Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1934

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In the frenzied final years of the Weimar Republic, amid economic collapse and mourning political catastrophe, Walter Benjamin emerged as the most original practicing literary critic and public intellectual in the German-speaking world. Volume 2 of Selected Writings, covering the years 1927 to 1934, displays the full spectrum of Benjamin's achievements at this pivotal stage in his career.

Previously concerned chiefly with literary theory, Benjamin during these Years does pioneering work in new areas, from the stud of popular Culture (a discipline he virtually created) to theories of the media and the visual arts. His writings on the theory of modernity-most of them new to readers of English—develop ideas as important to an understanding of the twentieth century as an contained in his widely anthologiied essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility.

This volume brings together previously untranslated writings on major figures such as Brecht, Valéry and Gide, and on subjects ranging from film, radio, and the novel to memory, kitsch, and the theory of language. We find the manifoldly inquisitive Benjamin musing on the new modes of perception opened tip by techniques of photographic enlargement and cinematic montage, on the life and work of & Goethe at Weimar, on the fascination of old toys and the mysteries of food, and on the allegorical significance of Mickey Mouse.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Benjamin (1892-1940) was the last German Jewish intellectual. His great critical work encompasses three metaphysical themes: how things and people move from strangeness to become part of oneself; how the self endlessly changes; and how eternal solitude characterizes that self. This second volume of his selected writings (Vol. 1, LJ 2/15/97) covers all aspects of the time, with the great figures of European thought in the background. Surrealism, Russian films, Chaplin, Keller, Kafka, Gide, Proust, hashish, children's toys and literature, Hoffmansthal, travel, Goethe, Berlin life, radio talks, Stefan George--it is all here and all living. The notes are clear, and the chronology is an extended essay on Benjamin's life during these years and his profound relationships with Brecht and Scholem. Redemption was an important word in Benjamin's work, and his redemption is present in these critical essays and fragments. This volume cannot be praised too highly. Essential for academic and large public libraries.--Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674945869
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 6/16/1999
  • Series: Walter Benjamin Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 880
  • Product dimensions: 6.73 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.

Michael W. Jennings is Professor of German, Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Moscow, 1927

Dream Kitsch

The Political Groupings of Russian Writers

On the Present Situation of Russian Film

Reply to Oscar A. H. Schmitz

Introductory Remarks on a Series for L'Humanité


Review of Gladkov's Cement


Gottfried Keller

Diary of my Journey to the Loire

Review of Soupault's le Coeur d'or

The Idea of a Mystery

Review of Hessel's Heimliches Berlin

A State Monopoly on Pornography

Image Imperatives, 1928

Curriculum Vitae (III)

André Gide and Germany

Main Features of My Second Impression of Hashish

Conversation with André Gide

Old Toys

Hugo von Hofmannsthal's der Turm

Moonlit Nights on the rue la Boétie

Karl Kraus Reads Offenbach

The Cultural History of Toys

Toys and Play

Everything is Thought

Books by the Mentally Ill

Review of the Mendelssohns' der Mensch in der Handschrift

Food Fair

Paris as Goddess

The Path to Success, in Thirteen Theses


The Fireside Saga

News about Flowers

Review of Green's Adrienne Mesurat


Karl Kraus (Fragment)

The Return of the Flâneur, 1929


Program for a Proletarian Children's Theater


Chaplin in Retrospect

Chambermaids' Romances of the Past Century


On the Image of Proust

The Great Art of Making Things Seem Closer Together

Milieu Theoreticians

Children's Literature

Robert Walser

The Return of the Flâneur

Short Shadows (I)

A Communist Pedagogy

Notes on a Conversation with Béla Balász

Some Remarks on Folk Art

Tip for Patrons

Crisis and Critique, 1930

Notes (II)

Notes (III)

Program for Literary Criticism

Notes on a Theory of Gambling

The Crisis of the Novel

An Outsider Makes His Mark

Theories of German Fascism

Demonic Berlin

Hashish, Beginning of March 1930

Julien Green

Paris Diary

Review of Kracauer's die Angestellten


Bert Brecht

The First Form of Criticism that Refuses to Judge

From the Brecht Commentary

Against a Masterpiece


A Critique of the Publishing Industry

Graphology Old and New

Characterization of the New Generation

The Need to Take the Mediating Character of Bourgeois Writing Seriously

False Criticism


The Destructive Character, 1931

In Parallel with My Actual Diary

Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History

Critique of the New Objectivity

We Ought to Reexamine the Link between Teaching and Research

Hofmannsthal and Aleco Dossena

Left-Wing Melancholy

Theological Criticism

Karl Kraus

Literary History and the Study of Literature

German Letters

May-June 1931

Unpacking My Library

Franz Kafka: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer

Diary from August 7, 1931, to the Day of My Death

Little History of Photography

Paul Valéry

The Lisbon Earthquake

The Destructive Character

Reflections on Radio

Mickey Mouse

In Almost Every Example We Have of Materialist Literary History

The Task of the Critic

Ibizan Sequence, 1932


On Ships, Mine Shafts, and Crucifixes in Bottles

On the Trail of Old Letters

A Family Drama in the Epic Theater

The Railway Disaster at the Firth of Tay

Privileged Thinking

Excavation and Memory

Oedipus, or Rational Myth

On Proverbs

Theater and Radio

Ibizan Sequence

A Berlin Chronicle

Spain, 1932

Light from Obscurantists

The Handkerchief

In the Sun

The Rigorous Study of Art

Hashish in Marseilles

The Eve of Departure

On Astrology

"Try to Ensure that Everything in Life Has a Consequence"

Notes (IV)

Thought Figures, 1933

The Lamp

Doctrine of the Similar

Short Shadows (II)


Stefan George in Retrospect

Agesilaus Santander (First Version)

Agesilaus Santander (Second Version)

Antitheses Concerning Word and Name

On the Mimetic Faculty

Thought Figures

Little Tricks of the Trade

Experience and Poverty

The Author's Producer, 1934

Once Is as Good as Never

The Newspaper

Venal but Unusable

The Present Social Situation of the French Writer

The Author as Producer

Notes from Svendborg, Summer 1934

Hitler's Diminished Masculinity

Franz Kafka

A Note on the Texts

Chronology, 1927-1934


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