Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (New York Review Books Classics)

Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (New York Review Books Classics)
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Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview Gershom Scholem is celebrated as the twentieth century's most profound student of the Jewish mystical tradition; Walter Benjamin, as a master thinker whose extraordinary essays mix the revolutionary, the revelatory, and the esoteric. Product Details About the Author. About the Author Gershom Scholem was born in Berlin, educated at the universities of Jena and Bern, and emigrated to Palestine in , where he devoted himself to the study of the Jewish mystical tradition and the Kabbala.

One of the greatest scholars of the twentieth century, admired both for his philological prowess and his philosophical insight, Scholem was the author of many books, including Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah , and On Jews and Judaism in Crisis , a collection of autobiographical writings and essays on Zionism. Show More. Average Review.

Write a Review. Related Searches. This brutally gripping novel about the African-American Great Migration follows the three Moss brothers, who This brutally gripping novel about the African-American Great Migration follows the three Moss brothers, who flee the rural South to work in industries up North. The error—as Benjamin had previously charged the Early German Romantics, discussed above—is to dissolve real and important aesthetic structures or forms into an undifferentiated unity of art , which denies their irreducible multiplicity OGT, 43—4.

The theory of Ideas presented in the Prologue is truncated and difficult to understand outside the context of Benjamin's earlier works, and the philosophical tradition that it engages with is further obscured in the English translation.

What drugs taught Walter Benjamin.

However, the critical aspects of Benjamin's investigation advocate—against aesthetic versions of positivist empiricism—a metaphysical realism, and, against certain versions of philosophical idealism, a non-singular essentialism. That is, he does not restrict the possibility of metaphysical reality only to actual empirical particulars and he advocates the multiplicity and not singularity of the essence understood, in Goethean terms, as a harmony and not a unity of truth.

Ideas are not given to some intellectual intuition, but they are capable of being sensuously represented. Such a sensuous representation of the truth remains the task of philosophy. Benjamin's theoretical elaboration proceeds by startling imagistic reconfigurations of pre-existing elements within the philosophical tradition. He offers a number of possibilities for thinking such Ideas in the Prologue, taken from the realm not only of philosophy but of aesthetics, theology and science.

The first is the Platonic Idea, here divorced from its association with the scientific ascent to some purely rational, objective knowledge such as appears in the account of dialectic in the Republic and instead linked to the discussion of beautiful semblance in the Symposium OGT, The second is that of the Adamic Name, as developed in his earlier theory of language. In this context, he comments that the Early German Romantics were frustrated in their attempt to renew the theory of Ideas because truth took on the character of reflective consciousness for them, rather than that intentionless, linguistic character in which things were subsumed under essential Names by Adam's primal-interrogation [ urvernehmen ] OGT, Naming is the primal history [ Urgeschicte ] of signifying, indicating a thing-like disinterest which contrasts with the directed, unifying intentionality of Husserlian phenomenology OGT, Finally, and most famously, Benjamin compares the virtual objectivity of the Idea represented through the reconfiguring of actual phenomena to an astrological constellation, which simultaneously groups together and is revealed by the cluster of individual stars.

Benjamin's concern to reincorporate the perspective of art's temporal transformation demands an analogous radicalization. For the messianic philosophy of history that grounds Benjamin's work problematizes existing formulations of the concepts of history and historical origin. In line with his discussion of the Idea, the concept of historical origin should not be reduced to the causality and actuality of the empirically factual, nor should it be regarded as a purely logical and timeless essence.

Criticism attempts to virtually reassemble the fore- and after-history [ Vor- und Nachgeschichte ] of the phenomena into a historical constellation, in which the Idea is represented and the phenomena redeemed. This is its messianic function in relation to the historical Absolute.

The Prologue also seeks to rescue the allegorical experience recognised in the mourning-plays for a modern theory of criticism. Allegorical contemplation aims at the ruination of things so that it can, in its redemptive moment, construct [ baun ] a new whole out of the elements of the old. The character of this construction distinguishes it from the creative invention of fantasy, since it manipulates and rearranges pre-existing material.

To leave an imprint or impression of this construction [ Konstruktion ] is one of its aims. Weigel , xiv. The underlying affinity between romanticism and the baroque lies in their shared modernist concern with correcting classicism in art and the quasi-mythical perspective of classicism in general OGT, ; Although Benjamin is citing the similarities between Expressionism in modern literature and the Mannerist exaggeration of the baroque, his own reconstruction of allegorical experience and its value for aesthetic theory is experienced according to a historical conjunction between the baroque past and the modernity of Benjamin's present: modernity both reveals and is revealed in the baroque.

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This in part accounts for what T. The city furnishes the sensuous, imagistic material for One-Way Street , whilst the genres of the leaflet, placard and advertisement provide the constructive principle by which it is rearranged as a constellation. This formal methodology resembles the technological media of photography and film, as well as the avant-garde practices of Russian Constructivism and French Surrealism.

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Baudelaire was able to grasp this experience, according to Benjamin, through the contradictory historical temporality that structured his work: at once resolutely modern yet, in its poetic form lyric , already anachronistic. Science Logic and Mathematics. The following morning, suitably bribed, the border police allowed the refugees to cross to safety. It is rather to recognize that finding a material basis for the aspiration to transcend dependent capitalism is a problem of real life, not an academic question. His explication of the implicit metaphysical structure of Goethe's corresponding Ideal of art reveals the contrasting features of his structure of the Absolute: as a sphere of pure content, a medium of destructive refraction , and a plurality of discontinuous archetypes.

The theory of experience outlined in his early writings is enlisted for revolutionary ends. The latent energy residing in the most destitute and outmoded of things is, through the construction of new political constellations, transformed into an intoxicating, revolutionary experience SW 2, All of Benjamin's major essays of the s derived their impetus and orientation from his Arcades work, and served to defer its completion in the act of elaborating its elements.

This deferral was also, in part, the result of a process of maturation—a kind of ripening—immanent to the work itself. The practice of research, conceptual organization and presentation that it involved was self-consciously conceived as a working model for a new, philosophically oriented, materialist historiography with political intent. In this respect, in its very failure to be actualized, it confirmed the fundamental historical and philosophical truth of Benjamin's earlier analysis of the Romantic fragment—extending the genre in a hitherto unimagined way.

In the ebb and flow of its changing rhythms—additions, revisions, reformulations and retrievals—Benjamin's Arcades Project provides an extraordinary case study in the labour of conceptual construction via the configuration and reconfiguration of archival materials. Only since their publication has it been possible to get a clear sense of the overall trajectory of Benjamin's thought during this period—rendering redundant, or at least displacing, many of the polemics associated with previous cycles of reception.

As the project evolved, and in response to the barriers to its realization, Baudelaire thus became increasingly central to Benjamin's thinking. However, to reduce the project to its own, restricted de facto trajectory, rich as it is, does too much violence to the historical and philosophical framework it embodies, from which the material on Baudelaire gains its broader significance.

The two terms, capitalism and modernity, are inextricable for Benjamin in the context of 19th- and early 20th-century Europe. The problem: to dialectically redeem the concept of experience [ Erfahrung ] by finding an appropriate way of experiencing the crisis of experience itself. Herein lay the basis of his friendship with Brecht.

Unlike Brecht, however, he conceived them within the terms of a speculative cultural history Caygill The second is concentrated in readings of Baudelaire and related texts by Nietzsche and Blanqui. The focusing-in on these three thinkers is a focusing-in on the relationship of capitalism to modernity in its purest, nihilistic form. The third is conjured from a reflective conjunction of Marx, Nietzsche and Surrealism. It is the development of the forces of production that is the motor of history. However, Benjamin was no more orthodox a Marxist about technology than he was with regard to the concept of progress, the Marxist version of which the German Social Democratic Party SPD grounded upon it see Section 8, below.

The mastery of nature, so the imperialists teach, is the purpose of all technology [ Technik ]. But …technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and humanity. SW 1, , translation amended. The collective is a body, too.

Walter Benjamin: “A Contradictory and Mobile Whole”

And the physis that is being organized for it in technology can, through all its political and factual reality, only be produced in that image sphere to which profane illumination initiates us. Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto.

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SW 2, —8. Art—an art of the masses—appears within this scenario as the educative mechanism through which the body of the collective can begin to appropriate its own technological potential.

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Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 30, Gershom Scholem is celebrated as the twentieth century's most profound student of the Jewish mystical tradition; Walter Benjamin, as a master thinker whose extraordinary essays. At once prickly and heartbroken, argumentative and loving, Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship is an absorbing memoir with the.

In this respect, it was the combination of the communist pedagogy and constructive devices of Brecht's epic theatre that marked it out for him as a theatre for the age of film UB, 1—25; Wizisla Much ink has been spilt debating the thesis of the decline of the aura in Benjamin's work.

On the one hand, with regard to some of his writings, Benjamin's concept of aura has been accused of fostering a nostalgic, purely negative sense of modernity as loss—loss of unity both with nature and in community A.

Benjamin On the other hand, in the work on film, Benjamin appears to adopt an affirmative technological modernism, which celebrates the consequences of the decline. Adorno, for one, felt betrayed by the latter position. He wrote to Benjamin on 18 March Yet Adorno was wrong to see a simple change of position, rather than a complex series of inflections of what was a generally consistent historical account.

This context over-determines the essay throughout, with its almost Manichean oppositions between ritual and politics, cult value and exhibition value. For some, however, it is precisely the connection it draws between a certain kind of mass culture and fascism that provides its continuing relevance Buck-Morss It is associated with transitoriness as the generalized social instantiation of the temporality of the modern, in the capitalist metropolis. It is here that transitoriness enters the picture—as a result of the generalization of novelty.

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Baudelaire was able to grasp this experience, according to Benjamin, through the contradictory historical temporality that structured his work: at once resolutely modern yet, in its poetic form lyric , already anachronistic. What determines the rhythm of production on a conveyor belt is the same thing that underlies the rhythm of reception in the film. SW 4, — SW 4, , translation amended; GS 1. The connection of the modern to fascism does not appear solely through the thematic of the false restoration of the aura, but also within the process of its disintegration by shock.

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Baudelaire is thus not merely the privileged writer for the advent of the theory of the modern, but the one in whose work the nineteenth century appears most clearly as the fore-life of the present. On the one hand, it de-historicizes experience, wresting it away from the temporal continuities of tradition.

On the other hand, a messianic structure—an opening of history to something outside of time—reasserts itself within the still life [ nature mort ] of modernity's restless sameness. It transforms the historical naturalism of the baroque, analyzed in the Origin of the German Mourning-Play Section 4, above , in a futural direction.

In particular, it involves a prioritization of the interruptive stasis of the image over the continuity of temporal succession. This was in large part the polemical legacy of the competing influence of three friendships—with Gershom Scholem, Theodor W.