Walter Benjamin

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Walter Benjamin
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| birth_place = Berlin, German Empire19402607df=y}}Portbou, Province of Girona>Girona, Catalonia, SpainContinental philosophyWestern MarxismMarxist hermeneuticsErasmus: Speculum Scientarium, 25, p. 162: "the different versions of Marxist hermeneutics by the examples of Walter Benjamin's The Origin of German Tragic Drama>Origins of the German Tragedy {{sic}}, ... and also by Ernst Bloch's Hope the Principle {{sic}}."| main_interests = Literary theory, aesthetics, philosophy of technology, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of history| notable_ideas = Auratic perception,Walter Benjamin, Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit, 1936: "The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable. An ancient statue of Venus, for example, stood in a different traditional context with the Greeks, who made it an object of veneration, than with the clerics of the Middle Ages, who viewed it as an ominous idol. Both of them, however, were equally confronted with its uniqueness, that is, its aura." [Die Einzigkeit des Kunstwerks ist identisch mit seinem Eingebettetsein in den Zusammenhang der Tradition. Diese Tradition selber ist freilich etwas durchaus Lebendiges, etwas außerordentlich Wandelbares. Eine antike Venusstatue z. B. stand in einem anderen Traditionszusammenhange bei den Griechen, die sie zum Gegenstand des Kultus machten, als bei den mittelalterlichen Klerikern, die einen unheilvollen Abgott in ihr erblickten. Was aber beiden in gleicher Weise entgegentrat, war ihre Einzigkeit, mit einem anderen Wort: ihre Aura.] aestheticization of politics, the flâneurTheodor Adorno>Johann Jakob Bachofen>Charles Baudelaire>Bertolt Brecht>Franz Kafka>Georg Lukács>MarxHeinrich Rickert>RickertGershom Scholem>ScholemFriedrich Hölderlin>HölderlinMarcel Proust>ProustNovalis>KabbalahMartin Buber>BuberLudwig KlagesJOSEPHSON-STORM TITLE = THE MYTH OF DISENCHANTMENT: MAGIC, MODERNITY, AND THE BIRTH OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES PUBLISHER = UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS PAGES = 227–8 ISBN = 978-0-226-40336-6, Eric GutkindJOSEPHSON-STORM TITLE = THE MYTH OF DISENCHANTMENT: MAGIC, MODERNITY, AND THE BIRTH OF THE HUMAN SCIENCES PUBLISHER = UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS PAGE = 230 ISBN = 978-0-226-40336-6, }}Theodor W. Adorno>Hannah Arendt>Jacques Derrida>Gershom Scholem>Susan Sontag>Michael Taussig>Michael Löwy>Susan Buck-Morss>Catherine Perret>Agamben}}}}Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|b|ɛ|n|j|ə|m|ɪ|n}}; {{IPA-de|ˈvaltɐ ˈbɛnjamiːn|lang}};BOOK, Duden Aussprachewörterbuch, 6, 2006, Bibliographisches Institut & F.A. Brockhaus AG, Mannheim, 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940)BOOK, Witte, Bernd, Walter Benjamin: An Intellectual Biography (English translation), 1991, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI, 0-8143-2018-X, 9, was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism. He was associated with the Frankfurt School, and also maintained formative friendships with thinkers such as playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem. He was also related by law to German political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt through her first marriage to Benjamin's cousin, Günther Anders.Among Benjamin's best known works are the essays "The Task of the Translator" (1923), "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936), and "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (1940). His major work as a literary critic included essays on Baudelaire, Goethe, Kafka, Kraus, Leskov, Proust, Walser, and translation theory. He also made major translations into German of the Tableaux Parisiens section of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal and parts of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. In 1940, at the age of 48, Benjamin committed suicide at Portbou on the French–Spanish border while attempting to escape from the invading Wehrmacht. Though popular acclaim eluded him during his life, the decades following his death won his work posthumous renown.


{{Frankfurt School}}

Early life and education

Benjamin and his younger siblings, Georg (1895–1942) and Dora (1901–1946), were born to a wealthy business family of assimilated Ashkenazi Jews in the Berlin of the German Empire (1871–1918). The patriarch of Walter Benjamin's family, Emil Benjamin, was a banker in Paris who had relocated from France to Germany, where he worked as an antiques trader in Berlin; he later married Pauline Schönflies. He owned a number of investments in Berlin, including ice skating rinks. Benjamin's uncle William Stern (born Wilhelm Louis Stern; 1871-1938) was a prominent German child psychologist who developed the concept of the intelligence quotient (IQ), and Benjamin's cousin Günther Anders (born Günther Siegmund Stern; 1902-1992) was a German philosopher and anti-nuclear activist who studied under Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Through his mother, his great-uncle was the classical archaeologist Gustav Hirschfeld.Howard Eiland, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, Harvard University Press (2014), p. 20 In 1902, ten-year-old Walter was enrolled to the Kaiser Friedrich School in Charlottenburg; he completed his secondary school studies ten years later. Walter Benjamin was a boy of fragile health and so in 1905 the family sent him to Hermann-Lietz-Schule Haubinda, a boarding school in the Thuringian countryside, for two years; in 1907, having returned to Berlin, he resumed his schooling at the Kaiser Friedrich School.In 1912, at the age of twenty, he enrolled at the University of Freiburg, but, at summer semester's end, returned to Berlin, then matriculated into the University of Berlin, to continue studying philosophy. Here Benjamin had his first exposure to the ideas of Zionism, which had not been part of his liberal upbringing. This exposure gave him occasion to formulate his own ideas about the meaning of Judaism. Benjamin distanced himself from political and nationalist Zionism, instead developing in his own thinking what he called a kind of "cultural Zionism"—an attitude which recognized and promoted Judaism and Jewish values. In Benjamin's formulation his Jewishness meant a commitment to the furtherance of European culture. Benjamin expressed "My life experience led me to this insight: the Jews represent an elite in the ranks of the spiritually active ... For Judaism is to me in no sense an end in itself, but the most distinguished bearer and representative of the spiritual." This was a position that Benjamin largely held lifelong.Witte, Bernd. (1996) Walter Benjamin: An Intellectual Biography. New York: Verso. pp. 26–27Elected president of the Freie Studentenschaft (Free Students Association), Benjamin wrote essays arguing for educational and general cultural change. Experience, 1913{{full citation needed|date=July 2019}} When not re-elected as student association president, he returned to Freiburg University to study, with particular attention to the lectures of Heinrich Rickert; at that time he travelled to France and Italy.His attempt to volunteer for service at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 was rejected by the army.JOURNAL, Jay, Martin, 1999, Walter Benjamin, Remembrance, and the First World War, Review of Japanese Culture and Society, 11/12, 18–31, 0913-4700, 42800179, Benjamin later feigned illnesses to avoid conscription, allowing him to continue his studies and his translations of the works by French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867).The next year, 1915, he moved to Munich, and continued his schooling at the University of Munich, where he met Rainer Maria Rilke and Gershom Scholem; the latter became a friend. In that year, Benjamin wrote about the 18th-century Romantic German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843).In 1917 he transferred to the University of Bern; there, he met Ernst Bloch, and Dora Sophie Pollak (née Kellner) (1890–1964) whom he later married. They had a son, Stefan Rafael (1918–1972). In 1919 Benjamin earned his Ph.D. cum laude with the dissertation Begriff der Kunstkritik in der Deutschen Romantik (The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism). Later, unable to support himself and family, he returned to Berlin and resided with his parents. In 1921 he published the essay Kritik der Gewalt (The Critique of Violence). At this time Benjamin first became socially acquainted with Leo Strauss, and Benjamin would remain an admirer of Strauss and of his work throughout his life.Jewish philosophy and the crisis of modernity (SUNY 1997), Leo Strauss as a Modern Jewish thinker, Kenneth Hart Green, Leo Strauss, page 55Scholem, Gershom. 1981. Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship. Trans. Harry Zohn, page 201The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, 1932–40, New York 1989, page 155-58


In 1923, when the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) was founded, later to become home to the Frankfurt School, Benjamin published Charles Baudelaire, Tableaux Parisiens. At that time he became acquainted with Theodor Adorno and befriended Georg Lukács, whose The Theory of the Novel (1920) much influenced him. Meanwhile, the inflation in the Weimar Republic consequent to the First World War made it difficult for the father Emil Benjamin to continue supporting his son's family. At the end of 1923 his best friend Gershom Scholem immigrated to Palestine, a country under the British Mandate of Palestine; despite repeated invitations, he failed to persuade Benjamin (and family) to leave the Continent for the Middle East.In 1924 Hugo von Hofmannsthal, in the Neue Deutsche Beiträge magazine, published Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities), by Walter Benjamin, about Goethe's third novel, Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809). Later that year Benjamin and Ernst Bloch resided on the Italian island of Capri; Benjamin wrote Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (The Origin of German Tragic Drama), as a habilitation dissertation meant to qualify him as a tenured university professor in Germany. He also read, at Bloch's suggestion, History and Class Consciousness (1923) by Georg Lukács. He also met the Latvian Bolshevik and actress Asja Lācis, then residing in Moscow; she became his lover and was a lasting intellectual influence upon him.A year later, in 1925, Benjamin withdrew The Origin of German Tragic Drama as his possible qualification for the habilitation teaching credential at the University of Frankfurt at Frankfurt am Main, fearing its possible rejection;Jane O. Newman, Benjamin's Library: Modernity, Nation, and the Baroque, Cornell University Press, 2011, p. 28: " officials in Frankfurt recommended that Benjamin withdraw the work from consideration as his Habilitation." he was not to be an academic instructor. Working with Franz Hessel (1880–1941) he translated the first volumes of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time) by Marcel Proust. The next year, 1926, he began writing for the German newspapers Frankfurter Zeitung (The Frankfurt Times) and Die Literarische Welt (The Literary World); that paid enough for him to reside in Paris for some months. In December 1926 (the year his father, Emil Benjamin, died) Walter Benjamin went to MoscowSeits, Irina S. Invisible Avant-Garde and Absent Revolution: Walter Benjamin’s New Optics for Moscow Urban Space of the 1920s, in Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles, vol. 8. St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Univ. Press, 2018, pp. 575–582. ISSN 2312-2129. to meet Asja Lācis and found her ill in a sanatorium.Moscow DiaryIn 1927, he began Das Passagen-Werk (The Arcades Project), his uncompleted magnum opus, a study of 19th-century Parisian life. The same year, he saw Gershom Scholem in Berlin, for the last time, and considered emigrating from Continental Europe (Germany) to Palestine. In 1928, he and Dora separated (they divorced two years later, in 1930); in the same year he published Einbahnstraße (One-Way Street), and a revision of his habilitation dissertation Ursprung des Deutschen Trauerspiels (The Origin of German Tragic Drama). In 1929 Berlin, Asja Lācis, then assistant to Bertolt Brecht, socially presented the intellectuals to each other. In that time, he also briefly embarked upon an academic career, as an instructor at the University of Heidelberg.

Exile and death

File:BenjaminBnF.jpg|alt= Walter Benjamin's membership card for the Bibliothèque nationale de France (1940).|thumb|257x257px|Walter Benjamin's membership card for the Bibliothèque nationale de FranceBibliothèque nationale de FranceIn 1932, during the turmoil preceding Adolf Hitler's assumption of the office of Chancellor of Germany, Walter Benjamin left Germany for the Spanish island of Ibiza for some months; he then moved to Nice, where he considered killing himself. Perceiving the socio-political and cultural significance of the Reichstag fire (27 February 1933) as the de facto Nazi assumption of full power in Germany, then manifest with the subsequent persecution of the Jews, he moved to Paris, but, before doing so, he sought shelter in Svendborg, at Bertolt Brecht's house, and at Sanremo, where his ex-wife Dora lived.As he ran out of money, Benjamin collaborated with Max Horkheimer, and received funds from the Institute for Social Research, later going permanently into exile. In Paris, he met other German artists and intellectuals, refugees there from Germany; he befriended Hannah Arendt, novelist Hermann Hesse, and composer Kurt Weill. In 1936, a first version of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (L'œuvre d'art à l'époque de sa reproduction méchanisée) was published, in French, by Max Horkheimer in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung journal of the Institute for Social Research. It was a critique of the authenticity of mass-produced art; he wrote that a mechanically produced copy of an artwork can be taken somewhere where the original could never have gone, arguing that the presence of the original is "prerequisite to the concept of authenticity".BOOK, Benjamin, Walter, 1968, The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, 217–253, File:Benjamin's apartment in Paris (fot. Mateusz Palka).jpg|thumb|342x342px|Walter Benjamin's Paris apartment at 10 (:fr:Rue Dombasle|rue Dombasle) (1938–1940)]]In 1937 Benjamin worked on Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire (The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire), met Georges Bataille (to whom he later entrusted the Arcades Project manuscript), and joined the College of Sociology. In 1938 he paid a last visit to Bertolt Brecht, who was exiled to Denmark. Meanwhile, the Nazi Régime stripped German Jews of their German citizenship; now a stateless man, Benjamin was arrested by the French government and incarcerated for three months in a prison camp near Nevers, in central Burgundy.Returning to Paris in January 1940, he wrote Über den Begriff der Geschichte (On the Concept of History, later published as Theses on the Philosophy of History). While the Wehrmacht was pushing back the French Army, on 13 June Benjamin and his sister fled Paris to the town of Lourdes, just a day before the Germans entered the capital with orders to arrest him at his flat. In August, he obtained a travel visa to the US that Max Horkheimer had negotiated for him. In eluding the Gestapo, Benjamin planned to travel to the US from neutral Portugal, which he expected to reach via Francoist Spain, then ostensibly a neutral country.(File:Grab Walter Benjamin.jpg|thumb|left|250px|Walter Benjamin's grave in Portbou. The epitaph in German, repeated in Catalan, quotes from Section 7 of Theses on the Philosophy of History: "There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism")The historical record indicates that he safely crossed the French–Spanish border and arrived at the coastal town of Portbou, in Catalonia. The Franco government had cancelled all transit visas and ordered the Spanish police to return such persons to France, including the Jewish refugee group Benjamin had joined. They tried to cross the border on 25 September 1940, but were told by the Spanish police that they would be deported back to France the next day, which would have destroyed Benjamin's plans to travel to the United States. Expecting repatriation to Nazi hands, Walter Benjamin killed himself with an overdose of morphine tablets that night, while staying in the Hotel de Francia; the official Portbou register records 26 September 1940 as the official date of death.BOOK, Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Hannah, 1968, Introduction, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, 23–24, Jay, Martin The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923–1950.BOOK, Leslie, Esther, Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism,weblink August 28, 2009, Modern European Thinkers, 2000, Pluto Press, 978-0-7453-1568-3, 215, Benjamin's Finale, BOOK, Lester, David, Suicide and the Holocaust,weblink August 28, 2009, 2005, Nova Publishers, 978-1-59454-427-9, 74, Suicide to Escape Capture: Cases, Benjamin's colleague Arthur Koestler, also fleeing Europe, attempted suicide by taking some of the morphine tablets, but he survived."Afraid of being caught by the Gestapo while fleeing France, [Koestler] borrowed suicide pills from Walter Benjamin. He took them several weeks later when it seemed he would be unable to get out of Lisbon, but didn't die." Anne Applebaum, "Did The Death Of Communism Take Koestler And Other Literary Figures With It?" Huffington Post, 28 March 2010, URL retrieved 15 March 2012. Benjamin's brother Georg was killed at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in 1942. Despite his suicide, Benjamin was buried in the consecrated section of a Roman Catholic cemetery.The others in his party were allowed passage the next day (maybe because Benjamin's suicide shocked Spanish officials), and safely reached Lisbon on 30 September. Hannah Arendt, who crossed the French-Spanish border at Portbou a few months later, passed the manuscript of Theses to Adorno. Another completed manuscript, which Benjamin had carried in his suitcase, disappeared after his death and has not been recovered.WEB, van Straten, Giorgio, Lost in migration,weblink, 4 April 2019, 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.


File:Klee, Angelus novus.png|thumb|right|293x293px|Paul Klee's 1920 painting Angelus NovusAngelus NovusWalter Benjamin corresponded much with Theodor Adorno and Bertolt Brecht, and was occasionally funded by the Frankfurt School under the direction of Adorno and Horkheimer, even from their New York City residence. The competing influences—Brecht's Marxism, Adorno's critical theory, Gerschom Scholem's Jewish mysticism—were central to his work, although their philosophic differences remained unresolved. Moreover, the critic Paul de Man argued that the intellectual range of Benjamin's writings flows dynamically among those three intellectual traditions, deriving a critique via juxtaposition; the exemplary synthesis is Theses on the Philosophy of History. At least one scholar, historian of religion Jason Josephson-Storm, has argued that Benjamin's diverse interests may be understood in part by understanding the influence of Western Esotericism on Benjamin. Some of Benjamin's key ideas were adapted from occultists and New Age figures including Eric Gutkind and Ludwig Klages, and his interest in esotericism is known to have extended far beyond the Jewish Kabbalah.BOOK, Josephson-Storm, Jason, The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2017, 226–36,weblink 978-0-226-40336-6,

Theses on the Philosophy of History

Theses on the Philosophy of History is often cited as Benjamin's last complete work, having been completed, according to Adorno, in the spring of 1940. The Institute for Social Research, which had relocated to New York, published Theses in Benjamin's memory in 1942. Margaret Cohen writes in the Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin:In the essay, Benjamin's famed ninth thesis struggles to reconcile the Idea of Progress in the present with the apparent chaos of the past: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."

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Perhaps Walter Benjamin's most well known essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," identifies the perceptual shift that takes place when technological advancements emphasize speed and reproducibility.WEB,weblink How Time and Space Converge to Evoke Walter Benjamin's Aura, Manuel, Jessica S., 2019-05-13, Book Oblivion, en-US, 2019-05-13, The aura is found in a work of art that contains presence. The aura is precisely what cannot be reproduced in a work of art: its original presence in time and space. He suggests a work of art's aura is in a state of decay because it is becoming more and more difficult to apprehend the time and space in which a piece of art is created.This essay also introduces the concept of the optical unconscious, a concept that identifies the subject's ability to identify desire in visual objects. This also leads to the ability to perceive information by habit instead of rapt attention.

The Origin of German Tragic Drama

Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (The Origin of German Tragic Drama, 1928), is a critical study of German baroque drama, as well as the political and cultural climate of Germany during the Counter-Reformation (1545–1648). Benjamin presented the work to the University of Frankfurt in 1925 as the (post-doctoral) dissertation meant to earn him the Habilitation (qualification) to become a university instructor in Germany.Professor Schultz of University of Frankfurt found The Origin of German Tragic Drama inappropriate for his Germanistik department (Department of German Language and Literature), and passed it to the Department of Aesthetics (philosophy of art), the readers of which likewise dismissed Benjamin's work. The university officials recommended that Benjamin withdraw Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels as a Habilitation dissertation to avoid formal rejection and public embarrassment. He heeded the advice, and three years later, in 1928, he published The Origin of German Tragic Drama as a book.Introducing Walter Benjamin, Howard Cargill, Alex Coles, Andrey Klimowski, 1998, p. 112

The Arcades Project

The Passagenwerk (Arcades Project, 1927–40) was Walter Benjamin's final, incomplete book about Parisian city life in the 19th century, especially about the Passages couverts de Paris – the covered passages that extended the culture of flânerie (idling and people-watching) when inclement weather made flânerie infeasible in the boulevards and streets proper.The Arcades Project, in its current form, brings together a massive collection of notes which Benjamin filed together over the course of thirteen years, from 1927 to 1940.Buck-Morss, Susan. The Dialectics of Seeing. The MIT Press, 1991, p. 5.The Arcades Project was published for the first time in 1982, and is over a thousand pages long.

Writing style

Susan Sontag said that in Walter Benjamin's writing, sentences did not originate ordinarily, do not progress into one another, and delineate no obvious line of reasoning, as if each sentence "had to say everything, before the inward gaze of total concentration dissolved the subject before his eyes", a "freeze-frame baroque" style of writing and cogitation. "His major essays seem to end just in time, before they self-destruct".Susan Sontag Under the Sign of Saturn, p. 129. The difficulty of Benjamin's writing style is essential to his philosophical project. Fascinated by notions of reference and constellation, his goal in later works was to use intertexts to reveal aspects of the past that cannot, and should not, be understood within greater, monolithic constructs of historical understanding.Walter Benjamin's writings identify him as a modernist for whom the philosophic merges with the literary: logical philosophic reasoning cannot account for all experience, especially not for self-representation via art. He presented his stylistic concerns in "The Task of the Translator", wherein he posits that a literary translation, by definition, produces deformations and misunderstandings of the original text. Moreover, in the deformed text, otherwise hidden aspects of the original, source-language text are elucidated, while previously obvious aspects become unreadable. Such translational modification of the source text is productive; when placed in a specific constellation of works and ideas, newly revealed affinities, between historical objects, appear and are productive of philosophical truth.His work The Task of the Translator was later commented by the French translation scholar Antoine Berman (L'âge de la traduction).

Legacy and reception

Since the publication of Schriften (Writings, 1955), 15 years after his death, Benjamin's work—especially the essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936)—has become of seminal importance to academics in the humanities disciplines. In 1968, the first Internationale Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft was established by the German thinker, poet and artist Natias Neutert, as a free association of philosophers, writers, artists, media theoreticians and editors. They did not take Benjamin's body of thought as a scholastic "closed architecture [...], but as one in which all doors, windows and roof hatches are widely open", as the founder Neutert put it—more poetically than politically—in his manifesto.Cf. Mit Walter Benjamin. Gründungsmanifest der Internationalen Walter-Benjamin-Gesellschaft. Copyleft Verlag, Hamburg, 1968, p. 6. The members felt liberated to take Benjamin's ideas as a welcome touchstone for social change.Hereto Helmut Salzinger: ''Swinging Benjamin. Verlag Michael Kellner, Hamburg 1990. {{ISBN|3-927623-05-9}}Like the first Internationale Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft, a new one, established in 2000, researches and discusses the imperative that Benjamin formulated in his Theses on the Philosophy of History: "In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest the tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it."The successor society was registered in Karlsruhe (Germany); Chairman of the Board of Directors was Bernd Witte, an internationally recognized Benjamin scholar and Professor of Modern German Literature in Düsseldorf (Germany). Its members come from 19 countries, both within and beyond Europe and represents an international forum for discourse. The Society supported research endeavors devoted to the creative and visionary potential of Benjamin's works and their view of 20th century modernism. Special emphasis had been placed upon strengthening academic ties to Latin America and Eastern and Central Europe.WEB,weblink International Walter Benjamin Society,, The society conducts conferences and exhibitions, as well as interdisciplinary and intermedial events, at regular intervals and different European venues:
  • Barcelona Conference – September 2000
  • Walter-Benjamin-Evening at Berlin – November 2001
  • Walter-Benjamin-Evening at Karlsruhe – January 2003
  • Rome Conference – November 2003
  • Zurich Conference – October 2004
  • Paris Conference – June 2005
  • Düsseldorf Conference – June 2005
  • Düsseldorf Conference – November 2005
  • Antwerpen Conference – May 2006
  • Vienna Conference – March 2007Cf.
In 2017 Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project was reinterpreted in an exhibition curated by Jens Hoffman, held at the Jewish Museum in New York City. The exhibition, entitled "The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin", features 36 contemporary artworks representing the 36 convolutes of Benjamin's Project.WEB,weblink The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin (March 17 - August 6, 2017), The Jewish Museum., July 29, 2017,


(File:Berliner Gedenktafel Walter Benjamin Prinzregentenstraße 66 Berlin-Wilmersdorf.jpg|thumb|Commemorative plaque for Walter Benjamin, Berlin-Wilmersdorf)A commemorative plaque is located by the residence where Benjamin lived in Berlin during the years 1930–1933: (Prinzregentenstraße 66, Berlin-Wilmersdorf). A commemorative plaque is located in Paris (10 rue Dombasle, 15th) where Benjamin lived in 1938–1940.Close by Kurfürstendamm, in the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, a town square created by Hans Kollhoff in 2001 was named "Walter-Benjamin-Platz".Stadtplatz aus Stein: Eröffnung der Leibniz-Kolonnaden in Berlin. (in German). May 14, 2001. BauNetz. Retrieved July 29, 2017. There is a memorial sculpture by the artist Dani Karavan at Portbou, where Walter Benjamin ended his life. It was commissioned to mark 50 years since his death.WEB,weblink Walter Benjamin a Portbou,,


Among Walter Benjamin's works are:

See also



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. {{ISBN|978-0-262-01064-1}} (cloth) – {{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. {{ISBN|978-0-415-08368-3}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-415-08369-0}} (paper) [reprinted by Clinamen Press, Manchester, 2000. {{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. {{ISBN|978-0-262-02268-2}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-262-52164-2}} (paper)
  • Betancourt, Alex. (2008). Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud: Between Theory and Politics. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag. {{ISBN|978-3-8364-3854-4}}
  • Federico Castigliano, Flâneur. The Art of Wandering the Streets of Paris, 2016. {{ISBN|978-1534911451}}.
  • Derrida, Jacques. (2001). "Force of Law: The 'Mystical Foundation of Authority{{'"}}, in Acts of Religion, Gil Anidjar, ed. London: Routledge. {{ISBN|978-0-415-92400-9}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-415-92401-6}}
  • Caygill, Howard. (1998) Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience. London: Routledge.
  • de Man, Paul. (1986). {{"'}}Conclusions': Walter Benjamin's 'Task of the Translator{{'"}}, in The Resistance to Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 73–105. {{ISBN|0-8166-1294-3}}
  • Eiland, Howard and Michael W. Jennings. (2014). Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-674-05186-7}}
  • Ferris, David S., ed. (1996). Walter Benjamin: Theoretical Questions. Stanford: Stanford University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-8047-2569-9}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-8047-2570-5}} (paper)
  • __________. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. {{ISBN|0-521-79329-7}} (cloth) {{ISBN|0-521-79724-1}} (paper)
  • Gandler, Stefan (2010). "The Concept of History in Walter Benjamin's Critical Theory", in Radical Philosophy Review, San Francisco, CA, Vol. 13, Nr. 1, pp. 19–42. {{ISSN|1388-4441}}.
  • Jacobs, Carol. (1999). In the Language of Walter Benjamin. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. {{ISBN|978-0-8018-6031-7}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-8018-6669-2}} (paper)
  • Jennings, Michael. (1987). Dialectical Images: Walter Benjamin's Theory of Literary Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-8014-2006-1}} (cloth)
  • Jacobson, Eric. (2003). Metaphysics of the Profane: The Political Theology of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem. New York: Columbia University Press, {{ISBN|978-0-231-12657-1}}, S. 352ff.
  • Kermode, Frank. "Every Kind of Intelligence; Benjamin", New York Times. 30 July 1978.
  • Kirst-Gundersen, Karoline. Walter Benjamin's Theory of Narrative. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989
  • Leslie, Esther. (2000). Walter Benjamin, Overpowering Conformism. London: Pluto Press. {{ISBN|978-0-7453-1573-7}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-7453-1568-3}} (paper)
  • Lindner, Burkhardt, ed. (2006). Benjamin-Handbuch: Leben – Werk – Wirkung Stuttgart: Metzler. {{ISBN|978-3-476-01985-1}} (paper)
  • Löwy, Michael. (2005). Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin's 'On the Concept of History.' Trans. Chris Turner. London and New York: Verso.
  • JOURNAL, Marder, Elissa, Inhuman beauty: Baudelaire's bad sex, (Differences (journal), differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies), 27, 1, 1–24, Duke University Press, 10.1215/10407391-3522733, May 2016, harv,
  • Menke, Bettine. (2010). Das Trauerspiel-Buch. Der Souverän – das Trauerspiel – Konstellationen – Ruinen. Bielefeld: {{ill|Transcript Verlag|de}}. {{ISBN|978-3-89942-634-2}}.
  • Missac, Pierre (1996). weblink" title="">Walter Benjamin's Passages. Cambridge: MIT Press. {{ISBN|978-0-262-13305-0}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-262-63175-4}}(paper)
  • Neutert, Natias : Mit Walter Benjamin!'' Poeto-philosophisches Manifest zur Gründung der Internationalen Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft. Lüdke Verlag, Hamburg 1968.
  • 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. {{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. {{ISBN|978-0-415-96992-5}}
  • Roberts, Julian (1982). Walter Benjamin. London: Macmillan.
  • Rudel, Tilla (2006) : Walter Benjamin L'Ange assassiné, éd. Menges – Place Des Victoires, 2006
  • Rutigliano, Enzo: Lo sguardo dell'angelo, Bari, Dedalo, 1983
  • 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. {{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. {{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. {{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}}
  • Scholem, Gershom. (2003). Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: New York Review Books. {{ISBN|1-59017-032-6}}
  • Steinberg, Michael P., ed. (1996). Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-8014-3135-7}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-0-8014-8257-1}} (paper)
  • Steiner, Uwe. (2010). Walter Benjamin: An Introduction to his Work and Thought. Trans. Michael Winkler. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. {{ISBN|978-0-226-77221-9}}
  • Taussig, Michael. (2006). Walter Benjamin's Grave. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. {{ISBN|978-0-226-79004-6}}.
  • Weber, Samuel. (2008). Benjamin's -abilities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. {{ISBN|0-674-02837-6}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|0-674-04606-4}} (paper)
  • Witte, Bernd. (1996). Walter Benjamin: An Intellectual Biography. New York: Verso. {{ISBN|978-1-85984-967-5}}
  • Wizisla, Erdmut. 2009. weblink" title="">Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht — The Story of a Friendship. Translated by Christine Shuttleworth. London / New Haven: Libris / Yale University Press. {{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).
  • Urbich, Jan (2011). "Darstellung bei Walter Benjamin. Die 'Erkenntniskritische Vorrede' im Kontext ästhetischer Darstellungstheorien der Moderne", Berlin: De Gruyter. {{ISBN|978-3-11-026515-6}}
  • Libero Federici, Il misterioso eliotropismo. Filosofia, politica e diritto in Walter Benjamin, Ombre Corte, Verona 2017
  • Kishik, David. (2015). "The Manhattan Project: A Theory of a City." Stanford: Stanford University Press. {{ISBN|978-0-80478-603-4}} (cloth) – {{ISBN|978-1-50360-277-9}} (paper)

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