Ghosts: Interventions in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory

Overview

This book explores the implications for today’s critical concerns of the work of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). Although his writings are considered to be among the most powerful and suggestive theoretical enterprises of the twentieth century, his ideas are strangely resistant to cooptation by the established doctrines of various critical programs. The innovative essays gathered here engage this resistance by examining the notion of the ghostly in Benjamin’s work.

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Overview

This book explores the implications for today’s critical concerns of the work of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). Although his writings are considered to be among the most powerful and suggestive theoretical enterprises of the twentieth century, his ideas are strangely resistant to cooptation by the established doctrines of various critical programs. The innovative essays gathered here engage this resistance by examining the notion of the ghostly in Benjamin’s work.

The contributors show that the urgent and haunting truths Benjamin offers point toward new forms of responsibility, even as they withdraw from straightforward meaning and transparent forms of expression. These truths reside in a figurative elsewhere, a ghostly space that his texts delimit but never fully inhabit, and these essays seek to do justice to the ghosts of Benjamin that are already on board with us.

Through close textual readings and thoughtful contextualizations, internationally known Benjamin scholars engage a wide range of issues, including: the status of the image in Benjamin’s literary reflections and in his meditations on cinema and visual culture; abiding Benjaminian notions of messianism, aura, reproducibility, semblance, and melancholy; Benjamin’s relation to Freud; his innovative rethinking of history, virtuality, and translation; and his reflections on tragedy and prophecy, the geometrical dimensions of writing, and the relation between eros and language.

The contributors are Norbert Bolz, Fritz Breithaupt, Stanley Corngold, Peter Fenves, Eva Geulen, Miriam Hansen, Beatrice Hanssen, Lutz Koepnick, Tom McCall, Kevin McLaughlin, Bettine Menke, Rainer Nägele, Gerhard Richter, Laurence Rickels, and Sigrid Weigel.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An ensemble of American and European scholars has produced a collective endeavor of the highest scholarly, conceptual, and essayistic quality throughout. There is an enormous storehouse of creativity in this volume that establishes definitively that contemporary academic study has risen to the considerable challenge furnished by the diverse writings of Walter Benjamin.”—Henry Sussman, SUNY, Buffalo
Booknews
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) has been characterized as a new historicist and a founder of the study of popular culture. In 14 essays, some previously published, German and US scholars of German literature and culture share the assumption that rather than assimilating his texts mimetically into this or that ideology, critics should seek the most valuable and provocative ideas in his texts, which seem to remain obscure and problematic. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804741262
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerhard Richter is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of Walter Benjamin and the Corpus of Autobiography.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Contributors
Introduction: Benjamin's Ghosts 1
1 Thinking Images 23
2 Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One-Way Street 41
3 "The Dynamite of a Tenth of a Second": Benjamin's Revolutionary Messianism in Silent Film Comedy 74
4 Aura Reconsidered: Benjamin and Contemporary Visual Culture 95
5 Under Construction: Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" 121
6 Suicitation: Benjamin and Freud 142
7 Genuine Obscurity Shadows the Semblance Whose Obliteration Promises Redemption: Reflections on Benjamin's "Goethe's Elective Affinities" 154
8 Portrait of Melancholy (Benjamin, Warburg, Panofsky) 169
9 History as the Delayed Disintegration of Phenomena 191
10 Virtual Paris: Benjamin's Arcades Project 204
11 Aesthetics? Philosophy of History? Theology! 226
12 Tragedy and Prophecy in Benjamin's Origin of the German Mourning Play 237
13 Ornament, Constellation, Flurries 260
14 Eros and Language: Benjamin's Kraus Essay 278
Notes 299
Index 363
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