Benjamin's Passages: Dreaming, Awakening by Alexander Gelley

By Alexander Gelley

In transposing the Freudian dream paintings from the person topic to the collective, Walter Benjamin projected a "macroscosmic journey" of the person sleeper to "the dreaming collective, which, throughout the arcades, communes with its personal insides." Benjamin's attempt to transpose the dream phenomenon to the background of a collective remained fragmentary, although it underlies the main of retrograde temporality, which, it truly is argued, is primary to his thought of history.

The "passages" usually are not simply the Paris arcades: They refer additionally to Benjamin's attempt to barter the labyrinth of his paintings and inspiration. Gelley works via a lot of Benjamin's later works and examines very important serious questions: the interaction of aesthetics and politics, the style of The Arcades Project, quotation, language, messianism, air of mystery, and the motifs of reminiscence, the group, and awakening.

For Benjamin, reminiscence isn't just antiquarian; it features as a solicitation, a decision to a collectivity to come back. Gelley reads this name within the motif of awakening, which conveys a professional yet an important performative goal of Benjamin's project.

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Indb 33 11/10/14 12:09:59 PM 34 Introduction In connection with an essay on Moscow that Benjamin planned to write on his return to Berlin in 1927, he wrote to Martin Buber, “I want to achieve a presentation [eine Darstellung] of the city of Moscow at this moment in time in which ‘everything factual is already theory’ ” (February 23, 1927, GB 3: 232). By way of this citation from Goethe, Benjamin indicates his adaptation of the idea of Urphänomen (primal phenomenon) from the sphere of nature, as it was for Goethe, to that of history.

16. April 19, 1934, in Walter Benjamin / Gershom Scholem Briefwechsel 1933–1940, ed. Gershom Scholem (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1985), 136. My translation. indb 14 11/10/14 12:09:58 PM Introduction 15 It might seem that Adorno now assumed the role of primary confidante for Benjamin, and this is certainly what Adorno himself, as well as the editors of the Gesammelte Schriften, have suggested. While it is undeniable that Adorno, together with Scholem, deserves enormous credit for editing Benjamin’s writings during the 1950s and 60s and otherwise facilitating his reception, there remain serious questions about the extent of their compatibility regarding certain intellectual issues.

Stathis Gourgouris comments perceptively on Benjamin’s use of this work in Does Literature Think? Literature as Theory for an Antimythical Era (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 219–21. 42. Michel Foucault has outlined the Nietzschean basis for this issue: “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 141. indb 37 11/10/14 12:09:59 PM 38 Introduction tality of its history” (GS, 1: 226). The totality of the history of an idea, encompassing both a “pre- and post-history” cannot help but throw into question anything like a representation in the sense of a portrait or panorama of an epoch.

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