Friday, 4 February 2011


This quasi-magical cognitive attitude toward historical matter
remained basic to Benjamin's understanding of materialism.
Scholem recorded his "extreme formulation": '"A philosophy that
does not include the possibility of soothsaying from coffee grounds
and cannot explicate it cannot be a true philosophy.'" As Bloch
has commented, Benjamin proceeded "as if the world were
language."The objects were "mute." But their expressive (for
Benjamin, "linguistic") potential became legible to the attentive
philosopher who "named" them, translating this potential into the
human language of words, and thereby bringing them to speech.[...]

In the Trauerspiel study, the abstractness of representation has the
effect of sealing the reader within the text, that creates its own win-
dowless world. As in the stuffy, upholstered bourgeois interiors of
the nineteenth century, one is threatened with claustrophobia. In
contrast, the atmosphere of One Way Street has all the light, air, and
permeability of the new architecture of Gropius or Corbusier. The
outside world of gas stations, metros, traffic noises, and neon lights,
which threatens to disrupt intellectual concentration, is incorporated
into the text. These material substances rub against thought with a
friction that generates cognitive sparks, illuminating the reader's
own life-world. Gloomy descriptions of the decaying bourgeois
order are juxtaposed with the most varied aphoristic observations:
"In summer those who are fat attract attention, in winter, those
who are thin." "The Automobile Disease: [. . .] Its etiology: the
secret wish to discover out of the general decline the quickest way
to do oneself in." "Genuine polemics takes a book in hand as
lovingly as a cannibal prepares a baby." "One complains about
beggars in the South and forgets that their tenaciousness in front of
one's nose is as justified as the obstinacy of the scholar before a
difficult text."

[SusanBuck-Morss on W.Benjamin, Dialectics of Seeing, p.17]

1 comment:

xtina said...