Walter Benjamin: Images, the Creaturely, and the Holy

Overview


Arguing that the importance of painting and other visual art for Benjamin's epistemology has yet to be appreciated, Weigel undertakes the first systematic analysis of their significance to his thought. She does so by exploring Benjamin's dialectics of secularization, an approach that allows Benjamin to explore the simultaneous distance from and orientation towards revelation and to deal with the difference and tensions between religious and profane ideas. In the process, Weigel identifies the double reference of...
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Overview


Arguing that the importance of painting and other visual art for Benjamin's epistemology has yet to be appreciated, Weigel undertakes the first systematic analysis of their significance to his thought. She does so by exploring Benjamin's dialectics of secularization, an approach that allows Benjamin to explore the simultaneous distance from and orientation towards revelation and to deal with the difference and tensions between religious and profane ideas. In the process, Weigel identifies the double reference of 'life' to both nature and to a 'supernatural' sphere as a guiding concept of Benjamin's writings. Sensitive to the notorious difficulty of translating his language, she underscores just how much is lost in translation, particularly with regard to religious connotations. The book thus positions Benjamin with respect to the other European thinkers at the heart of current discussions of sovereignty and martyrdom, of holy and creaturely life. It corrects misreadings, including Agamben's staging of an affinity between Benjamin and Schmitt, and argues for the closeness of Benjamin's work to that of Aby Warburg, with whom Benjamin unsuccessfully attempted an intellectual exchange.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Weigel (director, Center for Literary and Cultural Research, Berlin) offers a meticulous exploration of the German writer Walter Benjamin's take on creaturely existence, law, sovereignty, secularization and holiness, language, and art."—M. V. Marder, CHOICE

"Weigel's readings, which are steeped in philological detail and hermeneutic insight, brilliantly exhibit the stakes involved in approaching Benjamin's work anew. Her impeccable sense for intertextual trajectories coupled with broad erudition not only results in sophisticated exegeses, but also amply demonstrate the continued if not urgent relevance of Benjamin's interventions for our current intellectual and cultural concerns."—John T. Hamilton, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804780599
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/9/2013
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


Sigrid Weigel is Director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Research in Berlin.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations xi

Explanation of Translation and Citation xiii

Abbreviations of Cited Works xv

Acknowledgments xvii

Foreword xix

On the Threshold Between Creation and Last Judgment

1 The Creaturely and the Holy: Benjamin's Engagement with Secularization 3

2 The Sovereign and the Martyr: The Dilemma of Political Theology in Light of the Return of Religion 30

3 Disregard of the First Commandment in Monstrous Cases: The "Critique of Violence" Beyond Legal Theory and 'States of Exception' 59

Something from Beyond the Poet that Breaks into Poetic Language

4 The Artwork as a Breach of the Beyond: On the Dialectic of Divine and Human Order in "Goethe's Elective Affinities" 81

5 Biblical Pathos Formulas and Earthly Hell: Brecht as Antipode to Benjamin's Engagement with "Holy Scripture" 106

6 Jewish Thinking in a World Without God: Benjamin's Readings of Kafka as a Critique of Christian and Jewish Theologoumena 130

From the Midst of His Image World

7 Translation as the Provisional Approach to the Foreignness of Language: On the Disappearance of Thought-Images in Translations of Benjamin's Writings 167

8 The Study of Images in the Spirit of True Philology: The Odyssey of The Origin of the German Mourning Play Through the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg 183

9 The Unknown Masterpieces in Benjamin's Picture Gallery: On the Relevance of Visual Art for Benjamin's Epistemology 207

10 Detail-Photographic and Cinematographic Images: On the Significance of the History of Media in Benjamin's Theory of Culture 235

Appendix: Documentation of the Correspondence on the Odyssey Taken by Benjamin's Trauerspiel Book in the KBW: Extracts from the Letters 267

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