shines forth. --Haim Chertok, Jerusalem Post
Reviews of this book: While the Harvard series [of Walter Benjamin's writings includes] Benjamin's epochal contributions to Marxist theory and literary criticism, they also do English-language readers a great service by emphasizing his more accessible writings: fanciful personal essays, journalistic articles and book reviews. These pieces are, at times, giddily delightful; at other moments, they offer lightening-quick, piercing insights. Particularly surprising are the writings on food, such as an account of buying a bunch of figs from an open-air market and consuming them all in a frenzy. Benjamin concludes that one only understands the essence of a given food when one continues to eat it past the point of disgust. --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: This second volume of [Walter Benjamin's] selected writings covers all aspects of the time, with the great figures of European thought in the background. Surrealism, Russian films, Chaplin, Keller, Kafka, Gide, Proust, hashish, children's toys and literature, Hoffmansthal, travel, Goethe, Berlin life, radio talks, Stefan George--it is all here and all living...This volume cannot be praised too highly. --Gene Shaw, Library Journal
More Than Life: Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin on Art is the first book to trace the philosophical relation between Georg Simmel and his one-time student Walter Benjamin, two of the most influential German thinkers of the twentieth century.
Reading Simmel’s work, particularly his essays on Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rodin, alongside Benjamin’s concept of Unscheinbarkeit (inconspicuousness) and his writings on Charlie Chaplin, More Than Life demonstrates that both Simmel and Benjamin conceive of art as the creation of something entirely new rather than as a mimetic reproduction of a given. The two thinkers diverge in that Simmel emphasizes the presence of a continuous movement of life, whereas Benjamin highlights the priority of discontinuous, interruptive moments.
With the aim of further elucidating Simmel and Benjamin’s ideas on art, Stéphane Symons presents a number of in-depth analyses of specific artworks that were not discussed by these authors. Through an insightful examination of both the conceptual affinities and the philosophical differences between Simmel and Benjamin , Symons reconstructs a crucial episode in twentieth-century debates on art and aesthetics.
Walter Benjamin Harvard University Press, 1986 Library of Congress PT2603.E455Z4713 1986 | Dewey Decimal 838.91203
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 Lacis, 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 Lacis 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.
Reviews of this book: "The German literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin, who died in 1940, was one of Europe's grandest thinkers. This diary covers only two months in the winter of 1926-1927, but it feels like a lifetime. His meticulous, almost macabre attention to detail gives his perceptions a kind of scientific brilliance, whether he is describing the streets of the city, a curious shop sign, the sanatorium where his friend Asja Lacis is a patient, the wash table in his hotel room, or the ragged beds that stand at every street corner in `the open air sick bay called Moscow.' The book is a supreme example of the kind of mental equipment any traveller would like to take with him, to any place."
--The Independent [UK]
"[An] unsurpassably quirky memoir of Bolshevik literati as Stalin consolidated power."
"In the '20s and '30s, [Benjamin] was a Jew in Berlin, a visitor to the Russian Revolution, a refugee in France, a citizen of the world in flames. More a man of letters than scholar, and more poet than either one, he wandered through Western culture as if it had been destroyed centuries earlier, and he were a revenant poking through its remains. He amassed quotations and collected books and toys, with no illusion of finding a living civilization, but seeking the artifacts of a shattered one...Love, mixed with obsession, is at the heart of Moscow Diary, the private record of Benjamin's two-month visit to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1926. Edited and with an afterword by Gary Smith and lucidly translated by Richard Sieburth, it is a many-faceted jewel: a portrait of the Russian revolution in its still unsettled transition to Stalinism, a vivid picture of Moscow life, Benjamin's intellectual journal, and above all, the tragicomic story of his pursuit of the Estonian actress, Lacis Asja."
--Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Moscow Diary is chiefly interesting not for what it tells us about Moscow during December 1926 but for what it tells us about Walter Benjamin, who has by now emerged as both a major figure in modern German literature and criticism and as the preeminent poet-historian of the modern European city. Moscow Diary is the longest of Benjamin's autobiographical writings...[Benjamin's] insights into Russia's struggle to define its cultural identity are often compelling. Above all, the Diary is the story of the triangle among Benjamin, Asja, and the expatriate German playwright Bernhard Reich. Their story of emotional instabilities and obstacles provides a fascinating counterpart to the story of Russia's cultural dilemma. The edition is superbly translated, annotated, and illustrated, and contains a fine preface and afterword."
In his Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke suggests that animals enjoy direct access to a realm of being—the open—concealed from humans by the workings of consciousness and self-consciousness. In his own reading of Rilke, Martin Heidegger reclaims the open as the proper domain of human existence but suggests that human life remains haunted by vestiges of an animal-like relation to its surroundings. Walter Benjamin, in turn, was to show that such vestiges—what Eric Santner calls the creaturely—have a biopolitical aspect: they are linked to the processes that inscribe life in the realm of power and authority.
Santner traces this theme of creaturely life from its poetic and philosophical beginnings in the first half of the twentieth century to the writings of the enigmatic German novelist W. G. Sebald. Sebald’s entire oeuvre, Santner argues, can be seen as an archive of creaturely life. For Sebald, the work on such an archive was inseparable from his understanding of what it means to engage ethically with another person’s history and pain, an engagement that transforms us from indifferent individuals into neighbors.
An indispensable book for students of Sebald, On Creaturely Life is also a significant contribution to critical theory.
Walter Benjamin’s 1931 essay “A Short History of Photography” is a landmark in the understanding and criticism of the medium, offering surprising new takes on such photographic pioneers as David Octavius Hill and Nicéphore Niépce and their aesthetic and technical achievements.
On Photography presents a new translation of that essay along with a number of other writings by Benjamin, some of them presented in English for the first time. Translator and editor Esther Leslie sets Benjamin’s work in context with prefaces to each piece and contributes a substantial introduction that considers Benjamin’s engagement with photography in all its forms, including early commercial studio photography, the uses of photography in science, and much more.
Walter Benjamin Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PN6283.B413 2016 | Dewey Decimal 838.91209
Presented in a new edition with expanded notes, this genre-defying meditation on the semiotics of late-1920s Weimar culture, composed of 60 short prose pieces that vary wildly in style and theme, offers a fresh opportunity to encounter Walter Benjamin at his most virtuosic and experimental, writing in a vein that anticipates later masterpieces.
Focusing on the 17th-century play of mourning, Walter Benjamin identifies allegory as the constitutive trope of modernity, bespeaking a haunted, bedeviled world of mutability and eternal transience. In this rigorous elegant translation, history as trauerspiel is the condition as well as subject of modern allegory in its inscription of the abyssal.
Photography has transformed the way we picture ourselves. Although photographs seem to "prove" our existence at a given point in time, they also demonstrate the impossibility of framing our multiple and fragmented selves. As Linda Haverty Rugg convincingly shows, photography's double take on self-image mirrors the concerns of autobiographers, who see the self as simultaneously divided (in observing/being) and unified by the autobiographical act.
Rugg tracks photography's impact on the formation of self-image through the study of four literary autobiographers concerned with the transformative power of photography. Obsessed with self-image, Mark Twain and August Strindberg both attempted (unsuccessfully) to integrate photographs into their autobiographies. While Twain encouraged photographers, he was wary of fakery and kept a fierce watch on the distribution of his photographic image. Strindberg, believing that photographs had occult power, preferred to photograph himself.
Because of their experiences under National Socialism, Walter Benjamin and Christa Wolf feared the dangerously objectifying power of photographs and omitted them from their autobiographical writings. Yet Benjamin used them in his photographic conception of history, which had its testing ground in his often-ignored Berliner Kindheit um 1900. And Christa Wolf's narrator in Patterns of Childhood attempts to reclaim her childhood from the Nazis by reconstructing mental images of lost family photographs.
Confronted with multiple and conflicting images of themselves, all four of these writers are torn between the knowledge that texts, photographs, and indeed selves are haunted by undecidability and the desire for the returned glance of a single self.
In readings of Walter Benjamin's work, religion often marks a boundary between scholarly camps, but it rarely receives close and sustained scrutiny. Benjamin's most influential writings pertain to modern art and culture, but he frequently used religious language while rejecting both secularism and religious revival. Benjamin was, in today's terms, postsecular. Postsecular Benjamin explicates Benjamin's engagements with religious traditions as resources for contemporary debates on secularism, conflict, and identity. Brian Britt argues that what animates this work on tradition is the question of human agency, which he pursues through lively and sustained experimentation with ways of thinking, reading, and writing.
Walter Benjamin Harvard University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PT2603.E455A26 1996 | Dewey Decimal 838.91209
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.
Table of Contents:
Paris Old and New, 1935 Brecht's Threepenny Novel Johann Jakob Bachofen Conversation above the Corso: Recollections of Carnival-Time in Nice Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century Exchange with Theodor W. Adorno on the Essay "Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century" Problems in the Sociology of Language: An Overview The Formula in Which the Dialectical Structure of Film Finds Expression Rastelli's Story
Art In a Technological Age, 1936 The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Second Version A Different Utopian Will The Significance of Beautiful Semblance The Signatures of the Age Theory of Distraction The Storyteller: Observations on the Works of Nikolai Leskov German Men and Women: A Sequence of Letters Letter from Paris (2): Painting and Photography Translation'For and Against The Knowledge That the First Material on Which the Mimetic Faculty Tested Itself
Dialectics and History, 1937 Addendum to the Brecht Commentary: The Threepenny Opera Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian
Fruits of Exile, 1938 (Part 1) Theological-Political Fragment A German Institute for Independent Research Review of Brod's Franz Kafka Letter to Gershom Scholem on Franz Kafka The Land Where the Proletariat May Not Be Mentioned: The Premiere of Eight One-Act Plays by Brecht Diary Entries, 1938 Berlin Childhood around 1900
Reviews of this book: This latest volume of Harvard's majestic annotated edition of the essays and fragments includes reflections on Brecht, Kafka and the collector Eduard Fuchs, an early version of the famous analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction (here more accurately translated as "technological reproducibility") and the equally exhilarating inquiry into the nature of narrative, "The Storyteller." You feel smarter just holding this book in your hand. --Michael Dirda, Washington Post
Reviews of this book: Over the past few years, Harvard's systematic presentation of the work of German cultural critic Benjamin has proved a revelation...This third of four planned volumes...offers two major texts that are new to English...as well as a fascinating re-translation of one of the cornerstones of Benjamin's reputation, here rendered as the essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility"...This is another splendid volume that will leave aficionados on campus and off awaiting the final installment. --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: For those who know only the small selection of essays and longer texts previously translated into English, this book may be a revelation. Volume 2 of the Selected Writings, spanning the period form Benjamin's abandonment of academia and his emergence as an important literary journalist in 1927 to his near silencing after the Nazis seized power and his exile in 1934, shows the writer at his sparkling best. --Paul Mattick, New York Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: While the Harvard Series does include Benjamin's epochal contributions to Marxist theory and literary criticism, it also does English-language readers a great service by emphasizing his more accessible writings: fanciful personal essays, journalistic articles, and book reviews. These pieces are, at times, giddily delightful; at other moments, they offer lightning-quick, piercing insights. --Publishers Weekly
Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project suggests that space can become a storyteller: if so, plenty of fleeting stories can be read in the space of modernity, where repetition and the unexpected cross-pollinate. In Space as Storyteller, Laura Chiesa explores several stories across a wide range of time that narrate spatial jumps, from Benjamin's tangential take on the cityscape, the experimentalism of Futurist theatricality, the multiple and potential atlases narrated by Italo Calvino and Georges Perec, and the posturban thought and practice of Bernard Tschumi and Rem Koolhaas/OMA. Space as Storyteller diverts attention from isolated disciplines and historical or geographical contexts toward transdisciplinary encounters that mobilize the potential to invent new spaces of comparison, a potential the author describes as "architecturability."
Interruption is often read as the foundational gesture of modernity--the means through which modernity asserts its existence by claiming its discontinuity with the past. Exposing the limitations of such an understanding, this book offers a very different approach: here, modernity is the site that poses the question of how we are to continue when every attempt to think and understand the present is marked by the necessity of an interruption. Through a reading of Walter Benjamin's writings--particularly on interruption, fashion, and Jugendstil (or Art Nouveau)--Andrew Benjamin in this work offers a sustained meditation on the role of interruption in modernity. His book departs from and elaborates an important but overlooked dimension of Benjamin's discourse: the question of style as it bears upon temporality and spatiality. Extending this meditation in exciting and unexpected ways--toward problems of cosmopolitanism, immigration, and the graphically pornographic, for instance--the author is able to translate Benjamin's multifaceted formulations on style, the dialectical image, awakening, temporality, and spatiality into lucid and highly intelligent stylistics underscoring the philosophical notions of Schein and Erscheining, the interruptions of modernity, and the politics of sameness and otherness.
Nothing less than a rethinking of the conditions of Western art as it relates to politics, architecture, and time, this study of Walter Benjamin's modernity in temporal and spatial terms is a provocative and original work of philosophy in its own right--a work that suggests that the time has come to revise existing paradigms.
“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.
Howard Eiland Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PT2603.E455Z6455 2013 | Dewey Decimal 838.91209
Walter Benjamin was perhaps the twentieth century's most elusive intellectual. His writings defy categorization, and his improvised existence has proven irresistible to mythologizers. In a major new biography, Howard Eiland and Michael Jennings present a comprehensive portrait of the man and his times, as well as extensive commentary on his work.
Eli Friedlander Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress B3209.B584F75 2011 | Dewey Decimal 193
Walter Benjamin is often viewed as a cultural critic who produced a vast array of brilliant, 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 finds an overarching coherence and a deep-seated commitment to engage the philosophical tradition.
Drawing upon a wealth of journal writings and personal correspondence, Esther Leslie presents a uniquely intimate portrait of one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin. She sets his life in the context of his middle-class upbringing; explores the social, political, and economic upheaval in Germany during and after World War I; and recounts Benjamin’s eccentric love of toys, trick-books, travel, and ships. From the Frankfurt School and his influential friendships with Theodore Adorno, Gershom Scholem, and Bertolt Brecht, to his travels across Europe, Walter Benjamin traces out the roots of Benjamin’s groundbreaking writings and their far-reaching impact in his own time. Leslie argues that Benjamin’s life challenges the stereotypical narrative of the tragic and lonely intellectual figure—instead positioning him as a man who relished the fierce combat of competing theories and ideas.
Closing with his death at the Spanish-French border in a desperate flight from the Nazis and Stalin, Walter Benjamin is a concise and concentrated account of a capacious intellect trapped by hostile circumstances.
Seven decades after his death, German Jewish writer, philosopher, and literary critic Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) continues to fascinate and influence. Here Uwe Steiner offers a comprehensive and sophisticated introduction to the oeuvre of this intriguing theorist.
Acknowledged only by a small circle of intellectuals during his lifetime, Benjamin is now a major figure whose work is essential to an understanding of modernity. Steiner traces the development of Benjamin’s thought chronologically through his writings on philosophy, literature, history, politics, the media, art, photography, cinema, technology, and theology. Walter Benjamin reveals the essential coherence of its subject’s thinking while also analyzing the controversial or puzzling facets of Benjamin’s work. That coherence, Steiner contends, can best be appreciated by placing Benjamin in his proper context as a member of the German philosophical tradition and a participant in contemporary intellectual debates.
As Benjamin’s writing attracts more and more readers in the English-speaking world, Walter Benjamin will be a valuable guide to this fascinating body of work.
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.
Walter Benjamin for Children
, 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.
"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.
On Some Motifs in Baudelaire "The Regression of Poetry," by Carl Gustav Jochmann Curriculum Vitae (VI): Dr. Walter Benjamin On Scheerbart On the Concept of History Paralipomena to "On the Concept of History" Letter to Theodor W. Adorno on Baudelaire, George, and Hofmannsthal
A Note on the Texts Chronology List of Writings in Volumes 1-4 Index
Reviews of this book: Harvard's systematic presentation of the work of German cultural critic Benjamin has proved a revelation...This is another splendid volume. --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: Readers new to Benjamin will find this a welcome introduction to a challenging but rewarding writer. Those already familiar with his work will be grateful to be reminded, once again, of the wisdom of his maxium, "all the decisive blows are struckleft-handed." --Graham McCann, Financial Times
Reviews of this book: The edition at hand...represents the first serious attempt to present his works with systematic chronology, judicious but inclusive selection, and sensitively accurate translation. The effect is nothing less than electric. --Peter Brier, Macgrill's Literary Annual
Reviews of this book: The latest volume of Havard's majestic annoted edition [is] exhilarating...You feel smarter just holding this book in your hand. --Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World
Reviews of this book: Whenever [Benjamin] turned his incisive gaze...the clarity of morning's first light shines forth. --Haim Chertok, Jerusalem Post
Reviews of this book: A glance at the table of contents...shows us at once Benjamin's provocativeness and his infinite variety. --Marshall Berman, The Nation
Reviews of this book: There is nothing like Benjamin, and I can hardly imagine a more rewarding book being published this year. --David Wheatley, Irish Times (Dublin)
Reviews of this book: The final volume in this collection of the German philosopher's writing, this title covers the last three years of Benjamin's life and is masterfully translated, edited, and annotated. Presented here are Benjamin's grandest themes: the arcades of Paris, Baudelaire, the concept of remembrance, and materialist theology. Also included is the third version of Benjamin's most famous essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," which was unpublished in the author's lifetime. This essay alone makes the volume indispensable for any scholar of interwar literature, philosophy, or modern European thought. Together with the first three volumes in the set (1996-2002), this is one of the most remarkable editorial achievements in contemporary thought and politics. --M. Uebel, Choice
Reviews of this book: Walter Benjamin's Selected Writings, Volume 4, 1938-40 brings to a conclusion the magisterial series published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. --Ciaran Carson, The Guardian