Benjamin

In Simon Critchley & William Ralph Schroeder (eds.), A Companion to Continental Philosophy. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 349–361 (1998)
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Abstract

Philosopher, theologian, philologist, urban sociologist, literary critic, collector, archivist, essayist, memoirist, children's author, allegorist, media theorist, hashish connoisseur, closet surrealist, theorist of fascism, professional melancholic – it is by now habitual to begin any account of Walter Benjamin's work with an inventory of the grafts and incongruities traversing his tangled maze of writings. First known through his rather fraught association with Gershom Scholem and Theodor Adorno (who were effectively responsible for the posthumous dissemination of his corpus); sometime ally and interlocutor of Brecht, Kracauer, Bloch, and Buber; refugee in the Paris of Bataille and company during the 1930s: Benjamin exerts today a fascination all the more striking for its untimeliness. Adopted as spiritual soulmate and precursor of almost every major trend in contemporary Continental thought – from cultural studies to deconstruction, from psychoanalysis to new historicism, from critical theory à la Frankfurt school to poststructural linguistics, from molecular politics to death‐of‐God theology, from radical geography to phantomology, from film theory to Heideggerean hermeneutics, from Foucaultian micrology to cyberpunk aesthetics – he epitomizes that unclassifiable swirl of intellectual impulses we have come to associate with the peregrinations of Weimar culture.

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Rebecca Comay
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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