Benjamin's -abilities by Benjamin, Walter; Weber, Samuel; Benjamin, Walter

By Benjamin, Walter; Weber, Samuel; Benjamin, Walter

“There is not any global of concept that isn't an international of language,” Walter Benjamin remarked, “and one purely sees on this planet what's preconditioned via language.” during this publication, Samuel Weber, a number one theorist on literature and media, finds a brand new and effective element of Benjamin’s notion by way of concentrating on a little-discussed stylistic trait in his formula of thoughts.

Weber’s concentration is the severe suffix “-ability” that Benjamin so tellingly deploys in his paintings. The “-ability” (-barkeit, in German) of options and literary kinds traverses the complete of Benjamin’s oeuvre, from “impartibility” and “criticizability” in the course of the recognized formulations of “citability,” “translatability,” and, such a lot famously, the “reproducibility” of “The murals within the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.” Nouns shaped with this suffix, Weber issues out, consult with attainable or potentiality, to a ability instead of an latest truth. This perception allows a constant and enlightening examining of Benjamin’s writings.

Weber first situates Benjamin’s engagement with the “-ability” of assorted recommendations within the context of his whole corpus and on the subject of the philosophical culture, from Kant to Derrida. next chapters deepen the results of using this suffix in a wide selection of contexts, together with Benjamin’s Trauerspiel booklet, his relation to Carl Schmitt, and a examining of Wagner’s Ring. the result's an illuminating standpoint on Benjamin’s proposal when it comes to his language—and the most penetrating and finished debts of Benjamin’s paintings ever written.

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The first, the more familiar, is felt to demonstrate the sovereignty of the author, who thereby shows himself to be free of all material constraint. This irony, which is generally identified with Romantic subjectivism, if not subjectivity, Benjamin designates as “material irony” in order to distinguish it from a second variety, which he finds both more “positive” in character and less subjective: the irony of form. Unlike material irony, that of form cannot be identified with the sheer freedom of the subject, since all art is “subordinated” to the “objective lawfulness” of a certain formality (GS1, 83; SW1, 162).

Benjamin sums up the distinctive specificity of Romantic Critical Theory in two tenets: first, that the individual work of art has an intrinsically coherent structure. And second, that an essential characteristic of this structure, and hence of the work itself, is that it is “criticizable” (kritisierbar). Which is to say, that it requires critical reflection in order to fulfill its artistic function. ” This German word, Benjamin emphasizes, must be read in the double sense, entailing on the one hand the completion or consummation of the work, and on the other, its consumption or dissolution: its Voll-endung.

The Romantics as Benjamin describes them do not draw back from this danger: on the contrary, even before Hegel, Schlegel sees Fichte’s attempt to enclose reflection within the opposition of a self-positing I and a counter-posited not-I as precisely falling prey to the infinite regress: “Whenever the thought of the I is not at one with the concept of the world, such pure thinking of the thought of the I leads only to eternal self-mirroring, to an infinite series of mirror-images that contains only the same and never anything new” (GS1, 35; SW1, 131–132).

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