Walter Benjamin: Wikis


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Walter Benjamin
Full name Walter Benjamin
Born 15 July 1892(1892-07-15)
Berlin, German Empire
Died 27 September 1940 (aged 48)
Port Bou, Catalonia, Spain
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophers
School Western Marxism, Frankfurt School
Main interests Literary theory, Aesthetics, Technology, Epistemology, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of history

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (15 July 1892 – 27 September 1940) was a German-Jewish philosopher, sociologist, literary critic, translator and essayist. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. His turn to Marxism in the 1930s was influenced by his friend Bertolt Brecht, who had developed his own critical aesthetics, which asked for the emotional distancing of the spectator (Verfremdungseffekt). An important earlier influence and friend was Gershom Scholem, who founded the modern, academic study of the Kabbalah and of Jewish mysticism. Over the last half-century the regard for his work and its influence have risen dramatically, making Benjamin one of the most important twentieth century thinkers about literature and about modern aesthetic experience.

As a sociological and cultural critic, Benjamin combined ideas drawn from historical materialism, German idealism, and Jewish mysticism in a body of work which was a novel contribution to Western Marxism and aesthetic theory. As a literary scholar, he wrote his most famous essays on Charles Baudelaire; he translated the Tableaux Parisiens edition of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal as well as Proust's In Search of Lost Time. His work is widely cited in academic and literary studies, in particular his essays The Task of the Translator and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Influenced by Bachofen, Benjamin gave the name "auratic perception" to the aesthetic faculty through which civilization would recover a lost appreciation of myth.[1]



Walter Benjamin and his younger siblings Georg (1895–1942) and Dora (1901–1946) were born and raised in a wealthy Jewish household in Berlin. The father, Emil, was a banker in Paris and subsequently moved to Berlin where he became an antiques trader and married Pauline Schönflies. In 1902, ten-year-old Walter was enrolled in Kaiser Friedrich school in Charlottenburg, concluding his secondary studies ten years later. The boy's health was fragile and, in 1905, his parents sent him to a country boarding school in Thuringia, where he spent two years. In 1907, upon his return to Berlin, he resumed studies at Kaiser Friedrich.

In 1912, at the age of twenty, he enrolled at the University of Freiburg, but at the end of the summer semester returned again to Berlin and enrolled at the Humboldt University of Berlin to continue his studies of philosophy. Elected president of the students' association, Freie Studentenschaft, he devoted his time to writing essays arguing for the need of educational and general cultural change.[2] Failing to be re-elected, he once again turned his attention to his studies in Freiburg, paying particular attention to the lectures of Heinrich Rickert. During this period, he also visited Paris and parts of Italy.

Walter Benjamin

In 1914, as World War I pitted Germany against France, Benjamin began translating with great care and interest the French poet Charles Baudelaire. The following year he moved to Munich, continuing his studies at the University of Munich (aka LMU), where he met Rainer Maria Rilke and Gershom Scholem, the latter of whom would become a lifelong friend. The same year he wrote a paper on the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin.

In 1917 he transferred to the University of Bern where he met Ernst Bloch and married Dora Sophie Pollak (née Kellner) (1890–1964), with whom he had a son, Stefan Rafael (1918–1972). In 1919 Benjamin earned his Ph.D. cum laude with the essay Begriff der Kunstkritik in der Deutschen Romantik (The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism). Beset with financial problems, he returned with his wife to Berlin, to live with his parents and, in 1921, published Kritik der Gewalt ("Critique of Violence").

In 1923, as the Institute for Social Research (Frankfurt School) was being founded, he published Charles Baudelaire, Tableaux Parisiens. He also became acquainted with Theodor Adorno and befriended Georg Lukács, whose The Theory of the Novel, published in 1920, strongly influenced him. The postwar inflation in the Weimar Republic caused his father to have serious difficulty in continuing to give financial support. At the end of 1923 his best friend, Gershom Scholem, immigrated to what would later become the state of Israel, but was at the time the British Mandate of Palestine and, over the succeeding years, tried to persuade Benjamin to join him.

In 1924, Benjamin's paper, "Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften" (Goethe's Elective Affinities) was published by Hugo von Hoffmansthal in the magazine Neue Deutsche Beiträge. Together with Ernst Bloch, Benjamin spent a few months on the Italian island of Capri, writing his habilitation thesis, on The Origin of German Tragic Drama. There he read, on Bloch's suggestion, Lukács's History and Class Consciousness, and first met Asja Lācis, a Bolshevik Latvian actress living in Moscow. She would become an important and lasting intellectual and erotic influence on him.

A year later, The Origin of German Tragic Drama was rejected by Frankfurt University, effectively closing the door to an academic career for the 33-year-old scholar. Working with Franz Hessel (1880–1941), he translated the first volumes of Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). The next year he began writing for the German newspapers Frankfurter Zeitung and Die Literarische Welt, enabling him to afford living several months in Paris. In December 1926, the year of his father's death, he made a trip to Moscow to meet Asja Lācis, and found her in a sanatorium, suffering from an illness.[3]

In 1927, he started work on Das Passagen-Werk (The Arcades Project), his monumental and unfinished study which he continued to work on until his death. The same year in Berlin he saw Gershom Scholem in person for the last time, and considered moving to Palestine. In 1928 he separated from his wife, Dora (they were divorced two years later), and published Einbahnstraße (One-Way Street) and Ursprung des Deutschen Trauerspiels (The Origin of German Tragic Drama). In Berlin, the following year, Asja Lācis, at the time, Bertolt Brecht's assistant, introduced the two authors. Also that year, he briefly attempted an academic career as an instructor at the University of Heidelberg.

In 1932, during the turmoil preceding Adolf Hitler's election as Chancellor, Walter Benjamin left Germany to spend a few months on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Then he moved to Nice, where he considered committing suicide. With the Reichstag fire, in 1933, as Hitler assumed power and started the persecution of the Jews, Benjamin sought shelter in Svendborg, at Bertold Brecht's, and Sanremo, where his ex-wife lived, before moving to Paris.

As his financial situation deteriorated, he collaborated with Max Horkheimer and received some funds from the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) which, by this time, had relocated at Columbia University, New York. He met other German artists and intellectuals who became refugees in Paris and befriended Hannah Arendt, Hermann Hesse and Kurt Weill. In 1936, L'Œuvre d'Art à l'Époque de sa Reproductibilité Technique (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) was first published in French by Max Horkheimer in the Institute for Social Research's journal, Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung.

In 1937 Benjamin worked on Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire (The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire), met Georges Bataille and joined the College of Sociology. In 1938 he paid a last visit to Bertolt Brecht, now in Danish exile. Within a few months, Hitler stripped Jews of their German citizenship, and Benjamin, now stateless, was incarcerated by the French authorities for three months in a camp near Nevers.

Returning to Paris in January 1940, he wrote Über den Begriff der Geschichte (Theses on the Philosophy of History). In June, as the Wehrmacht broke through the French defenses, Benjamin fled to Lourdes with his sister, one day before the Germans entered Paris. In August, he obtained a visa to the United States, which had been negotiated by Max Horkheimer. Attempting to elude the Gestapo, Benjamin planned to depart for America from neutral Portugal, which he had hoped to reach via Spain. Through the nearly seven decades that followed, researchers have been unable to establish a clear timeline of the succeeding events, which culminated in his death. Sketchy and incomplete historical records seem to indicate that he reached Portbou, a French-Spanish border town in the Pyrenees, but the group of Jewish refugees he joined was intercepted by the Spanish Police [4] and Benjamin apparently committed suicide by taking an overdose of a form of morphine.


Among Benjamin's most important works were the following:

  • Zur Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence / 1921).
  • Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften (Goethe's Elective Affinities / 1922).
  • Ursprung des Deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of German Tragic Drama [Mourning Play] / 1928).
  • Einbahnstraße (One Way Street / 1928).
  • Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter Seiner Technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction / 1936).
  • Berliner Kindheit um 1900 (Berlin Childhood around 1900 / 1950, published posthumously).
  • Über den Begriff der Geschichte (On the Concept of History / Theses on the Philosophy of History) / 1939, published posthumously).
  • Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire (The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire / 1938).

Benjamin corresponded extensively with Theodor Adorno and Bertolt Brecht and occasionally received funding from the Frankfurt School under Adorno's and Horkheimer's direction, even after they had moved to New York City. The competing influences of Brecht's Marxism (and secondarily Adorno's critical theory) and the Jewish mysticism of his friend Gerschom Scholem were central to Benjamin's work, though he never completely resolved their differences. On the other hand, some later critics, such as Paul de Man, have argued that Benjamin's writings dynamically flow between these different traditions in order to create a kind of internal critique out of their juxtaposition. "On the Concept of History" (often referred to as the "Theses on the Philosophy of History"), among Benjamin's last works, is, according to some readers, the closest approach to such a synthesis.

Angelus Novus, by Paul Klee (1920). Benjamin saw in it the "Angel of History".

The following is Benjamin's ninth thesis from the essay "Theses on the Philosophy of History":

A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

The Origin of German Tragic Drama

Benjamin's most lengthy completed work is his Habilitation dissertation, the Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (translated as The Origin of German Tragic Drama by John Osborne). In this study, at once forbiddingly theoretical and painstakingly empirical, Benjamin analyses Counter-Reformation-era German politics and culture through the Trauerspiel genre of the 16th-17th century.

The project begins with a lengthy "Epistemo-Critical Prologue" in which Benjamin sets out the philosophical stakes of his work: the combination and elaboration of parts of the Platonic theory of ideas, the Hegelian historical sublation, and the Leibnizian monad. Encapsulating the one within the other, Benjamin gives the Platonic form a historical instantiation, but only in the sense that it is monadic. Within aesthetic objects of study, there is contained the monad of its historical development, and when this monad is placed within a constellation of other objects, it reveals to the scholar the historical development of the idea. Thus, in the Trauerspiel itself, what appears to be an ahistorical accumulation of fragments is instead already in some sense historical.

Within the main text itself, there are two main divisions: first, a distinction between tragedy and Trauerspiel, where Benjamin clears away the interpretations that precede his work, and second, a lengthy discussion of the relation of allegory to symbolism and the way in which allegory might open onto his modified platonic notion of the idea. In the first section, Benjamin notes that tragedy and Trauerspiel differ in their conception of time: the tragedy is eschatological insofar as its plot leads to a defined end-point, where characters and stories reach a fatalistic resolution; whereas the Trauerspiel takes place only in space, time stretches out forever towards the promised but undisclosed Last Judgment, so characters are therefore paralysed from all action and can only wait—thus there is no resolution and no sense of time passing. In short, in Trauerspiel, time is spatialized. Part of what makes Trauerspiele so inscrutable is that their relationship to history is only ever allegorical, in the sense that the play presents fragments and broken shards of history without narrativizing them, as we are accustomed to seeing in most plays. These fragments, when placed on the stage, rather than maintaining a denotative relationship to history, where history is told, the spatial constellation of these fragments reveals a true idea of history. Benjamin's book constantly performs this constellating of monads, presaging in dependent clauses what will be said more fully later, itself constantly reaching back to earlier sections of the book. Benjamin's project, then, is most famously summed up very early in the book, writing, "the baroque knows no eschatology and for that very reason it has no mechanism by which it gathers all earthly things in together and exalts them before consigning them to their end" (p. 66).

In a changing political climate, Benjamin hoped that this book would relate to the German belief in political and historical progress by showing the absolute futility of raw historicism, just as in the Trauerspiel the resuscitation of historical objects and facts is absolutely impossible. Instead, the massive complexity and profound obscurity of the book meant that it fell on largely deaf ears. When submitted as a Habilitation thesis (a higher degree in the German academic system that, after a PhD, gives legal authority to teach in a university), Professor Schultz of Frankfurt University found it inappropriate for his own department of "Germanistik" (the department of German Language and Literature), and passed it off to the department of aesthetics (philosophy of art). The readers in that department called it an "incomprehensible morass"[citation needed] and the university recommended that Benjamin withdraw the thesis in order to avoid the embarrassment of a public rejection.[citation needed] After some consideration, Benjamin did so.

The Arcades Project

Benjamin's final, unfinished work, known as the Passagenwerk or Arcades Project, was to be an enormous collection of writings on the city life of Paris in the 19th century, especially concerned with the roofed indoor "arcades" which created a new kind of Paris street life and extended the culture of flânerie (definition: strolling about and observing the passing people and scenes) to conveniently covered areas, away from the boulevards and bad weather. The covered passages featured new kinds of shops, cafes, meeting places, living quarters and even theatres. Benjamin's extensive notes for the Project have been posthumously translated, edited and published in this unfinished form.

Benjamin's style

Susan Sontag once remarked that, in Benjamin's texts, sentences do not seem to generate in the ordinary way; they do not lead gently into one another, and do not create an obvious line of reasoning. Instead, it is as if each sentence "had to say everything, before the inward gaze of total concentration dissolved the subject before his eyes," a style of writing and thinking Sontag calls "freeze-frame baroque." Sontag writes that "his major essays seem to end just in time, before they self-destruct."[5] Though Sontag didn't have a full overview of the Arcades Project when she wrote this, her comments apply to that work as well.[citation needed] The difficulty of Benjamin's style can be understood as an essential part of his philosophical project. Fascinated by notions of reference and constellation, Benjamin's goal in much of his later work was less to articulate a coherent position than to use varied intertexts to reveal aspects of the past that cannot and should not be understood within larger, monolithic constructs of historical understanding (the so-called "grand narrative").

Through his writings Benjamin identifies himself as a modernist for whom the philosophical merges with the literary: logic-based philosophical reasoning cannot account for all experience, and especially not for self-representation through artistic media.

His concerns regarding style are exemplified in his essay The Task of the Translator, in which he argues that any literary translation, by definition, produces deformations and misunderstandings of the original text. In the deformed text, otherwise hidden aspects of the original are elucidated, while formerly obvious aspects become unreadable. Benjamin considers this mortification of the text productive; when placed in a specific constellation of works and ideas, newly revealed affinities between historical objects appear and are productive of philosophical truth.


Walter Benjamin's grave in Portbou

Benjamin committed suicide in Portbou at the Spanish-French border, while attempting to escape from the Nazis. The party he was with were told they would be denied passage across the border, which would have been a step towards freedom (Benjamin's ultimate goal was the United States). While staying in the Hotel de Francia, he apparently took some morphine pills and died on the night of 27/28 September 1940.[6][7] The fact that he was buried in the consecrated section of a Roman Catholic cemetery would indicate that his death was not announced as a suicide. The other persons in his party were allowed passage the next day, and safely reached Lisbon on 30 September. A manuscript copy of Benjamin's "On the Concept of History" was passed to Adorno by Hannah Arendt, who crossed the French-Spanish border at Portbou a few months later, and was subsequently published by the Institute for Social Research (temporarily relocated in New York) in 1942.

A completed manuscript which Benjamin had carried in his suitcase disappeared after his death and has not been recovered. Some critics speculate that it was his Arcades Project in a final form; this is very unlikely as the author's plans for the work had changed in the wake of Adorno's criticisms in 1938, and it seems clear that the work was flowing over its containing limits in his last years. As the last finished piece of work we have from Benjamin, the Theses on the Philosophy of History (noted above) is often cited; Adorno claimed this had been written in the spring of 1940, weeks before the Germans invaded France. While this is not completely certain, it is clearly one of his last works, and the final paragraph, about the Jewish quest for the Messiah provides a harrowing final point to Benjamin's work, with its themes of culture, destruction, Jewish heritage and the fight between humanity and nihilism. He brings up the interdiction, in some varieties of Judaism, to try to determine the year when the Messiah would come into the world, and points out that this did not make Jews indifferent to the future "for every second of time was the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter."


Since the appearance of his Schriften in 1955, 15 years after his death, Benjamin's work has been the subject of numerous books and essays. His essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is considered a seminal text, of particular importance to those studying humanities and is often quoted for its relevance to musicology, for example in the books of Michael Chanan. Its prescience is more easily felt in the twenty-first century in which mechanical reproduction has increased far beyond the scope of what Benjamin could have imagined. His writings on modernism are valued for being so illuminating and precise at a time when much confusion and derision surrounded the movement and have gone on to set the tone for a more recent generation of critics who continue to unravel the threads of modernism using his example.

Further reading

Primary literature

Secondary literature

  • Adorno, Theodor. (1967). Prisms (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought). London: Neville Spearman Ltd. [reprinted by MIT Press, Cambridge, 1981. 10-ISBN 0-262-01064-X; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-01064-1 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-262-51025-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-51025-7 (paper)]
  • Victor Malsey, Uwe Raseh, Peter Rautmann, Nicolas Schalz, Rosi Huhn, Passages. D'après Walter Benjamin / Passagen. Nach Walter Benjamin. Mainz: Herman Schmidt, 1992. ISBN 3-87439-251-1
  • Benjamin, Andrew and Peter Osborne, eds. (1993). Walter Benjamin's Philosophy: Destruction and Experience. London: Routledge. 10-ISBN 0-415-08368-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-415-08368-3 (cloth) -- ISBN 0-415-08369-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-415-08369-0 (paper) [reprinted by Clinamen Press, Manchester, 2000. 10-ISBN 1-903083-08-7; 13-ISBN 978-1-903083-08-6 (paper)]
  • Buck-Morss, Susan. (1991). The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 10-ISBN 0-262-02268-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-02268-2 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-262-52164-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-52164-2 (paper)
  • Betancourt, Alex. (2008). Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud: Between Theory and Politics. Saarbrucken, Germany: VDM Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8364-3854-4
  • Derrida, Jacques. (2001). "Force of Law: The 'Mystical Foundation of Authority'," in Acts of Religion, Gil Anidjar, ed. London: Routledge. 10-ISBN 0-415-92400-6; 13-ISBN 978-0-415-92400-9 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-415-92401-4; 13-ISBN 978-0-415-92401-6
  • Ferris, David S., ed. (1996). Walter Benjamin: Theoretical Questions. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 10-ISBN 0-8047-2569-1; 13-ISBN 978-0-8047-2569-9 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-8047-2570-5; 13-ISBN 978-0-8047-2570-5 (paper)
  • __________. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10-ISBN 0-521-79329-7 (cloth) 10-ISBN 0-521-79724-1 (paper)
  • Jacobs, Carol. (1999). In the Language of Walter Benjamin. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. 10-ISBN 0-8018-6031-8; 13-ISBN 978-0-8018-6031-7 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-8018-6669-3; 13-ISBN 978-0-8018-6669-2 (paper)
  • Jennings, Michael. (1987). Dialectical Images: Walter Benjamin's Theory of Literary Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 10-ISBN 0-8014-2006-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-8014-2006-1 (cloth)
  • Kermode, Frank. "Every Kind of Intelligence; Benjamin," New York Times. 30 July 1978.
  • Leslie, Esther. (2000). Walter Benjamin, Overpowering Conformism. London: Pluto Press. 10-ISBN 0-7453-1573-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-7453-1573-7 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-7453-1568-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-7453-1568-3 (paper)
  • Lindner, Burkhardt, ed. (2006). Benjamin-Handbuch: Leben – Werk – Wirkung Stuttgart: Metzler. 10-ISBN 3-476-01985-3; 13-ISBN 978-3-476-01985-1 (paper)
  • Missac, Pierre (1996). Walter Benjamin's Passages. Cambridge: MIT Press. 19-ISBN 0-262-13305-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-13305-0 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-262-63175-X; 13-ISBN 978-0-262-63175-4(paper)
  • Perret, Catherine "Walter Benjamin sans destin", Ed. La Différence, Paris, 1992, rééd. revue et augmentée d'une préface, Bruxelles, éd. La Lettre volée, 2007.
  • Perrier, Florent, ed., Palmier, Jean-Michel (Author), Marc Jimenez (Preface). (2006) Walter Benjamin. Le chiffonnier, l'Ange et le Petit Bossu. Paris: Klincksieck. 10-ISBN 2-252-03591-9; 13-ISBN 978-2-252-03591-7
  • Pignotti, Sandro (2009): Walter Benjamin - Judentum und Literatur. Tradition, Ursprung, Lehre mit einer kurzen Geschichte des Zionismus. Rombach, Freiburg ISBN 978-3-7930-9547-7
  • Plate, S. Brent (2004) Walter Benjamin, Religion and Aesthetics. London: Routledge. 13-ISBN 978-0-415-96992-5
  • Rudel, Tilla (2006) : Walter Benjamin L’Ange assassiné, éd. Menges - Place Des Victoires, 2006
  • Scheurmann, Ingrid, ed., Scheurmann, Konrad ed., Unseld, Siegfried (Author), Menninghaus, Winfried (Author), Timothy Nevill (Translator) (1993). For Walter Benjamin - Documentation, Essays and a Sketch including: New Documents on Walter Benjamin's Death. Bonn: AsKI e.V. 10-ISBN 3-930370-00-X
  • Scheurmann, Ingrid / Scheurmann, Konrad (1995). Dani Karavan - Hommage an Walter Benjamin. Der Gedenkort 'Passagen' in Portbou. Homage to Walter Benjamin. 'Passages' Place of Remembrance at Portbou. Mainz: Zabern. 10-ISBN 3-8053-1865-0
  • Scheurmann, Konrad (1994) Passages Dani Karavan: An Environment in Remembrance of Walter Benjamin Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Bonn: AsKI e.V. 10-ISBN 3-930370-01-8
  • Schiavoni, Giulio. (2001). Walter Benjamin: Il figlio della felicità. Un percorso biografico e concettuale. Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore. ISBN 88-06-15729-9
  • Steinberg, Michael P., ed. (1996). Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 10-ISBN 0-8014-3135-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-8014-3135-7 (cloth) -- 10-ISBN 0-8014-8257-7; 13-ISBN 978-0-8014-8257-1 (paper)
  • Witte, Bernd. (1996). Walter Benjamin: An Intellectual Biography. New York: Verso. 10-ISBN 1-85984-967-9; 13-ISBN 978-1-85984-967-5
  • Wizisla, Erdmut. 2009. Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht — The Story of a Friendship. Translated by Christine Shuttleworth. London / New Haven: Libris / Yale University Press. ISBN 1-870352-78-5. ISBN 978-1-870352-78-9 [Contains a complete translation of the newly-discovered Minutes of the meetings around the putative journal Krise und Kritik (1931)].
  • Wolin, Richard, Telos 43, An Aesthetic of Redemption: Benjamin's Path to Trauerspiel. New York: Telos Press Ltd., Spring 1980. (Telos Press).
  • Wolin, Richard, Telos 53, The Benjamin-Congress: Frankfurt (July 13, 1982). New York: Telos Press Ltd., Fall 1982. (Telos Press).

See also


  1. ^ p. 170, "The Reconciliation of Myth: Benjamin's Homage to Bachofen". Mali, Joseph. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 60, No. 1. (January 1999) pp. 165-187
  2. ^ Experience, 1913
  3. ^ Moscow Diary
  4. ^ Jay, Martin The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923–1950.
  5. ^ Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn, p. 129.
  6. ^ Leslie, Esther (2000). "Benjamin's Finale". Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism. Modern European Thinkers. Pluto Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780745315683. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 
  7. ^ Lester, David (2005). "Suicide to Escape Capture: Cases". Suicide and the Holocaust. Nova Publishers. p. 74. ISBN 9781594544279. Retrieved August 28, 2009. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (July 15, 1892September 27, 1940) was a German Jewish literary critic and philosopher. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory, and was also greatly inspired by the Marxism of Bertolt Brecht and the Jewish mysticism of Gershom Scholem.


  • Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method. [...] Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.
    • Unpacking my Library: A Talk About Book Collecting (1931)
  • Things are only mannequins and even the great world-historical events are only costumes beneath which they exchange glances with nothingness
    • Protocols to the Experiments on Hashish, Opium and Mescaline (1927-1934)
  • The nature of this melancholy becomes clearer, once one asks the question, with whom does the historical writer of historicism actually empathize. The answer is irrefutably with the victor. Those who currently rule are however the heirs of all those who have ever been victorious. Empathy with the victors thus comes to benefit the current rulers every time.
  • A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
  • Only a thoughtless observer can deny that correspondences come into play between the world of modern technology and the archaic symbol-world of mythology.
    • The Arcades Project (1927-1940), ed. Roy Tiedemann, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Harvard University: Harvard UP, 1999)

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