Benjamin's Passages: Dreaming, Awakening

Benjamin's Passages: Dreaming, Awakening

Alexander Gelley

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 082326257X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In transposing the Freudian dream work from the individual subject to the collective, Walter Benjamin projected a "macroscosmic journey" of the individual sleeper to "the dreaming collective, which, through the arcades, communes with its own insides." Benjamin's effort to transpose the dream phenomenon to the history of a collective remained fragmentary, though it underlies the principle of retrograde temporality, which, it is argued, is central to his idea of history.

The "passages" are not just the Paris arcades: They refer also to Benjamin's effort to negotiate the labyrinth of his work and thought. Gelley works through many of Benjamin's later works and examines important critical questions: the interplay of aesthetics and politics, the genre of The Arcades Project, citation, language, messianism, aura, and the motifs of memory, the crowd, and awakening.

For Benjamin, memory is not only antiquarian; it functions as a solicitation, a call to a collectivity to come. Gelley reads this call in the motif of awakening, which conveys a qualified but crucial performative intention of Benjamin's undertaking.

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Imagination (Routledge Handbooks in Philosophy)


New Left Review, Volume 324 (November - December 2014)

The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics (Blackwell Philosophy Guides)

Aesthetics and Cognition in Kant's Critical Philosophy












the stories and anecdotes of the Talmud that serve to explain and confirm the teaching—the Halacha. The teaching [Lehre]as such is of course never expressed by Kafka. One can only attempt to deduce it from the astonishing stance [Verhalten] of the people, a stance born of dread [Furcht]and arousing dread. (GS 6: 433) Now this remark, it should be noted, appears in the context of notes regarding a conversation with Brecht and may well reflect, in the first instance, Brecht’s own ideas. But Benjamin

“Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 141. F6448.indb 37 11/10/14 12:09:59 PM 38 Introduction tality of its history” (GS, 1: 226). The totality of the history of an idea, encompassing both a “pre- and post-history” cannot help but throw into question anything like a representation in the sense of a portrait or panorama of an epoch. In spite of his immersion in the minutiae of nineteenth-century social history—“les détritus même de l’histoire” in Remy de

Gadamer summarizes this development as follows: “When [Schiller] based the idea of an aesthetic education of man on the analogy of beauty and morality, formulated by Kant, he was able to pursue a line explicitly laid down by Kant: ‘Taste enables us, as it were, to make the transition from sensible charm to a habitual moral interest without making too violent a leap.’ ”18 The premise whereby the individual’s appreciation of beauty could underwrite a universal theory of culture may be found in the

core identity. An illustrative anecdote, even a fictive one, may have a decisive function—for example, the story of Potemkin at the beginning of the Kafka essay, or the title “On the Image of Proust” (“Zum Bilde Prousts”), which refers quite precisely to the image of the writer as a paradigmatic literary-existential construct. Proust’s “is not a model life in every respect,” he writes there, “but everything about it is exemplary” (SW 2: 237). This exemplarity is then glossed as “the highest

part with Adorno that Benjamin dealt regarding his contributions to the Institute’s Zeitschrift. The strains on Benjamin resulting from this situation became strikingly clear when in November 1938, Adorno, acting then in an editorial capacity for the Zeitschrift, in effect rejected Benjamin’s “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire,” a rejection that Adorno justified in a long letter of November 10, 1938. I will deal with their exchange on this issue later, but first I want to consider their

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