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Walter Benjamin and History

Andrew Benjamin, Editor

Continuum

WALTER BENJAMIN AND HISTORY

WALTER BENJAMIN STUDIES SERIES Series Editors: Andrew Benjamin, University of Technology, Sydney and Monash University, and Beatrice Hanssen, University of Georgia. Consultant Board: Stanley Cavell, Sander Gilman, Miriam Hansen, Carol Jacobs, Martin Jay, Gertrud Koch, Peter Osborne, Sigrid Weigel and Anthony Phelan. A series devoted to the writings of Walter Benjamin each volume will focus on a theme central to contemporary work on Benjamin. The series aims to set new standards for scholarship on Benjamin for students and researchers in Philosophy, Cultural Studies and Literary Studies. Walter Benjamin and Romanticism (2002), edited by Beatrice Hanssen and Andrew Benjamin. Walter Benjamin and Art (2005), edited by Andrew Benjamin.

Walter Benjamin and History


Edited by Andrew Benjamin

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Andrew Benjamin and contributors 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN:HB: 0826467458 PB: 0826467466 Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Typeset by Fakenham Photosetting Limited, Fakenham, Norfolk Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall

Contents
Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction A NDREW BENJAMIN 1 The Supposition of the Aura: The Now, the Then, and Modernity GEORGES DIDI-HUBERMAN 2 The Shortness of History, or Photography In Nuce : Benjamins Attenuation of the Negative DAVID FERRIS 3 Now: Walter Benjamin on Historical Time WERNER H AMACHER 4 Down the K. Hole: Walter Benjamins Destructive Land-surveying of History STEPHANIE POLSKY 5 The Sickness of Tradition: Between Melancholia and Fetishism R EBECCA COMAY 6 Trembling Contours: KierkegaardBenjaminBrecht R AINER NGELE 7 The Subject of History: The Temporality of Parataxis in Benjamins Historiography DIMITRIS VARDOULAKIS 8 Tradition as Injunction: Benjamin and the Critique of Historicisms PHILIPPE SIMAY 9 Boredom and Distraction: The Moods of Modernity A NDREW BENJAMIN 10 Walter Benjamins Interior History CHARLES R ICE 11 What is the Matter with Architectural History? GEVORK H ARTOONIAN 12 Messianic Epistemology: Thesis XV ROBERT GIBBS 13 Non-messianic Political Theology in Benjamins On the Concept of History HOWARD CAYGILL Notes Contributors Index vi vii 1 3 19 38 69 88 102 118 137 156 171 182 197 215 227 253 256

Acknowledgements
George Didi-Hubermans chapter was rst published in Negotiating Rapture: The Power of Art to Transform Lives (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1996). Werner Hamachers chapter was rst published in Heidrun Friese (ed.), The Moment: Time and Rupture in Modern Thought , (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001), while the German text appeared as Jetzt: Benjamin zur historischen Zeit, in Benjamin Studies 1.1 (2002). Portions of Rebecca Comays essay appeared in Research in Phenomenology 29 (1999) under the title Perverse History: Fetishism and Dialectic in Walter Benjamin. A version of Charles Rices chapter is published as: Immerger et rompre: Lintrieur de Walter Benjamin, trans. Philippe Simay, in Philippe Simay (ed.), Walter Benjamin: Mtropole et Modernit (Paris: Editions de lEclat, 2005).

Abbreviations
All references to the Convolutes of The Arcades Project are given parenthetically, according to Convolute no., without further specication. AP The Arcades Project , trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1999). BA Briefwechsel 19381940: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin , ed. Gershom Scholem (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1994). BS Briefwechsel 19331940: Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem , ed. Gershom Scholem (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1985). C The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin 19101940, ed. Gershom Scholem and Theodor W. Adorno, trans. Manfred R. Jakobson and Evelyn M. Jakobson (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

CA Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin, The Complete Correspondence 19201940, ed. Henri Lonitz, trans. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999). CS The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, ed. Gershom Scholem, trans. Gary Smith and Andr Lefevere (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992). GB Gesammelte Briefe, ed. Christoph Gdde and Henri Lonitz (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 19952000). GS Walter Benjamin: Gesammelte Schriften , ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhuser (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1974). MD Moscow Diary, ed. Gary Smith, trans. Richard Sieburth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986). OT The Origin of the German Tragic Drama , trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 1998). SW Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, ed. Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 19972003).

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INTRODUCTION
ANDREW BENJAMIN

Walter Benjamins concern with history involves a reconguration of the way the political and the temporality of history interconnect. His writings on history both the philosophical reections as well as the writing of actual histories sustain a radical critique of the project of Enlightenment philosophies of time. A critique that can be understood as having been undertaken in the name of modernity. The implicit understanding of historical time in Kants conception of the Enlightenment, for example, presupposes a gradual though inexorable move towards the realization of a specic goal. The goal in question is of course Enlightenment and thus the move towards it interconnects time and perfectibility. As such, this development becomes the formulation of progress. The goal itself is the telos. The problematic nature of this position resides as much in the acceptance of a pregiven goal thought within the determining presence of teleology, as it does in the obviating of conict as an inherent condition of the movement of history. Fundamental to Benjamins critique of progress as dening the ambit in which politics and time are interconnected is the centrality that is attributed to forms of interruption. While the question of how that interruption is to be understood is itself an important site of research, what remains the case in the denition of his projects is, on the one hand, the relationship between interruption and discontinuity and, on the other, the modern as premised on an inaugurating interruption. While interruption is central it should not be forgotten that it is far from absolute. Not only do vestiges of earlier congurations remain, it is also the case that the struggle to maintain the advent of the modern has to involve a continual and critical negotiation with the conation of the new and the temporality of fashion on the one hand and on the other the insistent presence of historicisms reactualization in the form of continuity and arguments for gradual development through time. What is of course fundamental to such arguments is the refusal to take up as a philosophical question the time through which this development is supposed to take place. With historicism, time becomes naturalized. To denature time is a further part of a project marked by interruption. The intent of this volume is to develop both the detail as well as the implications of Benjamins extended writings on history. Rather than concentrate simply on the so-called Theses on the Philosophy of History (now known, following the title in the Selected Writings, as On the Concept of History), the chapters presented here move between the interconnection

Walter Benjamin and History

within Benjamins writings on art and literature and his conception of history, Benjamins actual writing of history, the use of his work for the writing of specic histories (e.g. architecture), as well as engagements with the philosophical and theological dimensions of the project. Moreover, the volume makes clear that there is no nal word on the interpretation of certain passages. The recurring motif of the messianic, for example, is given different congurations. Not only are the details of differing texts analysed; moreover, the volume is concerned with what can be described as specic acts of translation. While it is vital that the texts themselves remain sites of investigation and scholarly concern, it is also essential that the applicability of Benjamins project be investigated. Its value for the analysis of art, history, literature philosophy, etc. has to be pursued. It is not so much a concern with the works utility as it is with its possible afterlife. Part of the afterlife involves working with the recognition that Benjamins texts, for all their intellectual bravura, were sites in which what was being worked out was the relationship between politics and time. To neglect the political or to reduce it to no more than its named presence fails to grasp that what is at stake within those writings is a political and philosophical engagement with the exigencies of the present. Part of what comprises the present is a conict concerning the nature of the present itself. The clash, for example, between historicism and modernity is not a question of choice. Not only is such a conict staged between different political possibilities, the conict is itself part of the denition of modernity. As such, modernity is an unnished project because it is the site of a conict that denes the modern. Benjamins work is central in allowing both for an understanding of this complex politics of time as it is in providing some of the resources for its sustained analysis.

1 THE SUPPOSITION OF THE AURA: THE NOW, THE THEN, AND MODERNITY
GEORGES DIDI-HUBERMAN*

Looking at someone carries the implicit expectation that our look will be returned by the object of our gaze. When this expectation is met (which, in the case of thought processes, can apply equally to the look of the minds eye and to a glance pure and simple), there is an experience of the aura to the fullest extent . . . Experience of the aura thus rests on the transposition of a response common in human relationships to the relationships between the inanimate or natural object and man. The person we look at, or who feels he is being looked at, looks at us in turn. To perceive the aura of an object we look at means to invest it with the ability to meet our gaze. The experience corresponds to the discoveries of the mmoire involontaire. (These discoveries, incidentally, are unique: they are lost to the memory that seeks to retain them. Thus they lend support to a concept of the aura that comprises the unique apparition of a distance. This designation has the advantage of clarifying the cult nature of the phenomenon. The essentially distant is the inapproachable: inapproachability is in fact a primary quality of the cult image.) Prousts great familiarity with the problem of the aura requires no emphasis. Walter Benjamin, On Some Motifs in Baudelaire [1939], SW 4: 338 (trans. modied 1939) THE SUPPOSITION OF THE OBJECT: THAT OF WHICH OUR EYES WILL NEVER HAVE THEIR FILL What is the sense today, 60 years after Walter Benjamin, of reintroducing the question, the hypothesis, the supposition of the aura ? Is not the art contemporary to us inscribed within does it not inscribe within itself what Benjamin called the age of technological reproducibility (SW 4: 25183), an age supposed to have produced the death, the withering at the very least, of the aura? Many historians and critics of twentieth-century art have drawn a lesson from that age of technological reproducibility, have
* Trans. Jane Marie Todd.

Walter Benjamin and History

drawn its consequences for the very production of artistic objects.1 But such reections on reproducibility, on the loss of originality and of origin, have proceeded as if foregrounding these notions must inevitably make the archaic and outdated question of the aura, linked as it was to the world of cult images, fall away and hence disappear. But falling away is not the same as disappearing. Fortunately, we no longer have to bow to our knees before statues of gods I note in passing that Hegel already registered this fact at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and that others had done so before him.2 But we bow our knees, if only in fantasy, before many other things that hang over us or hold us down, that look at us or leave us stunned. As we know, Benjamin speaks of the decline of the aura in the modern age, but for him, decline does not mean disappearance. Rather, it means (as in the Latin declinare) moving downward, inclining, deviating, or inecting in a new way. Benjamins exegetes have sometimes wondered whether his position on the aura was not contradictory, or whether one ought not to oppose his early thoughts on the question to his mature views, his (quasi-Marxist) philosophy about the destruction of the aura to his (quasi-messianic) thinking on its restoration.3 To that, we must rst reply that the notion of aura is diffused throughout Benjamins oeuvre. Its incorporation into his oeuvre was a response to a transhistorical and profoundly dialectical experience; therefore, the question of whether the aura has been liquidated or not proves to be a quintessentially false question.4 We must further explain that while the aura in Benjamin names an originary anthropological quality in the image, the origin for him does not in any way designate something remaining upstream from things, as the source of the river is upstream from it. For Benjamin, the origin names that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance, not the source but a whirlpool in the river of becoming [that] pulls the emerging matter into its own rhythm (OT, p. 46, trans. modied). Hence decline itself is part of the origin so understood, not the bygone albeit founding past, but the precarious, churning rhythm, the dynamic two-way ow of a historicity that asks, without respite, even to our own present, to be recognized as a restoration, a restitution, and as something that by that very fact is uncompleted, always open (OT, p. 46, trans. modied). The beauty that rises from the bed of ages as Benjamin writes with reference to Proust and the mmoire involontaire is never outdated or liquidated; reality never ceases to sear the image; remembrance continues to offer itself as a relic secularized. And since silence is fundamentally auratic in its manifestation as Benjamin writes of Baudelaire modern or even postmodern man, the man of technological reproducibility, is obliged, in the midst of the noisy labyrinth of mediations, information and reproductions, sometimes to impose silence and submit to the uncanniness of what comes back to him as aura, as thirst-inducing apparition (SW 2: 510; SW 4: 3347; SW 4: 177). Let us say, to outline our hypothesis, that whereas the

The Supposition of the Aura

value of the aura was imposed in the religious cult images that is, in the protocols of dogmatic intimidation within which the liturgy has most often brought forth its images it is now supposed in artists studios in the secular era of technological reproducibility.5 Let us say, to dialecticize, that the decline of the aura supposes implies, slips underneath, enfolds in its fashion the aura as an originary phenomenon of the image. It is, to be faithful to Benjamin in the productive instability of his exploratory vocabulary, an uncompleted and always open phenomenon. The aura and its decline are thus part of the same system (and have undoubtedly always been so in every age of the auras history: we need only read Pliny the Elder, who was already complaining about the decline of the aura in the age of reproducibility of antique busts).6 But the aura persists, resists its decline precisely as supposition. What is a supposition? It is the simple act not so simple in reality of placing below (ova supponere : placing eggs to be incubated). It means submitting a question by substituting certain parameters of what is believed to be the response. It means producing a hypothesis also underneath which then becomes capable of offering not only the principal subject of a work of art, but also its deepest principle.7 Can we, then, suppose the aura in the visual objects that twentieth-century art, from Piet Mondrian to Barnett Newman to Ad Reinhardt, for example, offers to our view? We can at least try. We are prepared to admit that the construction of such a supposition remains awkward cumbersome, heavy with the past in one sense, too facile, even dubious, in another. In the rst place, it is cumbersome for any discourse of specicity: isnt the aura, which designated that dimension of other presence literally required by the age-old world of cult images, condemned to obsolescence as soon as a visual object is in itself its own subject? Hasnt modern art emancipated itself from the subject, the subject matter whether natural, conventional or symbolic which Erwin Panofsky placed at the foundation of any comprehension of the visual arts?8 To that we must reply that there are other ways of understanding subject matter the subject as matter than the way proposed by Panofskian iconology. Moreover, our supposition is cumbersome only for those historical or aesthetic discourses closed upon their own axioms. In fact, discourses of specicity usually present themselves as (pseudo)axiomatic, and the consequence of their closure their tone of certainty, has often been to pronounce supposedly denitive death-sentences. The modernist will say, for example, that the aura is dead, the postmodernist, that modernism is dead; and so on. But the supposition of the aura is not satised with any sentence of death (historical death, death in the name of a meaning of history), inasmuch as that supposition is linked to a question of memory and not of history in the usual sense, in short, to a question of living on (survivance, Aby Warburgs Nachleben). It is within the order of reminiscence, it seems to me, that Benjamin raised the question of the aura, as Warburg had raised that of the

Walter Benjamin and History

Pathosformeln: beyond, therefore, any opposition between a forgetful present (which is triumphant) and a bygone past (which has, or is, lost). As a result, the supposition of the aura must confront the very dubious alibi of the ideologies of restoration: resentment of all sorts in the face of modernity, the redemptive return to the values of the art of the past, nostalgia for religious subject matter, a claim made for spirituality and sense against all deconstructions or destructions effected by twentieth-century art.9 Let us add that the middle position between these two extreme discourses putting the past to death or restoring the past is not much better than when it tries to reconcile the iconographism of Panofskian subject matter with the radical abstraction of artists such as Newman or Reinhardt. While something like an auratic quality may live on in the works of these painters, may even underlie them, this cannot mean it lives on as such. To try to reiconographize abstract art, or to reinject into it as such notions like ecstasy, spirituality, mysticism, etc., would be to make a muddle of everything. Kazimir Malevich was not a painter of icons. Mondrian was not (or rather, decided to stop being) a symbolist theosophical painter. Newman was not a Kabbalist, and Reinhardt was never a theologian, not even of negativity. The uneasiness and misunderstanding that today pervade all aesthetic discourse are no doubt linked, at least in part, to the fact that this discourse generally cannot understand the nonspecicity the anthropological dimension of twentieth-century artworks except by returning to the use of age-old categories more or less tied to the religious world. There is an analogy an anthropological, but also a phenomenological and metapsychological analogy between Dantes description of a pilgrim who, looking at the veronica in Rome, cannot satisfy his hunger,10 and Benjamins denition, in the context of Baudelaire, of the aura as that of which our eyes will never have their ll (SW 4: 337). In both cases, what is offered to our view looks at its viewer (Benjamin called this the ability to meet our gaze). In both cases, this relation of the gaze implies a dialectic of desire, which supposes alterity, lost object, split subject, a non-objectiable relationship.11 Given the highly problematic terms gaze and desire, there is no longer any reason to be satised with the sententious judicatory vocabulary of art criticism, or to seek grace in a vocabulary of empathy or transcendence. The difculty of our problem lies in this: in opposition to a discourse of specicity that pronounces and carries out its dogmatic death-sentences (the aura is dead, so much the better), and to a discourse of nonspecicity that invents eternal and ahistorical entities (let us seek transcendence, let us seek the sadness of the veronica in a Newman painting), we must in each instance formulate something like a specicity of the nonspecic. Let me explain: we must seek in each work of art the articulation between formal singularities and anthropological paradigms. We must therefore articulate two apparently incommensurate orders. And the point of articulation between

The Supposition of the Aura

these two orders may lie our second hypothesis in the dynamic of labour, in the process of making art. We must seek to understand how a Newman painting supposes implies, slips underneath, enfolds in its fashion the question of the aura. How it manoeuvres the image-making substance in order to impose itself on the gaze, to foment desire. How it thus becomes that of which our eyes will never have their ll.

THE SUPPOSITION OF TIME: THE ORIGIN IS NOW What the usual aesthetic positions lack for approaching the problem of the aura, then, is a temporal model capable of accounting for the origin in the Benjaminian sense, or the Nachleben in the Warburgian sense: in short, a model capable of accounting for the events of memory, not the cultural facts of history. In a certain sense, Georges Bataille wrote, every problem is that of a use of time .12 To speak of dead things or outdated problems in particular with respect to the aura or to speak of rebirths even when it concerns the aura is to speak from within an order of consecutive facts, an order that knows nothing of the indestructibility, transformability and anachronism of memory events.13 This is the least apt use of time for understanding the relics (survivances), declines and resurgences proper to the aesthetic domain. Even a circular model such as that of eternal return disputes the validity of the naive belief in the return of the same.14 Thus we can see in the model of history-as-forgetting and that of history-as-repetition, models so often implicit in the discourses of modern art, a continued implementation of the most idealist model of art history. I am referring to the Vasarian model, which asserted in the sixteenth century: The Renaissance is forgetting the Middle Ages now that it is repeating Antiquity.15 To say today that we must forget modernism so that we can repeat the ecstatic or sacred origin of art is to use exactly the same language. If we thus refute peremptory death-sentences as well as nostalgic rebirths, what time must we suppose from now on? We should not be surprised to rediscover, if not the constructed model, then at least the ash of an intuition in Benjamin himself. That intuition has also remained outside contemporary commentaries on the decline of the aura and the loss of originality. Yet, it is part of the same system as the Benjaminian supposition of the aura and of the origin understood as a reminiscent present where the past is neither to be rejected nor to be reborn, but quite simply to be brought back as an anachronism .16 Benjamin designates this notion by the less than explicit expression dialectical image. Why dialectical? Because Benjamin, the author of On the Concept of History (SW 4: 38997), was seeking a logicotemporal model that could take contradictions into account, never taming them but rather concentrating and crystallizing them into the density of any unique artistic

Walter Benjamin and History

production. He was seeking a model that could retain from Hegel the prodigious power of the negative and yet reject Hegels reconciliation and synthesis of Spirit. With the dialectical image, Benjamin proposed an open, undogmatic even relatively drifting use of the philosophical dialectic, which he distorted, like other writers and artists of his time: Carl Einstein, Bataille, S.M. Eisenstein, and even, in another register, Mondrian.17 Why an image? Because, the image designates something completely different from a picture, a gurative illustration. The image is rst of all a crystal of time, both a construct and a blazing shape, a sudden shock: Its not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, an image is that in which the Then and the Now come into a constellation like a ash of lightning. In other words: image is dialectics at a standstill. For while the relation of the present to the past is a purely temporal, continuous one, the relation of the Then to the Now is dialectical: is not progression but image, suddenly emergent. Only dialectical images are genuine images. (N2a, 3) This strange denition has at least two consequences, and it is crucial to clarify them if we are to address the problem of twentieth-century art, its position in relation to the aura, and its role in the relation between the Now and the Then. First, Benjamins denition valorizes a parameter of ambiguity essential to the structure of any dialectical image: Ambiguity, writes Benjamin, is the manifest imaging of dialectic (AP, p. 10).18 In this way, he lays claim to certain aesthetic choices (the only authentic image is one that is ambiguous), while at the same time dissociating the dialectical operation from any clear and distinct synthesis, any teleological reconciliation. Second, Benjamins denition valorizes a critical parameter, revealing the dialectical images enormous potential for intervening in theoretical debates (art, according to Benjamin, goes straight to the heart of problems of cognition). To produce a dialectical image is to appeal to the Then, to accept the shock of memory while refusing to submit or return to the past; for example, it is to welcome the signiers of Theosophy, the Kabbalah or negative theology, awakening these references from their dogmatic sleep as a way of deconstructing and criticizing them. It is to criticize modernity (the forgetting of the aura) through an act of memory and, at the same time, to criticize archaism (nostalgia for the aura) through an act of essentially modern invention, substitution and designication. Benjamin dismissed with the same gesture myth and technology, dreaming and waking, Carl Jung and Karl Marx. He returned to the fragile moment of awakening, a dialectical moment in his eyes because it lies at the evanescent, ambiguous borderline between unconscious imagery and necessary critical lucidity. That is why he conceived of art history itself as Traumdeutung, dream interpretation, to be elaborated on the Freudian model.19

The Supposition of the Aura

This historical and critical supposition, which I evoke all too briey here,20 allows us to move beyond or displace a number of sterile contradictions that have disrupted the aesthetic domain in the matters of modernity and memory, and especially the pictorial materiality inherent in the adventure of abstract art and its notoriously idealist references. Nearly all the great artists, from Wassily Kandinsky to Jackson Pollock, from Malevich to Reinhardt, from Mondrian to Newman, from Marcel Duchamp to Alberto Giacometti, have too quickly irritated or delighted their interpreters by their use, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes profound, of spirituality, original art, orthodox theology, Theosophy, even alchemy . . . And most historians spontaneously forget that a philosophical, religious, or ideological claim on the part of an artist does not in any way constitute an interpretive key to his oeuvre, but rather requires a separate and joint interpretation that is, a dialectically articulated interpretation of the aesthetic interpretation as such.21 Whether they are materialists, or idealists and in general they never ask themselves the question in those terms whether they claim to be avant-garde or nostalgic, artists make their artworks in an order of plastic reality, formal labour, which must be interpreted for what it offers. This means it must be understood in its capacity as a heuristic opening, and not in terms of an axiomatic reduction to its own programmes. That is another reason art history is related to Traumdeutung. Let us note that artists writings, parallel to artworks themselves, very often manifest the same critical ambiguity supposed in the relation Benjamin called the dialectical image.22 From this perspective, the case of Newman seems to me exemplary and of awless clarity. We know that in 1947 Newmans artworks and declarations led Clement Greenberg to form a suspicious judgement, typical of what I have called the model of specicity, a model trapped within the vicious circle of historyas-forgetting (modernism as the forgetting of tradition) and history-as-rebirth (antimodernism as return to tradition). Greenbergs suspicion was directed precisely at Newmans use of certain words stemming from philosophical and religious traditions: intangible reality, uniqueness, ecstasy, transcendental experience, symbolical or metaphysical content. And Greenberg found such uses archaic, he said, permeated by something half-baked and revivalist in a familiar American way, something he found excessive and pointless for artistic activity as such, pointless, in short, for its specicity.23 Newman gave a vehement response to these arguments: according to him, they stemmed from an unintentional distortion based on a misunderstanding.24 What misunderstanding? That of imagining, in an extremely traditional frame of mind all in all, that the relation between certain words (coming from an age-old tradition) and a certain pictorial tradition must inevitably be expressed in terms of a programme, that is, in iconographical terms. Newman refuses the idea that the use of the word mystical corresponds to a principle for him or to an a priori, that is, to his assumption of a pre-existing belief. He refuses to be seen as a programme-maker,

10

Walter Benjamin and History

laying claim to a transformed and transforming today we would say deconstructive use of these words from the Then. And how does he transform and deconstruct the meaning of such words, if not by taking on the Now of a singular, absolutely new, and originary experience, of a pictoriality that dismisses in a single gesture the gurative past and the stylistic present of abstract, albeit purist, art? That is why, in his response, Newman does not hesitate to rub together, hence to irritate as a way of decomposing their accepted usage the words ecstasy and chaos, the expressions transcendence and nonmaterial stenography, and the (at the very least interesting) expression materialistic abstractions. This is a way of positing himself, if not exactly as a master in contradictions, as Thomas Hess said,25 then at least as a master of the dialectical image in Benjamins sense. It is signicant that all of Newmans writings between 1945 and 1949 that is, during the gestation period that saw the implementation of his most novel, most decisive, and most denitive pictorial problematic26 manifest most acutely a thinking of the origin that has nothing to do with a nostalgia for the past, but that concerns precisely the productive collision between the Now and an unexpected, reinvented Then. His thinking has nothing to do with an aim of restoration or rebirth, but engages the very issue of a radical modernity.27 Hence, the new (origin as whirlpool) requires us to think from top to bottom of art history itself, that is, the relation an artist now maintains with the past (origin as source). That is why, in The Plasmic Image, Newman devotes so much time to rethinking primitive art, in a mode more anthropological than aesthetic, valorizing ecstasy, desire and terror at the expense of beauty itself. According to him, the poor comprehension and use of such primitive art recourse to the criterion of the ornamental, for example have waylaid the entire modern notion of abstraction.28 Hence, the new (origin as whirlpool) requires beginning not with something like the idea of a golden age represented here by Greek art but on the contrary with its destruction (a direct and explicit echo of the state of the civilized world in 1945, when the painter felt he was truly beginning his work).29 The origin, as Newman proposes it in a very dialectical notion, is rst of all the destruction of the origin , or at the very least its distortion, its making strange. That is why the artist of today can feel much closer to a fetish from the Marquesas Islands, about which he understands nothing, than to a Greek statue which nonetheless constitutes his most intrinsic aesthetic past. The collision between the Now and the decomposed Then logically leads to the barbarian Newmans term decomposition of traditional aesthetic categories; and the timeless quality of our imaginary museums had been wrongly conceived in terms of those categories. Thus, for heuristic purposes, Newman attempts certain conceptual discriminations plasmic versus plastic, sublime versus beautiful30 that are designed above all to deconstruct our own familiarity with the art of the past.

The Supposition of the Aura

11

In the end, what is the origin (origin as whirlpool) if not the wrenching implementation of that critical ambiguity that Benjamin implicitly characterized with the notion of dialectical image? What does it mean to originate in the whirlpool of an artistic practice, if not to appeal to a certain memory of the Then in order to decompose the present that is, the immediate past, the recent past, the still dominant past in a determined rejection of all revivalist nostalgia? Interpretations that spontaneously use the temporal categories of inuence, or the semiotic categories of iconography, go astray when they try to make Newman a spokesperson for, or an heir to, the Jewish tradition.31 We must rather hypothesize that a certain kind of critical memory of the Jewish tradition among other things permitted Newman to create the collisions and destructions he was seeking in order to originate his pictorial practice in what he saw as the sclerotic present of abstraction. In short, the critique of the present the appeal to categories such as primitive art or the sublime also included a critique of all nostalgia. Newman was laying claim to the Now to the utmost degree. I believe that, without betraying Newman, we could paraphrase his famous title of 1948, The Sublime is Now by saying that, for him, the supposition of artistic time implies the dialectical and critical proposition that the origin is now. It is from within the reminiscent Now that the origin appears, in conformity with a fundamental anachronism that modernist criticism has as yet been unable to take on. The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history.32

THE SUPPOSITION OF PLACE: THE APPARITION OF A DISTANCE And that revelation an ancient, ambiguous and critical word in relation to all formalist specicity is characterized by Newman strictly as a revelation and a conversion of space. This is a way of radically transforming the usual sense of the word and at the same time giving it back its material and phenomenological specicity, which, for my part, I shall call a supposition of place. In an admirable text written in 1949, Newman gave the rst description of an experience of this kind. It took place among the simple walls made of mud of the Indian tumuli in Ohio. The title of the text, Ohio, 1949, is simply the name of the site and the numeral designating the time.33 But we should add that, despite the articles brevity, Newman also thought of titling it Prologue for a New Aesthetic, which says a great deal about the theoretical stakes of that altogether phenomenological and private description. It was an unexpected, overpowering experience and not a programmatic decision based on some aesthetic axiom. It was literally the experience

12

Walter Benjamin and History

of an apparition. In that excursion of Newmans among a few archaic walls stripped of any ornamental or aesthetic pretension, it was none other than the self-evident nature of the artistic act, in its utter simplicity that suddenly appeared to the American painter.34 But, in order to be approached by words, that experience of simplicity required or better yet, revealed the productive ambiguity of a two-way ow or two-beat rhythm, a dialectic. To speak of that space made of crude patches is to speak contradictorily, to crystallize at least two contradictions: on the one hand, the experience was that of a here . . . and beyond ; on the other, it was that of a visibility . . . and beyond . Here, there is nothing that can be shown in a museum or even photographed; [it is] a work of art that cannot even be seen, so it is something that must be experience there on the spot. What does this mean? That the visible spectacle, objectiable and describable, of the landscape opens to something I shall call an experience of the visual ; and that space the objectiable coordinates within which we situate an object or ourselves opens onto an experience of place.35 When Newman describes the feeling that here is the space, we must understand that the here, the here of the place, only works to deconstruct the usual certainties we have of the space when, spontaneously, we seek to objectify it. That is why the afrmation of that here goes hand in hand with an acerbic critique of the clamour over space with which all of art history has assaulted our ears, from the time of the Renaissance perspective to the so-called pure space of Mondrian.36 The axiomatics and aesthetics of space are one thing: a shared experience objectied into a specic fact in the history of plastic styles. The experience of place as Newman approaches it here is something else again: it is, he says, a private, not a shared, experience, a subjective event and not a measurable fact. The end of Ohio, 1949 communicates the essential feature, through the very surprise it elicits in the reader: what Newman is speaking of in that experience of archaic places the Egyptian pyramids will now seem to him little more than pretty ornaments in comparison is nothing other, he writes, than the physical sensation of time. Why, suddenly, fall back on time? Once our stupor has passed, we begin to understand what is at issue: Newman, very probably without knowing it, has just given a rst, strictly Benjaminian, denition of the aura: a strange weave of space and time (SW 2: 518). And we gradually understand that almost all the phenomenological qualities Benjamin had evoked in his denitions of the aura are found not only in what Newman articulated about his temporal experience of place, but also in what he produced , precisely beginning in the years when, from the response to Greenberg to Ohio, 1949, his pictorial and theoretical problematic was denitively set in place. What is the aura, and more precisely, what is that strange weave of space and time? Benjamin responds with a formula that has remained famous: it is the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be (SW 4:

The Supposition of the Aura

13

255).37 And, in that denition, there is of course the apparition or revelation Newman speaks of. There is also that uniqueness, that simplicity Newman experiences so intensely among the vestiges of archaic Indian architecture. But, to understand better the phenomenology at play here, we must, I think, move back to the visual and pictorial experience for which the artists texts serve as displaced witnesses and readable aftereffects. We must therefore confront that uniqueness from the near side of the atmospheric experience of the lived landscape,38 must approach it, that is, in the concrete procedure to be observed in the key artwork of that entire period, the painting Onement I, and more particularly, the 1947 drawing that served as its heuristic starting-point.39 Newmans entire production in 1947 was limited to two paintings and two drawings.40 Onement I which was rst an untitled ink drawing, its title coming precisely from the pictorial result it went on to produce is of modest dimensions, but in it there appears, denitively asserted, the famous principle of the zip, which characterized the artists later style. It thus functions as Newmans rst absolute image,41 obtained directly, without modication or rectication, in immediacy and in apparition, so to speak. The experimentation proper to the drawing which we nd in earlier graphic studies now nds something like its decisive and denitive opening movement : the white opening in the centre of the drawing in fact achieves, in a more general way, a procedural opening that will lead Newman to use adhesive strips in the paintings, strips that both reserve and reveal the zips of paint elaborated on vast neutral backgrounds. The opening I am speaking of thus possesses this rst characteristic of the aura, which Benjamin dened as a unique apparition. It possesses the quality of uniqueness that Newman laid claim to as the absolute beginning of his oeuvre, a genesis without a preconceived programme.42 This becomes even clearer in Newmans assertion that the vertical zip, far from dividing the visual eld, instead constitutes it as an indivisible unity.43 Finally, the very title Onement I one would have expected Uniqueness or Oneness, and hardly the Roman numeral I next to a word that apparently means the same thing powerfully suggests by its very strangeness the condition of singular uniqueness that Benjamin recognized in every auratic image. A second characteristic of the aura can be recognized, albeit more subtly, in the 1947 drawing: this is what Benjamin called the apparition of a distance. The distance in question is not in any way the foreshortened object we perceive at the very end of linear perspective. The drawing Onement I, in fact, does not objectify any spatiality of distancing (we need to oppose spatial distancing to distance as the phenomenological property of place). It even subverts all the usual values related to the superposition of gure and ground: hence, the black of the drawing no more withdraws behind the white vertical shape than the white withdraws behind the two patches of black ink. Onement I can thus in no case be interpreted guratively, as

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Walter Benjamin and History

a double door left ajar before us: rst, because the edges of the central zip ooze or bleed as a result of the the procedure of adhering, then removing ripping off the material strip, which is designed to reserve the white of the drawings support while the ink is being spread; and second, because the saturated zones of black, far from being uniformly compact, reveal a disintegration in the brushstroke, a loss of adhesiveness that makes the gesture itself visible, and with it, a fraying of the brush-hairs. These are the marks, the voluntary traces of the procedure, which the pictorial version of Onement I will push to the extreme, decisively asserting the incompleteness of the painting.44 Phenomenologically speaking, the auratic distance invoked by Benjamin can be interpreted as the depth that Erwin Straus, then Maurice MerleauPonty, constituted as the fundamental sensorial paradigm of distance and place, a concept far from any spatial depth that could be objectied by measurement or by perspective.45 If in Onement I Newman breaks denitively with any objectiable depth of space, he reconnects, it seems to me, with the physical sensation of a depth of place. In that sense, Hubert Damisch was quite right, evoking Newman but also Pollock to challenge the so-called rejection of the so-called convention of depth.46 Like all great American painting of the period, Newmans effort requires a specic optics whose theory and phenomenology remain to be set forth. In Onement I, that phenomenology certainly includes a version of closeness, given the restricted dimensions of the drawing.47 But, as Benjamin says, however close the apparition, a distance suddenly irrupts within it. It irrupts here in the reserve, in the retrait 48 contrived (and not drawn, outlined, or situated) by Newman. In that sense, it places us squarely before a kind of dialectic of place close/distant, in front of/inside, tactile/optical, appearing/disappearing, open/closed, hollowed out/ saturated which confers on the image its most fundamental auratic quality. It is an inchoate rhythm of black and white, a physical sensation of time that gives to the image-making substance the critical ambiguity that Jean Clay, speaking of Pollock and Mondrian, so aptly named at depth.49 Why is that ambiguity of the place rhythmic, appearing and disappearing at the same time? Because something in it passes through inltrates, mixes with, permeates and disintegrates any certainty about space. This something is again the aura , which we must not understand in terms of a third characteristic, which returns to the most archaic and physical, the most material sense of the word aura . This meaning is that of breath, of the air that surrounds us as a subtle, moving, absolute place, the air that permeates us and makes us breathe. When in Onement I Newman reveals the reserve of the support by stripping off the zip the way one might pull a gag off someones mouth, he creates not so much a spatial form as a rush of air. When his brush heavy with ink presses on the paper, it does not so much draw as exhale its pigmentary matter; when he lifts it slightly off the support,

The Supposition of the Aura

15

it inhales, creates a kind of subtle voluminosity Merleau-Pontys word which, above the paper, again produces a kind of rush of air. The aura of this drawing would thus be related to something like a respiration.50 And all Newmans later drawings only reinforce that impression of breathing surfaces which produce, as their graphic traces, the subtle rhythm of scanning not serial or atmospheric but auratic scanning.

THE SUPPOSITION OF THE SUBJECT: IM THE SUBJECT. IM ALSO THE VERB To speak in these terms, I readily admit, amounts to speaking in anthropomorphic terms of a kind of painting that asserts, and this is obvious, that it is radically abstract. It is not man that Newman thematizes in Onement I it is place itself and the (auratic) conditions for its visual dialectic, its phenomenology.51 Yve-Alain Bois is right to insist on a certain antianthropomorphism in Newman and, as a result, to relativize the inuence of Giacometti on the genesis of the painting Onement I.52 For it is precisely with Onement I that Newmans paintings denitively cease to contain the vitalist and genetic ideograms recognizable in the works of the preceding years, Gea (1945), or Genetic Moment (1947), for example. If Onement I indeed offers this genetic movement of which all critics speak taking their cue from the painter himself it does not in any case offer itself as the iconography of a biblical or kabbalistic subject matter in which we would have to recognize the division between darkness and light accomplished by YHWH, or the reddish-brown associated with the Hebrew play on the words Adam and adamah (earth), or the uniqueness of Adam and Eve according to the Zohar, or even the uniqueness of the one and only God of monotheism.53 All these readings, which in spite of themselves pull Newmans art towards narration, the symbol and the anthropomorphic guration, very quickly go astray in embracing the idea of a programme, which the artist found so repugnant. These readings are only aftereffects of readability and resemantization. Bois is thus right to restore to Newmans art its pure phenomenological dimension, its visual dimension of being there or, as I would say, of being in place.54 But, immediately, anthropomorphism itself is found to be dialectically reimplicated in that operation: not eliminated (outdated, vanished), but transformed (reinvented, resupposed). A modernist critic might no doubt decree the end of anthropomorphism in Newmans abstract art; but it is better to suppose that with their specic manner of abstraction Newmans paintings require that we ourselves transform our spontaneous concept of anthropomorphism, that is, the relation between shape and humanity. Newman himself formulated this problematic relationship, which he certainly sensed was fundamental to his entire oeuvre. He named this

16

Walter Benjamin and History

relation in philosophically modern but artistically bewildering terms the subject or subject matter: The central issue of painting is the subject matter . . . My subject is anti-anecdotal.55 Is this a return to the Panofskian subject matter? Not at all. It is, on the contrary, its dialectical decomposition, its critical reformulation where, in an almost Freudian vein, the primacy of a subject position imposes itself. In the years 194548, Newman began to approach that subject position through words such as desire, terror, ecstasy and even metaphysical exercise.56 Later, he offered a grammatical and no longer strictly expressionist analogy to the notion of subject, by insisting on the relations that link the subject and the object in the temporal, dynamic, performative exercise or experiment indicated by the verbal dimension of a sentence: When I was a young kid studying French, I studied with a man, JeanBaptiste Zacharie, who used to teach French by saying, Moi, je suis le sujet , Im the subject; vous tes lobjet, you are the object; et voici le verbe , and hed give you a gentle slap on the face. The empty canvas is a grammatical object a predicate. I am the subject who paints it. The process of painting is the verb. The nished painting is the entire sentence, and thats what Im involved in . . . Im the subject. Im also the verb as I paint, but Im also the object. I am the complete sentence.57 We sense quite well that in these two variations on a single theme, both the dimension of the object and that of the verb both the product and the process focus attention on the subjective instance incarnated by the artist himself. Newman is attempting, here as elsewhere, to formulate the paradox of an abstract art where the subject takes precedence,58 an art that asserts the subject (as Surrealism did) but, by being abstract, supposes such an assertion without thematizing it, without signifying it simply by bringing all its attention to bear on the effective, dynamic, and even affective relation between the matter and the support, or what the French language designates so well with the term subjectile.59 Newmans claim to an effectivity and an affectivity in his practice of abstraction thus forced him twice to modify the usual notion of subject matter: rst, he rejected any iconographical thematization in favour of a more philosophical afrmation of the artist as subject; and second, he rejected any narcissistic romanticizing in favour of a reection on the procedural relation that, in the act of painting, unites the words subject and matter. His grammatical denition of painting amounts to conceiving artistic labour dialectically, in terms of a three-way relationship among subject , matter and subjectile, as a kind of Borromean knot where any pressure exerted on one term structurally modies the position of the others. Hence, in Onement I, the operation carried out on the subjectile the central reserve, the removal of the masking strip, and the respiration of

The Supposition of the Aura

17

the brush in the case of the drawing; the interruption of this same process in the case of the painting, where Newman left his colour test as it was, on the adhesive strip afxed vertically to the centre of the painting that experimental operation or supposition transforms the usual effectivity of the matter as it is normally deposited on the canvas by the brush. In the same way, the suspension of that operation, its critical ambiguity, transforms the usual position of the subject facing his work in progress. We could say, paraphrasing Jacques Lacan, that the zip in Onement I functions as a unary trace (trait unaire) in Newmans work: in a single stroke, it has transformed everything, has literally invented the subject of his painting.60 We can then understand that the subjective position of the painter, far from being reducible to some affective abandon (as we too often imagine with respect to Abstract Expressionism), is to be deduced from an effective choice, that is, a procedural choice. Conversely, this relationship illuminates the very notion of procedural choice (as we too often imagine it with respect to Minimalism, for example) from the angle of a subject position . There is no procedural negotiation without a displacement, a rapture of a subject, just as there is no rapture of a subject without the procedural and even logical negotiation of a heuristic working rule.61 To say this, to note this in Onement I, is again, I believe, to speak of the aura. It is to detect in the supposition of the aura something that Newmans art teaches us even beyond what Benjamin may have said about the aura. The most beautiful gift that an auratic work like Newmans can make to the notion of the aura is to modify it, to transform it, to displace it. We know that, for Benjamin, the aura as apparition of a distance, however close it may be was opposed to the trace, which was dened as the apparition of a proximity.62 According to him, that opposition conditions our attitude as spectators of human labour: the auratic images of the past are in fact often as the example of the veronica forcefully attests objects made in such a way that people will believe they were not made by the hand of man.63 In them the aura imposes itself, as I said, to the degree that the imagemaking procedure remains secret, miraculous, beyond reach. With Onement I, in contrast as with a number of twentieth-century artworks the aura comes into being, is supposed , through the gazes proximity to a procedural trace as simple as it is productive, as effective as it is ambiguous. In this type of artwork, trace and aura are no longer separated; as a result, we can even recognize the work as an unprecedented combination, which I shall call for the occasion an auratic trace. In this case, the procedural effectivity and the hand does not always intervene directly in the procedure, as we see in the retrait of the central zip in Onement I produces the apparition of distance and, so to speak, succeeds in making us touch depth. In this contact, it is our relation to human labour that is implicated, transformed and renewed. That may be why the twentieth-century artist succeeds in giving us the gift of artworks that look at us, beyond any objective relation, beyond

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Walter Benjamin and History

anything we see in them: a double distance is established, in which our proximity to the formal labour to the subjectile and to the matter establishes the auratic respiration. That respiration does not impose anything on us, but conforms us with the simple choice of looking or not looking, of implicating or not the visual effectiveness of the subject. That may be how the aura declines today, how it is declined and enfolded through its contact with the subject, the matter, and the subjectile. That may be how we can suppose the aura as we face a drawing, however modest, by Barnett Newman

2 THE SHORTNESS OF HISTORY, OR PHOTOGRAPHY IN NUCE: BENJAMINS ATTENUATION OF THE NEGATIVE


DAVID S. FERRIS

Modest methodological proposal for the cultural-historical dialectic . . . The very contours of the positive element will appear distinctly only in so far as this element is set off against the negative. On the other hand, every negation has its value solely as background for the delineation of the lively, the positive. It is therefore of decisive importance that a new partition be applied to this initially excluded, negative component so that, by a displacement of the angle of vision (but not of the criteria!), a positive element emerges anew in it too something different from what was previously signied. And so on, ad innitum, until the entire past is brought into the present in a historical apocatastasis. N1a, 3 In one of the fragments belonging to the posthumous text On the Concept of History, a fragment entitled The Dialectical Image, Walter Benjamin borrows a comparison made by Andr Monglond in the introduction to his 1930 study Le Prromantisme franais. While speaking of the ability of a literary text to present a meaning inconceivable at the time of its conception, Monglond compares this effect to a photographic plate from which an image may be developed at a later date. In the rst sentence of this fragment, Benjamin recalls this comparison in the following words: If one looks upon history as a text, then what is valuable in it [dann gilt von ihr] is what a recent author says of literary texts: the past has left in them images which can be compared to those held fast by a light sensitive plate (GS 1.3: 1238/SW 4: 405). The comparison is called upon to exemplify an understanding of history in terms of the process used to produce a photographic print. In Benjamins account, the comparison, however, is not so straightforward as the opening phrase of this sentence indicates: if one looks upon history as a text. As a consequence of this conditional phrase, history is understood by reference to what photography is said to do more than any

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Walter Benjamin and History

other art: preserve the past for the present by means of the image. But, equally compelling as this conditional opening is the sequence of comparisons it sets up. Including the opening phrase, three comparisons are made in this sentence. The rst, hypothetical, makes history and a text equivalent to one another. The second compares a text to a photographic plate. The third, by accepting the terms of the rst hypothetical comparison would offer knowledge of the initial subject of this whole sequence: history. In effect, the logic enacted by these comparisons takes the form of a syllogism that can be expressed as follows: if history is comparable to a text and a text is comparable to a photographic plate, then, history is comparable to the same photographic plate. Yet, throughout this sequence it cannot be forgotten that, rst, the premise is conditional, and second, what is at stake in these comparisons is another relation, the relation between a looking (betrachten) and a saying (sagen), between a history looked at as a text and a history that can be spoken about because of this looking in other words, a history that can be read. As will be seen later in passages from the Arcades Project, it is the attainment of such a relation that is at stake in the dialectical image. But what is at stake in this relation is that history should mean, be of value, possess worth as the verb used by Benjamin in the phrase connecting this looking and saying indicates: gelten. What then decides that such a history is meaningful (that is, has signicance in the present since history has no other time in which to be meaningful) is that what can be looked upon belongs to language. Yet, if history is to attain value in this way, why is it that a visual mode, photo-graphy, is the chosen means of recognizing this value? Does this mean that Benjamins understanding of history is only conceivable after the advent of photography, a history that is then a reection of the modernity announced by photography? Or does photography effect a change in the structure of history in the same way that Benjamin claims it does for the work of art in his essay The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility, a claim that locates the signicance of art as a function of the technological?1 Only with the advent of photography does it become possible to look at what was actually present to the past, since the moment of the photographic image is also the moment captured in the image. No painting can make this claim; as Benjamin argues, its means of production, so dependent on the hand, forbids it from doing so.2 Since photography is what allows the past to be captured for the rst time in an image that also belongs to the moment of the time captured, what then appears with photography is an image that no longer simply belongs to the domain of art it now makes an historical claim. Benjamin expresses such a claim, in the course of The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility when he relates the work of the Parisian photographer, Eugne Atget, to the withdrawal of the auratic presence of the human subject in early photography: But where the human being withdraws from the photographic image, there the superiority of exhibition value to cult value steps [tritt] for

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the rst time. To have given this development its local habitation is the incomparable signicance of Atget, who, around 1900, captured Paris streets devoid of their human aspect. It has been justly said that he recorded them like the scene of a crime. A crime scene, also, is devoid of the human; its record occurs on account of its evidence. With Atget, photographic records begin to be evidence in the historical process [Proze ]. This brings out their hidden political signicance [Das macht ihre verborgene politische Bedeutung aus]. (GS 1.2: 485/SW 4: 258)3 The absence of the human subject from the street scenes recorded by Atget becomes, for Benjamin, the sign of an incomparable but also superior signicance. This signicance, concentrated in the exhibition value of the image, is named the political by the end of these sentences. Photography not only allows the political to appear, but does so by bringing it out of concealment. The political is therefore what resides, rst of all, concealed in the photograph as image. But, by what means does this concealment occur? Is it a natural attribute of the photographic image? Despite the attraction of such a claim (which presumes an essential effect for photography), the example of Atget indicates that this ability of photography to bring out the political does not reside in the technical process of photography as if, by its nature, photography excluded the presence of a human subject. Rather, Benjamin derives the political aspect of these photographs by means of comparison: they are like the record of a crime scene, a record from which the human subject is excluded in favour of the objects that remain in such a scene. The political signicance of Atgets photographs is understood strictly in accordance to this analogy. In fact, it is the analogy which brings out this signicance rather than some aspect of photography as a medium. Atgets photographs thus achieve the importance Benjamin attaches to them because of a choice to capture street scenes of Paris undisguised by any human presence.4 As a result, Atgets photographic images become the record of a street from which the organizing actions of a human subject have been excluded rather than the record of photographys technical ability. This demonstration of exhibition value is not an attribute of the medium but a framing within the medium. This is why Benjamin will state that Atget has only given this exhibitional aspect of photography what he calls a local habitation, an abode or a place (seine Sttte). Yet, despite this limitation, the example reveals the crucial place the technical will hold as a means of understanding history. The question will be to account for the technical in terms of the historical since it is through the recognition of the former in the latter that the political signicance of history is to be recognized (or, to recall a verb Benjamin uses in the passage just cited as well as elsewhere in the Reproducibility essay, it is a question of how the technical steps into the place of history).5 In an entry to Convolute Y of the Arcades Project , Benjamin locates this technical aspect in relation to history in the following manner: The

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Walter Benjamin and History

effort to launch a systematic confrontation between art and photography was destined to founder at the outset. It could only have been a moment [Moment] in <the> confrontation between art and technology a confrontation brought about by history (Y2a, 6). The debate which followed the invention of photography about whether it belonged amongst the arts or was, as Baudelaire put it, the servant to art is of little interest to Benjamin, since the real issue is not photography or any specic photograph or photographer but what photography represents as a technology.6 First and foremost, Benjamin asserts, in photography, exhibition value begins to drive back cult value all along the line (GS 1.2: 485/SW 4: 257). This remark makes clear that photography has a role to play. Photography is the means through which the beginning of a confrontation occurs, a confrontation caused by history. That this confrontation is not seen for what it is the beginning of a general confrontation between art and technology, rather than a confrontation between art and one mode of technology conrms the extent to which photography is only the beginning of a development that leads to lm and beyond to digital imagery. To interpret this event, this confrontation, as the result of history, as Benjamin does in the passage from the Arcades Project just cited (Sie sollte ein Moment in der Auseinandersetzung zwischen Kunst und Technik sein, die die Geschichte vollzog ), indicates that the appearance of photography crystallizes a force already present within history. In this case, just as Atget gives a local habitation to the stepping forward of exhibition value, so then does photography provide a local habitation for the political signicance of history. Photography becomes, in this sense, not merely a means of producing images, but rather becomes itself an image, a technique for the production of historys political signicance. In fact, it is a handle, as Benjamin describes it in section V of the Reproducibility essay when commenting on the exhibition value of art: This much is certain: today, photography and lm give [ geben] to this understanding the most useful handles [die brauchbarsten Handhaben] (GS 1.2: 484/SW 4: 257). As handles, neither photography nor lm can be confused with an understanding that remains the domain of history, they are rather the means by which this understanding is developed. For Benjamin, this is true even when, as he states in the sentence preceding the one just cited, exhibition value achieves an absolute emphasis: through the absolute emphasis that rests [liegt] on its exhibition value, the work of art becomes a form [Gebilde] with quite new functions (GS 1.2: 484/SW 4: 257). Even at the absolute pole of its exhibition value, the work of art is a functional form.7 This functional form, as the word Benjamin uses in this context indicates, das Gebilde, is tied to the production of art in terms of the image, das Bild . Since it is on the basis of the image that a function can be given to art, the production of the image is the single most crucial aspect of Benjamins understanding of the history within which art occurs. Without this image, there can be no such history, and therefore no art (to the extent that art

The Shortness of History, or Photography in Nuce

23

claims its signicance through a historical relation to the present). The image is the handle of history, but as Benjamins description of its appearance in exhibition value points to, its role as handle only appears at the point of an absolute emphasis. It is at this point that exhibition value is recognized not for exhibiting something such as a building or street in a photograph but rather for exhibiting exhibitionality in general. What is exhibited in this case is the means of exhibition: photography, exhibition as technique. Benjamin emphatically bases his understanding of the change in the function of art on such a means. This can be read in the Reproducibility essay when he asserts the difference that the camera makes: For the rst time, photography freed the hand from the most important artistic tasks in the process of pictorial [bildlicher] reproduction, tasks that now devolved solely upon the eye looking into a lens [welcher nunmehr dem ins Objektiv blickenden Auge allein zuelen] (GS 1.2: 47475/SW 4: 253). This freeing of the hand, enabled by photography, has all the character of an event (for the rst time and a few a pages later this becomes the rst time in world history [GS 1.2: 481/SW 4: 256]). But, what does not change is that art is functional even when it displays itself as technical. A technical art is, in this respect, no different from an auratic art: they are both claimed by function. This shared aspect can be readily seen if the sentence in which Benjamin speaks of the new function of art is cited in full. This sentence describes this functionality as occurring both in the absolute emphasis on exhibition value and in the absolute emphasis on its cult value: Just as the work of art in prehistoric times, through the absolute emphasis that rested on its cult value, rst became an instrument of magic which was only later recognized as a work of art, so today, through the absolute emphasis that rests on its exhibition value, the work of art becomes a form [Gebilde] with entirely [ ganz] new functions. (GS 1.2: 484/SW 4: 257) Only in its existence as means is the work of art both an instrument of magic through cult value and a form with entirely new functions. In each case, the work of art is a form whose signicance derives from a value that can be placed on that form. Consequently, the work of art is only known through the value that steps into its place. Yet, in asserting such an understanding, this sentence also poses a question about the existence of a work of art that is not simply the embodiment of a value. The question is, if value is the handle by which the work of art may be picked up, what is in effect being picked up? What remains of the work of art when there is no such handle? According to what Benjamin says in this sentence, what is picked up is what has been subject to the forces that produce an image das Gebilde. But, here, not only is the work of art recognized in terms of what produces an image, the means of recognizing it also proceeds by way of the

24

Walter Benjamin and History

image to the extent that photography becomes both the means of producing the exhibitional image (that is, the work of art) and the image through which the production of such a value is recognized.8 The camera doubles as a technological instrument whose formation (also Gebilde) permits the recognition of the technological. Since, as Benjamin claims, the appearance of absolute exhibition value in an art whose mode of production is technological is not simply an event in a series of events but the moment in which a confrontation between history and art takes place, then such recognition is understood as also being brought on by history that is, history has a role in the appearance of the technological. How history fulls this role is directly related to its structuring which, as Benjamin makes clear in the course of the Reproducibility essay, is a movement between two poles: cult and exhibition. Despite the fact that Benjamin grants absolute emphasis to these poles at different times, the latter pole is not excluded from the former when under the sway of auratic, cult value.9 This is why Benjamin can speak of exhibition value as if it had always been there, hidden within the art of aura and cult value, waiting for the mode of existence most adequate to its meaning. In recognizing photography as that mode, Benjamin does not just recognize an example of exhibition value, but also recognizes a history in which technology and reproducibility are inevitable for art. Photography thus becomes the means to develop, in the technical, photographic sense of the word, the history in which its confrontation with the past of art is already set by history. In the second sentence of the fragment, The Dialectical Image (discussed at the beginning of this chapter), Benjamin grants photography just such a role. And again he refers to Andr Monglonds comparison between photography and a text to do so. This time, however, Monglond is not paraphrased as in the rst sentence but cited in Benjamins own translation: Only the future has at its disposal developers strong enough to allow the image to come to light in all its details (GS 1.3: 1238/SW 4: 405). Much of Benjamins understanding of history, as it is expressed in the posthumous text, On the Concept of History, is condensed here. Above all the sense that what is properly historical only reveals itself to a future generation capable of recognizing it, that is, a generation possessing developers strong enough to x an image never seen before and never to be seen again, as Benjamin will later insist.10 Within the Reproducibility essay, photography, as the future of art, fulls this role. Photography does this not merely because it brings out exhibition value, but also because at the same time it brings out the auratic. Only from the perspective of the exhibitional is it possible to recognize the auratic otherwise art is essentially and unchangeably auratic even to the point of being incapable of any other determination. In this case, the auratic could not be a value attached to the work of art. By the same logic, if it were not something attached, exhibitionality would have no mode of existence. More importantly, nor would the technological be an essential

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pole of art. What is therefore at stake for art in Benjamin is not just a history that allows the confrontation of these two poles to be recognized as history, but the recognition of this history through technology. Technology is both part of this history and the means by which this history and its part in this history is recognized. The sentence Benjamin cites from Monglond reects the crucial role of the image in securing this recognition. However, this emphasis on the image in Benjamins translation is not exactly what Monglond says. As Benjamin knew, since he cites the passage in French in Convolute N of the Arcades Project , Monglond writes: Seul lavenir possde des rvlateurs assez actifs pour fouiller parfaitement de tels clichs (N15a, 1) [Only the future possesses developers active enough to search out perfectly such negatives]. Benjamin translates this sentence as follows: Nur die Zukunft hat Entwickler zur Verfgung, die stark genug sind, um das Bild mit allen Details zum Vorschein kommen zu lassen (GS 1.3: 1238) [Only the future has developers at its disposal that are strong enough to allow the image to come to appearance in all its details]. Where Monglond uses the French word for a negative, clich, Benjamin substitutes image, Bild . From one perspective, there would be no difference here. After all, a negative is an image even if it is a reversal of how the world is seen. Yet, Benjamins substitution does pose the question of why it occurs at all and of what effect this change has on the relation between photography and his understanding of history, a relation so resolutely focused on the image. Before discussing this substitution of Bild for clich, two other changes of emphasis in Benjamins translation should be noted: where Monglond says perfectly (parfaitement), Benjamin writes in all its details (mit allen Details); where Monglond describes the activities of these developers as searching out ( fouiller), Benjamin says that such developers allow the unperceived image to come to light, that is, to come to appearance or sight (das Bild mit allen Details zum Vorschein kommen lassen). Within the example of photography, what these changes clarify is an emphasis on the image produced, even to the point of subsuming the negative into that image. For Benjamin, the negative is already an image waiting for all its details to be brought to light. As a result, the negative is understood from the perspective of what it produces to use a Marxist-inected phrase from the introduction to the Reproducibility essay, it becomes its own prognostic requirement (GS 1.2: 473/SW 4: 252). The difference between negative and print then becomes a merely technical aspect of an image that has subsumed the process of its production into itself as technology is recognized less as a means of producing an image (Baudelaires servant) than a determination of the image. In this respect, photography is a mode of appearance of the image, a mode that, quite literally, places the image in its appearance before us: der Vorschein . As a result, in photography, the image is seen as coming into its own as image. This result, perhaps only distantly hinted at when Monglond

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writes fouiller parfaitement, is made explicit by Benjamins translation. What emerges as at stake in this use of photography as a means of understanding history is not just history itself but a history whose promise is fullled by technology.11 Here, the historical task of technology can be determined as the task of reproducing itself in all its details. But, for this task to be known as history, that is, for technology to be recognized in all its value, it can make no absolute claim for itself. Otherwise it must fail its inmost tendency, the reproduction of every detail. This is why in Benjamin the negative is understood as in the image. Only the image can promise what it is to become as an image, just as technology can only promise what it is to be technological rather than what is already technological. Through this technology, history is developed in Benjamin. If the negative is already understood as an image by Benjamin then this is an understanding, as Benjamin clearly states in On the Concept of History, that cannot be found at any temporal point in the past.12 Such a negative is understood according to what it brings to light: the image.13 Since the print developed at a later date from a negative reveals what could not be brought to light at the time of its exposure, the negative does not negate or prevent what the future can develop. Because the image brings to light what was already there but could not be seen either in the time of its capture or in the time that has elapsed since that moment (the time of the past), then these images both the negative and what is produced from it necessarily vary in the amount of detail they exhibit. Thus, a deviation is an unavoidable effect of an image. Since this variation depends on a future in which there are developers active or strong enough to produce the image in all its details, then this variation depends on the internal development of technology, on a history that belongs to technology. If this deviation did not occur, the image in which Benjamin understands history would already have been brought to appearance in all its details in the negative and would be known at the time of its exposure thereby rendering history useless since it would then have no sense. To account for this difference within technology is to account for history. The possibility of such an accounting, as Benjamins emphasis on photography indicates, is itself an effect of technology, since it is only through the rise of exhibition value that the technological and its image appears in confrontation to auratic art, on the one hand, and, on the other, to the concept of history represented by that art. But, the mere appearance of technology will not be enough. Here, the question of recognizability, that is, the question of how looking relates to saying, returns crucially (for it is not enough to look at the negative to see all its details, they must also be recognized as those details to do so is to register this recognition, to bring it to language, to sagen). In short, it is a question of how the looking of technology is not only a mere looking, not merely the image of das blickende Auge. In the second entry to Convolute N of the Arcades Project, Benjamin underlines the crucial importance of this deviation to the historical undertaking

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of that project while attributing its cause to time.14 Benjamin writes: What for others are deviations are, for me, the data which determine my course. On the differentials of time (which, for others, disturb the main lines of inquiry), I base my reckoning (N1, 2). In the language Benjamin uses here, the difference time makes would disturb the hope of returning through the image to the moment captured in the negative. Yet, as the sentence preceding the one just cited indicates, the difference registered by this disturbance does not arise independently of the attempt to achieve such a return. Benjamin writes: Comparison of other peoples attempts to the undertaking of a sea voyage in which the ships are drawn off course by the magnetic North Pole. Discover this North Pole (N1, 2). To discover this North Pole Benjamins emphasis is, according to his example, to discover the source of deviation, the source of what makes any intention of arriving at the North Pole go astray. But, it is only in such an intention that this deviation is exhibited for Benjamin in the same way that what is developed from the photographic image utilizes the same process and produces the same image as any other time, yet what appears in this image is no longer understood as the image present to the lens in the time of its capture. Although, in the fragment on the dialectical image, Benjamin attributes this difference to the future existence of a developer strong enough to bring out the image in all its details and although it is the privilege of the future (and therefore the passage of time) to possess such a developer, time is not such a developer. Time does not produce the image that becomes available to the future. However, time as a differential is what makes production of this image possible for this future, since such a time is marked by the occurrence of two events a condition that is equally true for photography since every negative and every print is conceived, technically speaking, on the basis of time, the dened time of its exposure, the opening and closing of the shutter. In an entry to Convolute Y of the Arcades Project , Benjamin recounts a transformation of visual forms that explicitly points to time as a technical condition to which photography owes its signicance: The entrance of the temporal factor into the panoramas is brought about through the succession of times of day (with the well-known lighting tricks). In this way, the panorama transcends painting and anticipates photography. Owing to its technical condition [technischen Beschaffenheit], the photograph, in contrast to the painting, can and must be coordinated [zugeordnet] with a well-dened and continuous segment of time (exposure time). In this chronological deneability [chronologischen Przisierbarkeit], the political signicance of the photograph is already contained in nuce. (Y10, 2) The political signicance referred to here is also claimed by Benjamin on behalf of Atgets photographs of Paris streets but for a different reason. In

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the case of Atget, it was their status as evidence their exclusion of human presence that allowed their hidden political signicance and therefore their relation to the historical process to be brought out. Here, it is not a question of what is or is not in the photograph. Rather, the emphasis falls upon the chronological denability that arises from the technological condition of any photograph: the fact that a photograph can only exist because of a dened time. By claiming that the signicance of this dened time is political, Benjamin is also claiming that the technological already contains the possibility of this signicance in nuce. Consequently, history in Benjamin becomes the exhibition of this hidden signicance in technology in effect, developing technology as the example of what it already is. For history to develop the political signicance of technology is then for history to develop the means by which it also attains signicance. If history does not attain this, time, as Benjamin describes it in Thesis XVII of On the Concept of History will remain a precious but tasteless seed in its interior (GS 1.2: 703/SW 4: 396). Precious because, without it, no history as such is conceivable; tasteless because time, in its chronological denability, that is, in its technological denition, is not the same as history a history whose seed offers only its shell, that remains, literally, in a nutshell rather than yielding its fruit, the nut. How, then, does the technological exhibit what Benjamin refers to as the nourishing fruit of what is historically understood (GS 1.2: 703/SW 4: 396)? As already seen in the second entry to Convolute N of the Arcades Project , to exhibit historical signicance is, for Benjamin, to exhibit a relation to the past that is also a deviation from that past in the sense that the past occurs in the form of an image not yet developed in all its details. For this signicance to appear, an account of such images in terms of their exhibitionability is necessary. While photography offers an account of such exhibitionability for the rst time, this account runs the risk of remaining, as Benjamin notes with respect to Atgets photographs of Paris streets, a local habitation. As such, it does not reside within the means of photography, it is not, as already pointed out above, a property of its technology. By what means, then, does technology produce historical understanding, by what means does it step into the place of this understanding? In the Reproducibility essay, technology takes such a step when it appears with an absolute emphasis on exhibition value. This emphasis, Benjamin claims, rst emerges within photography. As Benjamin describes it, the moment this rst emergence depends upon is a moment that occurs within the photographic process, namely, the moment when what is captured in the image and the image are dened by the same duration of time: their chronological denability. This denition takes the form of the negative. Although Benjamin, unlike Monglond, does not retain the negative when he makes the analogy between photography and history in the fragment entitled The Dialectical Image (preferring instead to treat the negative as ein Bild ,

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granting it the same status as the printed image that can be made from it), the negative is accentuated when the dening property of exhibitionability is given in the Reproducibility essay. Benjamin denes this ability when he states that from the photographic plate, for example, a multiplicity of prints is possible [ist eine Vielheit von Abzgen mglich]; the question of an authentic print has no sense (GS 1.2: 4812/SW 4: 256). This denition privileges what is produced from the negative, since it is the print that possesses the ability to exhibit what is present in the negative not with respect to what is depicted in the negative (that is again merely a local habitation, not a property of technology), but with respect to its purpose: to produce reproductions that have no priority in relation to one another and therefore no claim to authenticity since each is as authentic as the other. Here, the prints allow a negative to come to light, but again it is a negative whose property may only be recognized through its development into those prints. Monglonds text, hidden behind Benjamins translation, reminds us that photography, in the stage that Benjamin refers to it as a medium of reproducibility, is only such a medium because of the clich or negative that permits it to possess exhibition value. In other words, multiplicity is the effect of a difference signalled by the image in its negation. The absolute emphasis on exhibition value of photography, the means by which technology takes its rst historical step, overwrites this difference. By turning from this difference, Benjamin brings to light in all its details the invariability of the image produced from the negative. This emphasis on the absolute exhibition value of the photographic image is by no means an emphasis on the signicance of an image, but rather an emphasis on the technological existence of such an image. Such an emphasis cannot yield a history other than the repetition of this process. But what is important to remember, and the Reproducibility essay does this most clearly, is that the absolute emphasis on exhibition value is what establishes the two poles and therefore the possibility of recognizing deviation within the auratic (the recognition that the auratic is already in a certain respect exhibitional). However, once established, this exhibitional pole, in order to become historical truth, rather than truth, is set against itself. To be historical, it must be the place in which a deviation steps and steps in the name of history as something hidden. If the presentation of photography as the image of history is maintained as Benjamin describes it in the fragment, The Dialectical Image, then the image produced from the negative can bring out what could not have been seen, but remains hidden in the historical moment in which the image was captured in its negative form. In both the earlier essay on photography (A Short History of Photography) and the later essay, The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility, Benjamin explains the possibility of such an other understanding in the past by reference to what he terms the optical unconscious. In 1931, Benjamin describes the appearance of such an effect as follows:

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Walter Benjamin and History

It is another nature which speaks to the camera rather than to the eye: other above all in the sense that in the place of a space interwoven with human consciousness steps a space interwoven with the human unconscious [an die Stelle eines vom Menschen mit Bewutsein durchwirkten Raums ein unbewut durchwirkter tritt]. For example, it is readily accepted that one can give an account, if only in general terms, of the act of walking; for certain, one knows nothing more about its disposition in the fraction of a second of stepping out [von ihrer Haltung im Sekundenbruchteil des Ausschreitens ]. Photography, with its devices of slow motion and enlargement, opens it up. One comes to know this optical unconscious rst through photography, just as one comes to know the instinctual unconsciousness through psychoanalysis. (Photography GS 2.1: 371/SW 4: 51012)15 To uncover what is hidden is again a matter of stepping into the place of something else. Here, a space interwoven with the unconscious takes the place of a space interwoven with consciousness. To know this step, and, above all, to know this step for the rst time, is the achievement of photographys technical ability. Thus photography, and its instrument, the camera, become the means of knowing that this technical means of reproduction has stepped into the place of non-technical or manual reproduction. This step (by which the signicance of photography is grasped and its signicance is that it has made this step) is, in effect, only knowable through photography. Since what takes place in this step can only be revealed by the camera, photography becomes the example of the means by which it is known as a technology. Only by stepping into the place of the auratic, the space of conscious, meditative understanding, does the technical become known in its technicality. But, the step by which it achieves this knowledge is only recognizable because it has already stepped into the place of the auratic.16 Already being there is a fundamental principle of Benjamins understanding of history. But, equally important is the necessity that what is there becomes recognizable in its hiddenness like the absence of people in Atgets photographs of Paris streets. It is the signicance of this hiddenness that remains hidden until the future. Photography in the Reproducibility essay is an example of such a history as Benjamins references to the existence of exhibitionability prior to its appearance indicate. The advent of photography, then, represents the moment when technology is seen to exhibit a tendency already present but undeveloped in auratic art. This is why, within the terms of Benjamins history of the work of art, there could never have been a debate about whether or not photography is an art unless art had already recognized this tendency. Without this tendency, photography would simply have had no relation to art and art could not have, as Benjamin claims, sensed the approaching crisis (GS 1.2: 475/SW 4: 256). The sense of history expressed here is strongly Marxist to the extent

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that this history of art fulls a prognostic requirement (the requirement that exhibition value attains absolute emphasis).17 At the same time, for this prognostic requirement to have value, what it predicts cannot be the cause of that prediction. If it were, then the processes of photography would have been deducible from painting before such a technology came into existence rather than afterwards. For the advent of these processes to become part of a history, a requirement of such a history is that their existence should already be distinct from the fact of their pastness. Here, what is at stake in Benjamins understanding of history is this difference. Hence, Benjamins emphasis in Convolute N of the Arcades Project on recognizability (Erkennbarkeit) and readability (Lesbarkeit).18 The necessity of this emphasis results directly from the question rst opened in the Reproducibility essay under the name of exhibitionability or Ausstellbarkeit , the question of a technology that steps into the place of art as if it were a pure means, exhibiting only its own exhibitionability in order to discover itself and establish itself as another pole for art. This is why the development of Benjamins understanding of history cannot be separated from the history of the work of art, since it is in that history that the possibility of deviation is rst brought out. This is also why history in Benjamin cannot be separated from the ascendancy of the technical since the technical, as the means of producing history becomes the means of history so produced. Before taking up this sense in which the historical is an effect of its technical production, an aspect of Benjamins understanding of photography needs to be claried, an aspect that is central to establishing the other pole of art. As indicated in the citation with which this paper begins, photography provides a metaphor of history to the extent that history is like the photographic plate from which an image may be developed at a later date. This understanding, despite relying on the photographic process through which a print is produced, suggests a variability in what can be developed from this image. As a result, in the future, the image can reect a signicance other than what is discerned in it during the time or age of its capture, despite the fact that every print made from its negative is the same as another. As already pointed out, this fact explains Benjamins translation of clich as Bild (even after he initially acknowledges the role of the photographic plate in the rst sentence of the fragment). Here, the negative is simply the inversion of the developed image, it is not different in kind, yet its necessary presence does signal the place of an inversion within this account of photographys transformation of the work of art into a work of art designed for reproducibility (GS 1.2: 481/SW 4: 256). Since the photographic process is what Benjamins account of reproducibility rests upon rather than the subject or object recorded by photography and, since this process, as a technical process, can only produce multiple images by virtue of the negative, the claim that the question of an authentic print has no sense rests upon a difference that photography holds to in order to sustain its existence as well

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as its role as the example of an absolute emphasis on exhibition value. Does this then mean that technology, despite Benjamins claims to the contrary when he compares photography to history, must keep the image separate from the negative it reproduces in order to support a history other than the history of auratic art?19 Another way to pose this question would be: when photography becomes an image of history, why must the negative recede? Indeed, why is it that this inversion (which separates image and negative but which also creates the possibility of the comparison of photography to history) does not carry over into the dialectical image, despite this being named a dialectical image?20 What is at stake in this history is not just an interpretation of technology as exemplied by photography but rather a relation that, nominally, takes the form of an inversion as Benjamin moves from a visual technology to history. Despite no explicit reection on this inversion by Benjamin, its presence can be traced in a phrase and a word that link, on the one hand, the Reproducibility essay and its account of exhibitionability, and, on the other, both the theses presented in On the Concept of History and Convolute N of the Arcades Project. When Benjamin rst speaks of the difference made by photography in the Reproducibility essay, he states that the most important artistic tasks have now devolved solely upon the eye looking into a lens (GS 1.2: 475/SW 4: 253). Within Benjamins account, this looking eye, this blickende Auge , reduces the intervention of the human subject to a mere act of looking as the role of the hand in the formation of art is superseded.21 Yet, even here, the eye still looks. It has no choice. The technology requires its involvement. The camera, after all, is not a subject capable of directing itself to this or that scene. But, when Benjamin speaks of history in the posthumous theses, the looking eye becomes the eye in its look, its glance, Augenblick. Linguistically, das blickende Auge inverts into Augenblick but also with this inversion the looking eye takes on the dening property of the technical instrument it looks into: the camera and the chronologically denable time of the exposure that allows the image to be held fast and subsequently recognized as an image, its Belichtungsdauer. Here, the Augenblick operates as the interruption of the looking eye, interrupting its look with another looking, an interruption measured by the temporal brevity of the glance or look of the eye. In the Augenblick of Benjamins theses on history, this looking that interrupts in the moment of its glance steps into the place of what Benjamin denes as the technical condition (die technische Beschaffenheit [Y10, 2]) of photography. Just as the political signicance of photography [is] contained in nuce in this condition, so, in this moment, the historical signicance of the image is also grasped by this condition in both the theses of history and Convolute N of the Arcades Project and never more so than when these works gure the occurrence of this image in the limited and interruptive duration of a ash of lightning.22 Here, the phrase in nuce should not be put

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aside since it would also reinforce this temporal condition if the German sense of Nu is also heard. The temporal factor that coordinates the photograph and the technical condition of its creation (Y10, 2) can now be discerned in the appearance of the image through which Benjamin founds his understanding of history. It is this condition that gives recognizability to such an image, that allows it to move from what is merely a looking on (the looking into the lens of the Reproducibility essay) to a look whose duration, however short, is given signicance by this condition (through its recognizability and readability, its coming to light zum Vorschein kommen). That this coming to light takes the form (Gebilde) of the technical condition of exhibitionability (through which the work of art takes on entirely new functions) in the Reproducibility essay reveals the extent to which what is at stake in Benjamins understanding is the technical condition through which his historical materialism is reproduced: history as the reproduction of itself as image. While the condition of this history can be coordinated with the reproducibility of the work of art after aura (and Benjamins allusion to the political signicance of Atgets photographs of Paris streets already points to this relation), this coordination also takes the form of an inversion. Where the historical image, the dialectical image occurs, it announces itself in a ash of light just as the shutter of the camera announces the arrival of an image to the photographic plate or negative on which it is recorded inversely: darkness as light, light as darkness. But besides this coordination by comparison (which can only transform photography into a phenomenology of history), there is another inversion, one in which photography, or rather, its formation functions as the clich of history. This inversion, already indicated in the shift from blickende Auge to Augenblick, is given a local habitation in the lightning ash whose signicance is not its blinding effect but its minimal temporal duration. Only in such a duration does history and the dialectical image occur for Benjamin but, in this case, what happens in this duration of the lightning is not the reception of light, as in photography and the camera, but its emission. Reception only occurs when, like the photographic plate, the historical subject receives this ash by recognizing and reading what is received as an image. Here again, the place of the clich, the historical subject, would give way to the Bild as the image becomes the only point of reference. Here, it gives way in the name of a history whose recognizability arises in its deviation from those forms of history Benjamin would resist if not overcome, namely, historicism, universal history, progress, a tradition subject to conformism (the geographical poles rather than the magnetic pole of Benjamins historical project).23 But, the condition of this deviation is the placement of the image in its inverted form in its other pole. (In the terms of the Reproducibility essay, the relation of cult value to exhibition value is the inversion of its relation in photography). The dialectical image is in

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this sense strictly dialectical, it is the inverse of the history out of which it appears but at the same time is already within that history. In the passage previously cited from Convolute Y (10, 2) where Benjamin traces the political signicance of the photograph to its chronological denability the recognition of such an image occurs through what he names the differential of time, the difference that time makes. But, for an image to appear according to this differential, it must also be lled with time, for Benjamin the time of the now. An early fragment from the Arcades Project addresses how this is to be understood. According to this fragment, the dialectical image contains time in its smallest, its least form: On the dialectical image. In it lies time . . . The time differential in which alone the dialectical image is real . . . Real time enters the dialectical image . . . in its smallest form [Gestalt] . . . All in all, the force of time [Zeitmoment] in the dialectical image lets itself be discovered [lt sich . . . ermitteln] only by means of the confrontation with another concept. This concept is the now of recognizability. (Q, 21) Time in its least form enters the dialectical image. A form that can only be discovered in confrontation. A time without time for itself. A time that needs something other than itself if it is to be itself rather than a timeless history to which it cannot belong. In its least form this time is the condition of the dialectical image. But in this case, what is referred to as time cannot be time at all, at least not in the sense that confuses history with time. Yet, in order to intervene, this time is given an image. As an image it is given denition and, as Benjamin states, confrontation is the means by which this denition arises when the dialectical image comes up against the now of recognizability. This now is also the moment, the Augenblick in which the looking of the eye is gured as a look.24 The inversion that relates the looking eye to the Augenblick is now revealed as the moment of guration since, in this moment, seeing becomes what can only be said (in the sense that the instant is always over in order to be an instant and therefore cannot be seen but only spoken of).25 Yet, when Benjamin describes this movement, it is not a particular guration or a particular inversion that is at work but guration itself. In Benjamins own words, it is the image as an image that produces this arrest, the image in its gurality: The image is that in which what-has-been [das Gewesene] steps together [zusammentritt] in a ash with the now to form a constellation. In other words: the image is dialectics at a standstill . . . the relation of what-hasbeen to the now is dialectical: not temporal in nature but gural [bildlich]. Only dialectical images are genuinely historical that is, not archaic images. (N3, 1)

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In the verb zusammentreten , this dialectical relation of what-has-been with the now is gured as a coming together that takes the form of a step.26 It is this stepping that marks the image as genuinely historical for Benjamin. At the same time, or rather, in the same time (time in its least form), this stepping is also understood as a momentary halting or interruption of progression and continuity hence the images of crystallization, constellation, of a monad.27 These images are what Benjamin refers to in Thesis XVII of On the Concept of History as the structure [Struktur] in which the historical materialist recognizes the sign of a messianic arrest [Stillstellung ] of happening (GS 1.2: 703/SW 4: 396). Not only is the image understood as a structure, but this structure brings the work of placing (Stellung ) to a halt, in effect, denes the work of stellen so that what emerges is a place in place of a time that has no time of its own, the place of a structure. It is in this place that what is genuinely historical steps for Benjamin, but in order for this stepping to be recognized as historical, history (time that has no time) must step along with the means of its recognition. If these did not step together, then, this history in which happening is arrested would not be differentiated from the merely representational. Its Augenblick would therefore not exhibit its presentation as structure or form (das Gebilde), that is, as the means of its presentation. For this history the genuinely historical in Benjamin to attain a critical force with respect to historical progress and continuity it has no other choice but to confront the foundation of their means of representation. All else would be, as Benjamin puts it, in the service of the victor who has not ceased to be victorious (Thesis VI). Yet, when Benjamin denes further the concept against which the dialectical image lets itself be known in a confrontation, the concept of the now of recognizability, the critical force of this image is given a perilous existence: The image that has been read [ gelesene Bild ] which is to say the image in the now of its recognizability bears to the highest degree the imprint of the perilous critical moment, which lies at the foundation of all reading [des kritischen, gefhrlichen Moments, welcher allem Lesen zugrunde liegt ] (N3, 1). In another entry to this same Convolute, in which what is stated in this entry is repeated almost word for word, Benjamin does insert, however, one more phrase between this passage and the passage just cited. The phrase reads: and the place in which one encounters them [dialectical images] is language (N2a, 3). Only in language is there a now of recognizability. Therefore, only in the encounter with language can there be a dialectical image. This encounter takes on the form of that confrontation Benjamin ascribes to the relation between art and photography (see Y2a, 6 discussed above). But why should encountering language reveal the same structure that is brought out by history as the relation of art to photography? Indeed, just what is this structure of language for Benjamin: this structure that has to be read and, whether recognized or not, must be present at every moment (alle Augenblicke) since it is the foundation of all reading?

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Benjamin states that in the dialectical image it is the relation between what-has-been and the now that is dialectical. This relation is then redened as not temporal in nature but gural [bildlich]. If the nature of this relation is not temporal but bildlich, then, the dialectical image can also be redened according to its own exhibitional structure as das bildliche Bild , as the image revealed in its image-likeness, its bildlichkeit. In this case, the dialectical would be exhibited as what it already is and the means of this exhibition is language since, as Benjamin asserts, it is only there that one encounters dialectical images. As such, language becomes the handle by which the dialectical image is recognized as an image that arrests its own dialectical movement. Thus, the two concepts that encounter one another in this genuinely historical image are the linguistic and the dialectical. The true historian, as described by Benjamin in the same fragment with which this essay begins (the fragment in which history, text and photography are set in comparison to one another), is the one able to read this image, but such a historian, Benjamin adds (by way of citing Hofmannstal), must read what was never written (GS 1.3: 1238/SW 4: 405).28 To read what was never written. Is not this reading the work of a developer available only to the future? To develop time in the image of its recognizability? Here, more than anywhere else, the relation of looking to saying is at stake as the condition of this reading, since what was never written is what could only be looked at and what is read belongs to writing. But what can only be looked at possesses no means of recognition, no denable chronology, no duration in which it can be present just as time has no time in which to be present hence the bursting by which Benjamin describes its movement out of this state.29 To name this duration as the now of the now of recognizability is to name language as the place of its reproducibility, but this place, not to mention its critical function, is, Benjamin insists, perilous since what is readable in this moment can only be read in this moment. As Thesis V states, what ashes up at the moment [Augenblick] of its recognizability . . . is never seen again (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 390).30 Its function in this case is never to become an image for the past since the signicance of such an image would always be tied to the here and now of its event in that past an understanding that is in effect auratic (according to the terms in which the aura is dened in the Reproducibility essay). Instead, by making it never seen again Benjamin ensures that every image appearing in the now of recognizability arrests the means by which historicism, continuous progress, universal history all lay claim to an authentic account of history as if by this claim the image assured the eternal value of such histories, the image as timeless truth. Against this, Benjamin writes that the eternal, in any case, is far more the rufe on a dress than some idea (N3, 2).31 With this inversion of the relation between the eternal and the image the image is no longer an image for the eternal but rather the eternal is now in it and with the disappearance of the image from sight, genuine history is interrupted in order to preserve the future as

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the place in which its interruptive force may again take place. This is why, for Benjamin, these images rst come to readability only at a dened time [sie erst in einer bestimmten Zeit zur Lesbarkeit kommen] (N3, 1). The historical index of this coming to readability is the now of recognizability the dened time in which they can be read. But if what is read is their truth, then, what can only be read is that they will never be seen again. This is the truth that is the death of intentional history: history as progress, universal history, and so on. This, in the end, is the content of the truth exhibited in the dialectical image: never to be seen again. In this aspect, every image so produced has the same effect history in the age of its reproducibility. There is no authentic image of time since no image, as photography so clearly illustrates, takes place in time, but only because of a time that recedes as the condition of its recognition. Within this understanding of time, every image is thus the record of this recession, that is, every image is the recession in which history takes on a form. In this, they do not vary and this is also why the interest of Benjamins concept of history does not, in the end, lie in his claims on behalf of historical materialism. This concept treats the temporal condition of history, a condition that assures the reproducibility of history in the image. It is not, in this case, an example of history but the example of time as the unvarying clich from which the image is developed. Its force is this exemplariness, which is to say its citability an aspect reinforced by the presentation of the Arcades Project as well as the theses on history, both are pre-eminently citable as well as preeminently readable as citations. In this citability, Benjamin remains the most telling example of a history understood as example, a history that can and would only be shown (method of this project . . . nothing to say . . . only to show?). This understanding, unlike Kafkas Messiah, does not come later than it should.32 (But then, who is to say that the lateness of Kafkas Messiah would not allow the Messiah to arrive on time, unnoticed? An arrival that would not matter.) This understanding of history has appointed its time now as if it were a time appointed for it (as if time could ever be late or even on time). But, to defer this moment to the future is to ensure that history, in its least form, will show itself on time if not in time. As such, it will show in the moment of its appointment, the moment of its only possible recognition as history. Only then does it arrive as das bildliche Bild . Only then does it arrive in the shortness of a history that has no time to call its own other than the chronological denability of its event. But to make the example of times not-coming matter, to make the time that has no time short enough to be recognized as history, is this not still the task of technology? Even in the time of an Augenblick, when the looking of the eye is splintered into the look of messianic time? And is such technology not the reproducible image of history reproduced as the end of modernity? And is this not in the guise of something different from what was previously signied, and so on, ad innitum , until the entire past is brought into the present? Im Nu-ce ?

3 NOW: WALTER BENJAMIN ON HISTORICAL TIME


WERNER HAMACHER*

What Walter Benjamin uncovers in his theses On the Concept of History is the temporal structure of the political affect. Historical time is founded upon political time directed towards happiness. Any theory of history of historical cognition and of historical action therefore will have to take this time of the affect as its starting point. The fact that pathemata , affects, passions were already to an extent discredited within political theory during Benjamins times must have been attributed by him to the disappearance of their genuine political dimension. Within prevailing historiography the political impulse was replaced by the rational calculation of an abstract cognition of the object. Thus, in order to clarify the force of political affects, it had to be shown that such affects are also decisive for objective cognition. This occurs in Benjamins second thesis, On the Concept of History. The thesis demonstrates that cognitive acts, determined by the microstructure of the affective time, are political operations. The cognition at stake here, however, is the cognition of happiness. Happiness is never experienced in a present without this present relating to that which has been (Gewesenes). It is not, however, experienced on a past reality, but on the irrealis of its non-actualized possibility. There is happiness such as could arouse envy in us this is how Benjamin begins his argument, making envy the seal of authenticity in which happiness manifests itself there is happiness such as could arouse envy in us only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 389). The kind of happiness that alone can prove itself and, according to Benjamins portrayal can only prove itself through envy is not past happiness, it is the happiness that was possible in the past but was missed. Happiness is the festum post festum amissum. It does not reside in an event that could become the subject of objective cognition but rather in a possibility, which proves to be a possibility only in the miss and which only by virtue of this miss preserves itself as a possibility for the future. Happiness is the possible in its miss: it is the possible that could impossibly have been realized at the time, it is the possible that springs from an im*Trans. N. Rosenthal.

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possible. This kind of happiness only, im-possible happiness, provokes envy. For envy is an affect that is directed not towards anything real but rather towards something possible that is disguised, not realized and therefore still open. For Benjamin, envy is not kindled by the happiness of someone else, but rather by ones own happiness that was possible and not seized. Envy is therefore without object like the intention of Lucifers knowledge, an intention which aims towards the good. This good, happiness, maintains itself as if according to the platonic formula epkeina tes ousas, beyond the recognizable essences in the realm of their mere possibility. It is the other that could have been, and it preserves in what became the actuality the possibility of its otherness. Happiness is a contingent possibility of that which has been (des Gewesenen), a possibility that preserves itself for another time; that is, rst of all for that future that is now present. In this present, however, it becomes understandable only to envy, for only envy is the organon of cognition of that which cannot be held, what cannot be grasped as given reality and cannot be registered as possession. Cognition is essentially a manifestation of this envy, an irreducible vitium , and it is just as essentially object-less, for the happiness towards which it is directed is not the actual and not the possible, but the possible that has become impossible. If happiness existed as a possession or property, its cognition would be neither necessary nor possible any longer. Happiness is only cognizable in its pure that is, missed, deferred and unseized possibility. And only as such a possibility does it offer itself to a future cognition. Each such cognition, however, not only has an ethical dimension, directed towards happiness, it is furthermore structurally historical, in so far as it concerns past possibilities; in these past possibilities, however, it concerns the possibility of a different future. Thus it must be said of the temporality of the cognition of possible happiness that it jumps out of traditional categories of time and history. Unlike those categories, which concern temporal and historical realities, rather this cognition addresses possibilities and rst of all possibilities that are not actualized, that have not entered the series of historical events and have not become components of historical tradition. In one of the notes on Baudelaire, Benjamin says: The further the mind goes back into the past, the more the mass of that increases which has not yet become history at all (GS 1.3: 1175). Historical cognition is cognition of that which has not yet become history, that which yet can become history, because its possibilities, and that is possibilities of happiness, have not yet been actualized. History is only possible because of the possibilities that were missed. The true historicity of historical objects lies in their irrealis. Their un-reality is the store-place of the historically possible. For their irrealis indicates a direction through which that which could have been is referred to those for whom it could have been and for whom it is preserved as a missed possibility. There is happiness, Benjamin writes, such as could

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arouse envy in us only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 389). The possible stored in un-reality is not an abstract or ideal possible in general and for all times but a possible always for a particular future, that is, for precisely the one singular future that recognizes itself in it as missed. It is we who could have talked to people but didnt; it is we who did not seize an opportunity and now have to enviously admit that we have missed a possibility to speak that only we could have taken, for it was our possibility, which already now is no more. It is we, again and again, who leave language in its possibility unused, although it was a possibility of our happiness, of ourselves, which was therefore an absolutely singular, irreplaceable and unrepeatable possibility. And it is only us for and in whom this missed possibility lives on as missed and demands fullment in every moment. If possibilities are only ever possibilities for someone, then they are intentions. We have been meant by our lifes possibilities, be they conscious or unconscious, seized or missed. Possibilities are not abstractly categorical, relating to objects, conditions and actions in general, but are always possibilities only for those who could seize them, and belong to the existential structure of their existence. Therefore, Thesis II remarks: the image of happiness that we cherish is thoroughly coloured by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 389). Benjamin is only drawing the conclusion from the intentional structure of possibilities and of the temporal space they open up, when he continues: The past carries with it a hidden index by which it is referred to redemption. Doesnt a breath of the air that pervaded earlier days caress us as well? In the voices we hear, isnt there an echo of now silent ones? Dont the women we court have sisters they no longer recognize? If so, then there is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Then our coming was expected on earth. Then, like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak messianic power, a power on which the past has a claim. (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 390) Redemption, as Benjamin here talks about it, is meant most prosaically: a redeeming (Einslsung ) of possibilities, which are opened with every life and are missed in every life. If the concept of redemption points towards a theology and it does so without doubt and a fortiori in the context of the rst thesis, which mentions the little hunchback of theology then this is not straightforwardly Judaeo-Christian theology, but rather a theology of the missed or the distorted hunchbacked possibilities, a theology of missed, distorted or hunchbacked time. Each possibility that was missed in the past remains a possibility for the future, precisely because it has not found fullment. For the past to have a future merely means that the

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pasts possibilities have not yet found their fullment, that they continue to have an effect as intentions and demand their realization from those who feel addressed by them. When past things survive, then it is not lived-out (abgelebte) facts that survive, facts that could be recorded as positive objects of knowledge; rather what survives are the unactualized possibilities of that which is past. There is historical time only in so far as there is an excess of the unactualized, the unnished, failed, thwarted, which leaps beyond its particular Now and demands from another Now its settlement, correction and fullment. The possible is a surplus over the factual. As such, the possible is time: excess over anything that can become a positive given; excess over that which is; remainder that itself is not. Every possibility, and a fortiori every missed possibility, survives as the time to full this possibility. Time historical time is nothing but the capability of the possible to nd its satisfaction in an actual. As a standing-out (Ausstand ) and exposition of that actual in which a mere possible could nd its fullment, in which the possible as intention could nd its goal, time is the claim of the unnished and failed, of the broken and thwarted for its completion and rescue in happiness. Time is always the time of the unnished and itself unnished time, time that has not reached its end. It is the time of that which is not yet and perhaps never will be. It is therefore the dimension of the possible to claim to become actual. For Benjamin, the addressee of this claim is not an instance that precedes this claim it is not an already constituted subject that perceives such a claim, united in itself and in control of itself. The claims addressee is rather fundamentally a function of this claim, thoroughly coloured by the time, and of the possibilities that assert their demands towards this claim, not only in its time but as its time. Therefore, our coming was expected on earth. What is said here is that we are rst of all and primarily the ones that were expected by the missed possibilities of the past. Only qua expected have we been given a weak messianic power (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 390). This messianic power is the intentional correlate of the claim that calls upon us from the missed possibilities of the past, not to miss them a second time but to perceive them in every sense: cognizingly to seize and to actualize them. In this force, those possibilities and the time in which they survive search for the telos of their intentions. Messianic power is therefore nothing other than the implicit hypothesis of the missed possible that there has to be an instance to correct the miss, to do the undone, to regain the wasted and actualize the has-beenpossible. This power therefore is not one that is our own, independent of this claim. It is not ours, something we can have at our disposal by our own means, but it is the power which we have been endowed with by others, it is the power of the claim itself and of the expectation that the claim is met. This power is never messianic in the sense that we ourselves are enabled by it to direct the hope for our own redemption towards the future or, to be more

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precise, to future generations, but only in the entirely different sense that we have been endowed with it by former generations, even by all former generations, as the compliance with their expectations. The messianic power is, in short, the postulate of fullability and, in this sense, of redeemability that is immanent in each missed opportunity and distinguishes it as a possibility. Regardless of whether this power of fullment and redemption of the possible is ever actually proven or not; regardless also of whether there has ever been a single case where this messianic power was indeed active in the actualization of the possible. It is, as this power, given , and we have been endowed with it by the simple givenness of what has been and, because it did not reach its goal, did not stay. The possible possible happiness is that which demands actualization actual happiness and in which the telos of this demand remains inscribed, even if there has never been and will never be this actualization. We independent of whether we presently exist or not are the intentional complement destined to full the postulate of realizability of this possiblity, in so far as it is possibility. The messianic power that we have been endowed with by all that is past is weak because it is not an ability that springs from ourselves but it is the vanishing-point of missed possibilities and of their demand for fullment. But it is a weak power also because it has to become extinguished in each future by which it is not perceived and actualized. Thesis V thus apodictically but consistently pronounces the niteness of this messianic power: it is an irretrievable image of the past which threatens to disappear in every present that does not recognize itself as intended in that image (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). The weak messianic power is therefore the expectation of others towards us, the undischarged remains of possibility that are transferred from former generations to the future ones. It is the rest of time that remains in order to meet those demands a rest that is not as substantial existence but is given as time and passes with it. The weak messianic power in us is time as mere possibility of happiness. By determining the relationship of the past to the respective present towards us as an essentially linguistic relationship: as an agreement between former generations and ours, as echo of now silent voices that we lend our ear to, as the claim of the unused possibility that we could have talked to certain people (GS 1.2: 6934/SW 4: 390), Benjamin explains historical time, if only implicitly, as a time made out of language. History presents itself as the afterlife of unused linguistic possibilities, which demand their redemption by other languages and nally by language itself, as the temporal extension of intentions on to language, as imperative claim, which the forfeited possibilities of language raise in view of their realization, and as an expectation that invests every single work with the weak messianic power to transform the missed possibilities into fullled ones. Awaiting (Erwartung ) is to be understood as a-wording (Erwortung ); languages as the demand of a language that did not become one, for there to be one.

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And similarly history, which for Benjamin ever since his The Task of the Translator is bound up inextricably with language and even identical with its history and with it language. The theology of language and history that Benjamin outlines in Thesis II is a theology of wilted possibilities and thus an essentially wilted, dwarfed and hunchbacked theology. To be more precise, it is a theory that there could only be an unnished and therefore an anatheology of the weak possibility of theology. The formulation weak messianic power talks about the weak, the insubstantial and thus genuinely historical possibility of historical cognition and historical action. If theology assumes the necessity, constancy and certainty of a God and historiography assumes that there already has been history and there will be history in the future, then both of them assume essentially unhistorical concepts of deity and history. Historicisms concept of history is thus the simple counterpart to the concept of God of substantialist theology. As the latter relies on the constancy of God, so does the former on the positivity of historical facts. The historicity of such facts, however, does not have its origin in their steadiness (Stndigkeit), much less their standing on their own, their autonomy (Selbstndigkeit). Historical is that which only can be recognized as historical from its contingent possibility to yet have been different and to yet become different, and thus from its after-history. Historical is only ever that which it is not yet the always other, open possibility. Only that can become historical that is not yet historical. This however also means: as it is, namely as a possibility given and subject to actualization, in principle, this possibility is equally exposed to the danger of being missed. In so far as it is mere possibility, in so far as it is not grounded in a substantial actuality, historicity is always also the possibility of becoming impossible and expiring. Facts would last if they existed as facts outside any intentional relation; only possibilities can be missed; historical facts, which constitute themselves as having-been only within the space of their possibilities, ensue solely from the dimension of their capacity to be missed. They are insubstantial, singular, nite. Even if facts have the structure of referring and furthermore of intention and tendency (and Benjamin suggests that they do have this very structure: The past carries with it a hidden index by which it is referred to redemption), they are still constitutively designed for their expiration: expiring either in the redemption, fullment and resolution of their intention or expiring in the miss of this redemption. The historical is historical only because it manifests itself in the span between these two possibilities of intention, these two possibilities of possibility: that the possibility expires in its fullment, or that it passes away if it is not seized. Thus it follows that each possibility is a possibility of its actualization only if it is at the same time the possibility of the missing of this possibility. Only those possibilities are historical possibilities that can always also not be seized. They are eeting possibilities, not possibilities that as a substantial stock in the archive of potentialities could be grasped at any

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time. Because there is no reservoir xed for all time, in which the treasures of possibility for ever accumulate, but only a reservoir whose stock dissolves with every missed chance, history is no progression where given possibilities, one by one, one out of the other, are actualized, so that in the end all possibilities will have been exhausted and all possible actualities established. Where there is history, there is no continuum between the possible and the actual. Any continuum between them would de-potentialize the possible and turn it into an in principle calculable necessity. Only where its possibility is contingent possibility namely one that can be another possibility, the possibility of something other or even no possibility at all only there is the possible historical. As a eeting, non-archivable, contingent possibility, as one that is just now given and has already gone and thus as always singular, as the solitarily leaping out of every pre-stabilized formation it concerns the one who would have to lapse into lethargy in the face of the automatism of the actualities unfolding homogeneously out of possibilities, and demands of him his grasping intervention: a grasping without which there would be no history, but a grasping which would not exist without the corresponding possibility that it fails to appear or is unsuccessful. Only because Benjamin thinks of history from the point of view of its possibilities, from the point of view of its possibility of being other or of not being, can he view history not as a mechanical series of events but as act. Only because he does not view historical possibilities as constant and freely available resources for series of realization does he have to view each historical act as the always singular answer to an always singular possibility. Only because his answer can be missed can it also succeed. History, as it is thought by Benjamin, is never the history of facts, incidents and developments without initially being the history of their possibilities; and never the history of these possibilities, without being the history of their continued unfullment. The redemption to which the past in its hidden index is referred is redemption only because it can be missed. When Benjamin talks about a weak messianic power and highlights the word weak by use of italics (one of the few such words in his Theses) he does not do so because there would be for him also a strong messianic power or even one that would overcome with certainty any conceivable opposition, and not because a power in general would under certain circumstances be reduced to a weaker one. Weak denotes not so much the quantum of this power in relation to a larger one be it a demanded one, or even an ideal one but rather the susceptibility, on principle, to its failure. There is a messianic power only where it can fail: anything that may be called messianic power is therefore a weak one. To imagine that it could be strengthened through vigour or that it could be sufcient to possess it is equally nonsensical. It is enough to perceive and activate it nothing else is possible to turn it into a historical force and into the only genuine

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force of history; but nothing else is necessary either.1 If that which has been and each present that can become past carries with it a hidden index through which it is referred to a weak messianic power that would realize its possibilities of happiness, then all historical existence has an irreducible and irreducibly weak messianic structure. When Benjamin rst touches upon the referentiality to redemption in historical existence in Thesis II, the reason he does not talk about the Messiah as a historically determined religious gure is that each singular historical moment, of whatever epoch or religious observance, has to be structured with reference to the messianic imperative if it is to fall into the domain of historical existence at all. If the index of a messianic power, which we have been endowed with like every generation that preceded us, marks every historical possibility, then messianic referentiality is the structure of the possible and of the historical time in which it lives on. Benjamin attributes weaknesses to this structural messianicity not in order to note an accidental defect, which, under ideal circumstances, could be remedied, but in order to emphasize a structural element of this messianicity, through which it, in turn, is referred to its possible failure. The possibility of happiness is only indicated together with the corresponding possibility of its failure. The messianic index is crossed a priori by its reference to a possible failure and thus a possible impossibility. There is, in short, no referring (Verweisung ) to a messianic power that should not at the same time indicate, as Paul Celan used the word, its orphaning (Verwaisung ); no index that would not have to reach the borders of its indexicality and become an ex-index; no messianicity that does not emerge from its non-messianicity. The weakness of the messianic power lies in its structural nitude. The Messiah, who is supposed to rescue the missed possibilities of history into actual happiness, can himself be missed. Any Messiah and each moment in which he should be able to enter, each Now is essentially nite. That is to say, he can only be Messiah because there is a possibility of his not being Messiah. In early drafts of his Arcades Project , which are dated to 1927, Benjamin took up the Kantian metaphor of the Copernican turn and considered it in relation to the historical perception: it was thought that a xed point had been found in what has been, and one saw the present engaged in tentatively approaching the forces of cognition to this solid ground (ho, 2). This characterizes the historicist conception of history. The turn Benjamin wants to bring about analogous to Kants intended to indicate the conditions of the synthesis under which that which until now appeared as a xed point can only be brought to a dialectical xation (ho, 2). This xing in the synthesis between what-has-been and the present that Benjamin called dialectic does not assume a denite past in that respect it follows the Kantian turn; nor however, does it assume a xed instrumentation of the cognitive apparatus that could pre-form its results in that respect it

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goes beyond the Kantian assumption of a transcendental form of time. In the realm of historical perception neither object nor subject and its forms of cognition can be substantial. Because both can only become effective as genuinely historical functions, the theorist of history will have to free himself not only from the traditional realism of the constancy of objects but also from the transcendentalism of the forms of the perception of these objects. Kant had a xed continuity of time in the a priori form of perception: a continuity of time which cannot be historical because as a mere form it has to be established prior to any historical content. For Kant, history moves in time, it does not constitute time and does not form specic historical times that are distinguishable from times empty form. The Copernican turn in historical perception that Benjamin wants to bring about is thus more than a transcendentalist turn. For this Copernican turn, what-has-been no longer offers any xed point, nor can historical perception be considered as substantial quantity or as a continuum founded upon transcendental forms. History can be missed. That means, however, that it, and therefore also the happiness to which it refers, are only ever to be experienced through the danger of being missed; and that means, furthermore, that history is only possible at the risk of not being history. What is gained, therefore, is the concept of a radically nite history: history is nite if in each of its moments it could as well not be; if at each moment it has to be produced anew; if it is only in view (Hinblick) from the moment of its rescue from disappearance. This is what the following passage in Thesis V claims: The true image of the past its by. The past can be seized only as an image which ashes up at the moment of its recognizability, and is never seen again (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 390). And Thesis VI: Articulating the past historically does not mean to recognize it the way it really was. It means appropriating a memory as it ashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to hold fast that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to the historical subject at a moment of danger. The danger threatens both the content [Bestand ] of the tradition and those who inherit it . . . Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391) In these passages, Benjamin can combine historical cognition and historical action because as practical, ethical forms of mindful remembering (Eingedenken) they both point towards the same goal, namely the seizure in the present of the missed possibilities of happiness of the past. The danger that the reign of unhappiness (Unglck) might continue illustrates on the one hand that the telos of history could be missed; on the other hand, in this danger the principled deciency appears which makes it possible that history can be missed. This deciency, namely, rests on there being no stable

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form that historical cognition could entrust itself to, and no reliable course on which history heads for its goal. History has to be won over and again, at each singular moment, ever again in a singular way. Neither history nor happiness, which is striven for in the former, is reliable; only the existence of unhappiness is reliable. World-historical unhappiness manifests itself as a continuum of catastrophes. Happiness, however, is never given as a state, it is never embedded in a continuing course of events, but is, at best, offered as a possibility and assigned as the goal of longing, of desire and of demand. There is no form of happiness. The domain of forms belongs to the realm of domination, where permanence of forms can only be secured through the suppression of other possibilities that is, possibilities of happiness that rebel against such domination. The danger that threatens historical cognition as well as the politics of happiness therefore originates in the last instance from the forms that are to guarantee the rule of a certain reality over an innity of possibilities of happiness. If, however, this threat does not only originate from the interest of the current ruling class, but rather from the most enduring instrument of its domination (i.e., from a particular form), then in the realm of history and historical time this danger originates from the time-form of constancy and persistence. This form of time is the continuum. In this form, one Now-point follows another, uniformly, in linear succession. The historical form corresponding to this continuum of points of time is progress, the equally uniform, steady and inexorable striving towards a pre-given ideal of political life. At the base of the social and political conformism that threatens historical cognition, and thus history itself, lies the transcendental conformism of the form of perception of time, through which time is represented as the homogeneous continuum of punctual events. The rst and decisive step towards historical cognition that does not join forces with the suppression of possibilities of happiness has to be a step out of the transcendental conformism of the continuum of time and history. Historians and politicians take a stand for the historically possible and for happiness only if they do not see history as a linear and homogeneous process whose form always remains the same and whose contents, assimilated to the persistent form, are indifferent. Together with the continuum the conformity of each Now with every other Now of the time series has to be broken as well. The possibility of this breaking through, however, must be grounded in the very possibility (Ermglichung ) of the continuum itself and thus in relations of discrete Nows that preceded their homogenization. The political critique of social conformism, the historical critique of the automatism of progress and the philosophical critique of the time continuum join together in the critique of the structural conformity of all forms of experience. All three critiques have to retrace, by means of political intervention, historical cognition and philosophical analysis, the conformisms and their underlying forms to the constitutive movement,

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and they have to push the constitutive elements of these forms to crisis, to diremption and to the possibility of another conguration. Only in this way can the political outrage over the ruling injustice, the historical melancholy over the incessant sameness in progress and the philosophical dissatisfaction with already constituted forms become productive. Benjamins critique of progress an element of his philosophy of history that currently receives little respect even amongst his admirers is only adequately understood if it is grasped as a critique of time as a transcendental form of perception and thus of the empty form of experience that progresses in it. And so he writes in Thesis XIII: Progress as pictured in the minds of Social Democrats was, rst of all, the progress of humankind itself (and not just advances in mens ability and knowledge). Secondly, it was incompletable [unabschliessbar], in keeping with the innite perceptibility of humankind. Thirdly, it was considered as inevitable something that automatically pursued a straight or spiral course. Each of these predicates is controversial and open to criticism. But when the chips are down, criticism must penetrate beyond these assumptions and focus on something that they have in common. The concept of humankinds historical progress cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through a homogeneous, empty time. A critique of the concept of such a progression must underline any criticism of the concept of progress itself. (GS 1.2: 7001/SW 4: 39495) The critique of conformism, a conformism that is at each moment on the point of overpowering this critique, thus has to be founded in a critique of the form of the homogeneous and empty time, which, as the mere form of experience, lies at the foundation of each conformism. Any critique of historical cognition and historical action has to be initially a critique of the transcendental conformism of the continuum of time. Benjamins conviction that a Copernican turn in historical perception must be brought about emerges thus from the insight that history would not be history if it merely proceeded in time as a stable form of perception, rather than creating its form in the rst place. It will therefore have to be proven that time as a continuum of form can only be generated through a discontinuous historical cognition that is not xed in any form. According to Benjamins ultra-Copernican turn there is time only by virtue of history: the latter does not run its course in the former, but time is xed in history always in different ways, the forms of which are not given beforehand. If, according to Benjamins formulation, that which has been (das Gewesene) experiences its dialectic xation in synthesis with cognition, then, together with that which has been, the time-form in general experiences its dialectic xation. The time-form is owed to a synthesis and, thus, is not itself the origin of this synthesis. The reections collected in the theses On the Concept of

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History contain only cursory indications of the structure of the genuinely generative historical synthesis, and the relevant notes from the Convolutes of the Arcades Project are often prone to misunderstanding. In order to grasp how Benjamin understood the genesis of the empty time continuum, it is useful to consult the text in which for the rst time he explicitly expresses his critique of the idea of progress and argues for a concept of history that abandons the merely quantitative concept of time. In his dissertation On the Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism, which he submitted after giving up his original plan for a thesis on the concept of history in Kant, as early as 1919, Benjamin, taking up Friedrich Schlegels remarks against the ideology of progress, contrasts the continuum of forms, which is supposed to make up the history of art, against any progressing into emptiness, that is, against any empty, homogeneous continuum. This is done in the passage where Benjamin mentions twice romantic messianism and thus the tendency that he, in a letter to Ernst Schoen immediately after the completion of his draft, describes as the centre of romanticism and its true nature, well unknown in the literature (letter dated 7 April 1919, GB 2: 23). While one should not identify the conguration of messianism and critique of the ideology of progress in his early work with his later outlines on the philosophy of history, it is at the same time evident that the concept of time in the dissertation on Romanticism acquires a precision which benets the understanding of the later theses. For there, Benjamin writes: The temporal innity in which the process [of poetic forms] takes place . . . is likewise a medial and qualitative innity. For this reason progredibility is not at all what is understood by the modern term progress; it is not some merely relative connection of cultural stages to one another. Like the entire life of mankind, it is an innite process of fullment, not a mere becoming. (GS 1.1: 92 / SW 1: 168) What is said here is that the historical process is not a progressing into emptiness and not a progress within a given empty form of time, but the medial process in which a form of time is constituted as qualitative, as at each moment determined and substantially fullled. Calling a temporal innity medial links it with that medium of reection in which Benjamins text brings together the paradoxes of self-positing. Reection is a medium for the transcendental I, for only in this reection does it reach the point of indifference of its positing and its knowledge of it. Reection, however, is a medium not only as the common middle of act and cognition, but rather as that element in which they are distinguishably and unmediatedly one. The reection is medial as self-affection. The interpretation of the innity of time and thus of time itself as medial, that is, as having sprung from the reective medium of self-affection, however, cites the Kantian thought of an original creation of time from pure self-affection. The connection between

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the original creation of time and the reective medium can be illustrated with a quote from Schlegels Athenum-Fragmente and its commentary by Benjamin. Schlegel writes: The essence of the poetic feeling perhaps lies in the fact that one can affect oneself entirely out of oneself. And Benjamin: That means: The point of indifference of reection, where the latter springs from the Nothing, is the poetic feeling (GS 1.1: 63 SW 1:150). If the point of indifference of reection, and with it its medium, is self-affection, then the medial time, which Benjamin associates with Romantic messianism, is in turn, nothing other than this: an affecting entirely out of oneself. The Schlegelian poetics of self-affection, however, is derived, as Benjamin must have realized, from Kants doctrine on time as the way the mind is affected by its own activity . . . and hence by itself.2 By extending self-affection to history, albeit rst of all the history of artistic forms, Benjamin pronounces self-affection to be the fundamental constitutive mode not merely of time, but also of history. Before there can be a continuum, be it of time, be it of history, it has to be produced in the self-touching of the soul. And thus Kant himself speaks of a paradox3 in a self-touching only from which a self emerges. With this self-affection self-affection of something passive, self-determination of something undetermined historical time rises as the medium of all elements that enter into a relation in it. With historical time, the historical subject appears. This subject, which is nothing other than time, is in its deepest layer, as the happening of becoming denite through itself, mere medium. Benjamin never dissociated himself from the Kantian theory of time constitution. The more determined, however, was his critique of the neoKantian ideology of progress of the social democracy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.4 This ideology of progress is based on the assumption that time arises not only out of a manifoldness of always singular auto-affections of the faculty of understanding for this could only result in an unsteady aggregate of moments but also out of selfaffections in successione as a continuous, linear and therefore also geometrically disaffected time. Such a succession can only exist if it is conditioned by a faculty identical in its unvarying duration. In this case, however, such a succession could not be experienced as succession and thus not as time. Only between the contents of the continuum could differences be perceived; differences that, in turn, would be numerical but not temporal and least of all historical differences. To be experienced as succession, a succession of self-affections must be a constant, directed and inevitable affection between different and diverse self-affections. But there is nothing in the structure of these affections (even if they are, as for Kant, merely affections of the faculty of understanding) that can work towards constancy, strict orientation and inevitability, there is also nothing in that structure from which a continuous and homogeneous series could emerge from such an affection between selfaffections. Time can only ever be a homogeneous series if the sameness of

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the self that is determined through affection is preserved. If this sameness, like historical time, is not given with certainty, then the relation between the discrete moments of self-affection has to be something other than homogeneity. Heterogeneity as such cannot prevail among the moments of historical time, for only under the condition of an at least possible correspondence can connections between those moments, and therefore history, be experienced. The non-homogeneous, unsteady relation, which alone Benjamin for that reason can accept as historical, has to be a relation between moments of a possible but not automatically self-realizing history; a relation not preformed, not vouched for by any transcendental schema; a relation that is neither founded in the sameness of self-affection nor regulated through linearity or the privileging of a certain moment or series of moments. Nevertheless it has to be a relation of affection that is, of determination, no matter what sort and it has to be one of reference, but of an open one, one that does not automatically full itself. In order for a moment to touch another moment, for a Now-point to enter into a conguration with another Nowpoint, and in order for a historical time to arise out of this conguration, this moment has to be constituted as a reference (Verweis), an indication (Hinweisung ) and an instruction (Anweisung ) towards this other moment. A moment is genuinely historical only if it recognizes itself as intended by a former one, if it recognizes itself as the one intended in the other and only in this intention of the other. For Benjamin, the self is not historical that enters into a mechanical causal connection as succession and nearest cause, nor the self that takes the next step towards the goal of its ideal in the path of progress. Beyond mechanical consequences, directions and consistencies, and also beyond self-assigned ideals and programmes for the future, the self is only historical where it experiences itself affected, determined or intended through another person or something other. History is not a connection of causes, it is a connection of affect and intention. This connection is the medium, in which one affection recognizes itself in the other but does not recognize how it is in the other, rather recognizes how it is meant by the other, as an instance of realization of its missed possibilities of happiness. Only because the present Now recognizes itself as meant in a former one, as Thesis V has it, has the present been given the weak messianic power to full the demand for happiness of the previous one. History is structured messianically, for it is the medium of the possibilities of happiness of former times and is therein the medium of the possibility of happiness of happiness of the present. The historical moment is a moment not out of auto-affection, but out of a hetero-affection, in which the autos in which the kairs, the happy moment crystallizes. This moment has to be medium for itself as other. In order to x the relation of reference of one moment to another, a relation, decisive for history, that is difcult to grasp in Kantian or neo-Kantian terms,

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Benjamin had recourse to the terms of phenomenology and scholasticism. In a paralipomenon to the theses On the Concept of History he writes: There is a concept of the present according to which the present represents the (intentional) object of a prophecy. This concept is the (complement) correlate to that of a history that enters ash-like into appearance (GS 1.3: 1235). If the prophecy intends the present as messianic, then the only present is the one that fulls the prophecy as Messiah. Then, furthermore, the only present is the one that was expected. Only as an expected present and thus, from the perspective at least of minimal historical distance is its ash-like appearance, which would traumatically blind any unprepared faculty of cognition, recognizable as the appearance of a present. The ash of the historical moment can only be endured and only be captured if it was preceded by an expectation. That is why Benjamin describes the concept of the present as the intentional object of a prophecy, as correlate or complement to the shock-like appearance of this object. Expectation is never a claim without also being a protective measure, never an opening without also being a means of xing. If again in the context of his Theses Benjamin writes The last day is a present turning backward (GS 1.3: 1232), what is meant then is that the only present is the present that as the always youngest, last, decisive and directed turns backward to all that by which it had been expected in the past. This turning to the past, which gives the past a belated direction, a turning that directs and judges (richtet) the past, has, though, a double meaning. First, the present, if it is one, does not make claims on the future, but is present alone as that upon which the past makes demands: present is always present out of the past and present for the past. And second, the past not only has in this present its intentional object but its intention comes in it to a standstill: what-has-been shines in the present, if it is one, and unites with the Now of its cognition. That the present is only a present for the past does not just mean that it stands in (einsteht) for the past, that it stands in as the goal of the past claims and that it contracts and replaces the pasts time in its own time. It also means that the past stands in (einsteht) in the present, that it comes to the fullment of its intentions and to a standstill. When Benjamin writes about a present that is not transition but stands in [einsteht] in time and has come to a standstill in characterizing the moment (GS 1.3: 1250 and GS 1.2: 702/SW 4: 396), he presumably links the concept Einstand (which is unusual in German), with the French instant , and interprets the present as the Einstand and pausing of the movement of historical time in the fullment of it intention. The Now itself is intentionless, for it is the Now only as that which is intended by the past prophecy. It does not pass over, but stands still and breaks off the course of history. Therefore it can be said: The classless society is not the nal goal of the progress of history, but its frequently miscarried, ultimately achieved interruption (GS 1.3: 1231/ SW 4: 402). And correspondingly: The Messiah breaks history off; the Messiah does not appear at the end of a

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development (GS 1.3: 1243). Whether it is interrupted or broken off, history has come to a standstill, for only in this standstill an epoche with the relation between at least two disparate Now-points, has the minimal form of historical time been reached and with its fullment it has, simultaneously, stepped out of any further historical course. When history occurs, it is only in its xation to a moment and furthermore to an image. Whatever occurs, stands still. History does not have a course, it pauses. If the time-form of historical happening is the present namely the past contracted to and fullled in the present then the present is never a transition in a series of other presents and yet other ones, but always a singular moment in which the possibilities and demands of the past are contracted and xed; the present is not the time-form of waiting for a better or simply different future, not the state of waiting that preceded the state of redemption, but the standstill where one no longer waits, a standstill into which even waiting itself is drawn and in which the demand associated with the waiting has fallen silent. Present is that which is not embedded in the empty course of an always identical continuum, but that which leaps out of it as different, disparate, in order to stand in (einstehen) for another disparate. The site of history is the present as interruption of the continuum of time and as the breaking-off even of the continuum of intentions. Expectation, therefore, cannot direct itself to a certain moment of history; it has to direct itself to every moment, because it does not have to be fullled in any one of them, but could be fullled in each. The present can only be expected, it cannot be anticipated. It is not something that happens to the historical objects, and these objects do not have something historical (outside themselves and as a contingent attribute) that dresses them in opportunistic colours; rather they are what they are only through the happening of their history (and thus not theirs, any more, not ours any more). Nothing happens other than the happening itself: this is true for the events as well as for their cognition. History, this eminent happening, however, occurs only where a state of affairs nds its intentional correlate in its cognition and cognition nds its intentional correlate in the political act, and thus what did not happen moves towards the happening, or at least the possibility of happening. Since it does not happen to the objects that could resist its movement, nor is it under the authority of subjects that could be free to resist it, this happening, and even more its mere possibility, can, as a pure happening lacking any exterior determination and thus any measure of its movement, appear in no way other than as motionless. Benjamin claries this relation of the happening of history to its pausing in Thesis XVII, which, together with Thesis II, are the most important ones. He states that, in contrast to historicism whose procedures additively muster the mass of facts to ll the homogeneous, empty time, the basis of a materialist historiography is a constructive principle. He continues:

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Thinking involves not only the movement of thoughts, but their arrest as well. Where thinking suddenly stops in a constellation saturated with tensions, it gives that constellation a shock, by which thinking crystallizes into a monad . . . In this structure he [the historical materialist] recognizes the sign of a messianic arrest of happening, or (to put it differently) a revolutionary chance in the ght for the oppressed past. He takes cognizance of it in order to blast a specic era out of the homogeneous course of history. (GS 1.2: 7023/SW 4: 396) It would lead to triviality, and further to confusion, to understand this passage such that an arrest follows a movement, for then the arrest itself would still lie in the succession of the movement and its originally claimed contrast would be negated. Movement and arrest, and therefore continuum and interruption, stand in a relation other than one of opposition. Where arrest still belongs to movement, movement has to rest in an indissoluble substratum of persistence. Benjamins reection is aimed at precisely that gesture of thought through which this substratum is lifted out of the appearance of the mere owing. The urgency of this reection can be demonstrated by a simple thought: if the arrest of movement both of thoughts and of historical events can neither intervene in this movement from outside (since then it would not be an historical intervention) nor be a mere element of the movement itself (since then it would not be its arrest), then this arrest has to be based within the structure of the movement itself; it has to be based in the structure in such a way that the movement itself essentially stands still. And vice versa: the arrest can be nothing other than the movement, it therefore has to be the movement of the movement. Thus, the gesture of thought as Benjamin grasps it does not bring to light a rigid image purged of the movement of events, but it is nothing other than the movement of events itself. He continues the train of thought of Thesis XVII: [The historical materialist blasts] a specic life out of the era, a specic work out of the lifework. As a result of his method, the lifework is preserved and sublated [aufgehoben] in the work, the era in the lifework, and the entire course of history in the era. The nourishing fruit of what is historically understood contains time in its interior as a precious but tasteless seed. (GS 1.2: 703/SW 4: 396) What the arrest of the movement of work, lifework, era and course of history brings to light is the time, that is, as the last words of the thesis emphasize, time in its inside. By virtue of the arrest the genuinely historical thought preserves in its objects that which makes these objects possible and the preservation and continuation of which makes these objects contribute themselves and these objects are not merely works, they are the course of history itself. The essential object and the decisive yield of thinking, as

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of historiography and politics, is time. The movement of a work, of an era and of the course of history are arrested not in order to present them as a dead thing to sad contemplation, but in order to expose time and make it intrinsically productive, i.e. the movement of movement, the time as time, within it. Only in this standstill, as persisting, is time time; otherwise it would be transition into timelessness, into the everlasting or ever-same, into a sempiternitas or aeternitas, that covers up nitude. Only in its Einstand in the instant is time the preserved and sublated happening of a time that protects against the empty formalism of a mere form of perception and against the absolutism of a substantial eternity. It is always again anew and in different ways the time that stands in, in each instant , in each present, in each Now: a nunc stans that indicates within the historical objects their true history and only thus relates history to objects : not oppositionals of the idea of positioning or propositional subjects, but instants, Einstnde of history. For these objects are not in time as if in a container merely coloured externally; rather, time is in their inside and they are the fruits and carriers of its seed. When Benjamin talks about time with the unusual word standing in (einstehen), then that means that time stands in for time for the time of what-has-been as well as for any time: defends it, preserves it, represents it and xates it as time in its movement. Without the insisting of time, which is another sense of its einstehen , there would not be the course of time. Without instant there would be no moment. Time stands in (steht ein) because its discrete moments stand together in a unity and because time stands into the inside, into the nucleus of time in the historical course, and sets it free. The Einstand of time is mere time.5 If the historian and the politician and everyone acts like a historian and a politician in their own history are concerned with the rescue and fullment of possibilities of happiness, then this is not a rescue in the face of time, but a rescue of time, redemption is not redemption from time, but a redemption of time. Happiness would not be to free oneself from time but to free time in oneself. In the First Critique, Kant noted on the principle of permanence of substance: All appearances are in time . . . Hence time, in which all variation by appearance is to be thought, endures and does not vary. The fact that time endures qualies it, according to Kant, as belonging to the substratum of everything real, i.e. of everything belonging to the existence of things.6 If for him thus in an enormous overthrow of what was called, until Kant, substance this substance is now nothing other than time and therefore neither an idea nor a supratemporal being resting in itself, it still remains form, and that is an empty one, and remains continuum, and therefore homogeneous. The insisting of the historical course in the Now that Benjamin has in mind is a persistence as well; however, it is not the persistence of the form of a homogeneous course, but that relation that

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restraint [Verhaltung ] in which a constellation of heterogeneous moments is formed, moments that are situated neither on a time-line nor in an a priori common space of time. The Kantian theorem of innertimeliness (Innerzeitigkeit), according to which all changing appearances are in time as in something that endures, is thus transformed in a second even more radical overthrow into the theorem of the immanence of time according to which time is persisting in the changing appearances. Only its pausing in a particular appearance a work, a lifework, an era disposes time to stand out from the homogeneous course and to meet with another time with which it is not homogeneous. The gure formed by the two instances of time is no comprehensive or even universal empty form into which yet other instances could be joined, it is the strict relation connecting these two alone with each other. Since the critique of epistemology in his preface to the Trauerspiel book Benjamin calls this relation, probably following Mallarm, a constellation (GS 1.1: 215/ OT, p. 34). The constellation, which is not so much a placing-together (Zusammen-Stellung ) as a standing-in together (Zusammen-Einstand ), is as much the result of the relation of the instances as these instances are the result of it. A moment, a Now, a present is always the constellation of at least two presents, moments: Now that is the Now of the correspondence of such presents or moments, a correspondence that cannot be guaranteed by any pre-stabilized form. Only as a formation from unsecured co-instances can history be the object of a construction. What is said here is therefore that time is tied to a time of time, to a time for time, to a time where that Now in which time stands in can evolve. To put it more precisely: the setting free of a particular time nucleus is tied to the time of its recognizability. That is the structure of the true image of the past, which Thesis V supposes: The past can be seized only as an image that ashes up at the moment of its recognizability, and is never seen again . . . For it is an irretrievable image of the past which threatens to disappear in any present that does not recognize itself as intended in that image (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 39091). The central theme of these sentences is without doubt the uniqueness of each chance for historical insight and therefore also the untenability of the historicist credo that Benjamin nds summarized in Gottfried Kellers phrase, truth will not run away from us. This uniqueness, however, is that of a possible correspondence between an image of the past and a moment of its recognizability, that is, between a time that offers itself to cognition and a time in which this time becomes accessible to cognition. The true image of the past its by that means: there is only ever one single point where one time and the other touch each other in such a way that there is Einstand that is, standing together, constellation between them, an Einstand in which the time of that which is recognized and the time of cognition, the past and the present arise. Without their touching in the Einstand of the constellation there is neither an image of the past nor a present in which that image could be recognized, neither a past nor a

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present time, therefore no time at all that would not be the empty ideality of a mere succession. Time is thus always the doubled, and only in its doubling united, moment in which one time recognizes itself in another as meant intended, indicated, demanded, claimed. Neither of its instances, neither the instance of cognition nor the instance demanding cognition, can be absent if there is to be time. There is time only if the time for which it, and only it, is there seizes it. Benjamin portrays this minimal structure of historical time in one of the very important notes to an epistemological critique from the Convolutes of the Arcades Project : What distinguishes images from the essences of phenomenology is their historical index. (Heidegger seeks in vain to rescue history for phenomenology abstractly through historicity.) . . . For the historical index of the images not only says that they belong to a particular time; it says above all that they attain legibility only at a particular time. And indeed this acceding to legibility constitutes a specic critical point of the movement in their inside. Every present is determined by those images that are synchronistic with it: each now is the Now of a particular recognizability. In it, truth is charged to the bursting point with time. (This point of bursting, and nothing else, is the death of the intentio, which thus coincides with the birth of authentic historical time, the time of truth.) It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together ash-like with the Now to form a constellation. In other words, image is dialectics at a standstill. (N3, 1)7 This very complex note that starts with one of the rare but signicant references to Heidegger to be found in the Arcades Project serves to identify the image in contrast to the phenomenological essences, even though not Heideggers Being and Time but Benjamins own Trauerspiel book is the likely precedent. Benjamin reproaches Heideggers notion of historicity as being an attempt to save history abstractly and therefore, ahistorically and uncritically for phenomenology, while only such a concept of history could be seen as historical and critical, where what-has-been carries with it a historical index, and thus a critical one, for the present in which it becomes recognizable. Benjamin thus also undertakes, as he suggests, to save history for phenomenology, but, in contrast to Heidegger, concretely and critically through the concepts of image and historical index . This index, which Benjamin also discusses in Thesis II, marks a double time: the time of what-has-been and the time of the Now that is directed towards the formers cognition. This index, thus, is a twofold one: it stands in for two times; it is critical: it marks the point at which an internal crisis divides time into a Before and an After, into the time of the past and the time

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of the present; and it synchronizes: it connects both times even in their disjunction. By virtue of its historical index each Now is marked as the Now of another Now, and only by virtue of this internal split of the Now is each Now the Now of a particular recognizability. It would be quite simply unrecognizable, unperceivable, it would not be what it is intended to be, if it lacked the complement of a second Now, a distinct one and yet one that is united with it, it would lack the chance to become encircled as the Now that it is. There is no Now that could qualify as being temporal or even historical if it lacked all tension to another, distinct Now. But neither would there be a Now if it were separated by an impermeable barrier from the other Now and were untouchable by that other Now, in which it is supposed to be recognized. In order to be Now and one Now, it has to be one that takes itself apart into two. This is brought about by the critical point of movement at the inside of time. This critical point, or more precisely, the crisis of the Now-point, is what rescues time and the historical phenomena in which it contracts itself: as Benjamin notes, phenomena are rescued through the exhibition of a leap within them (N9, 4). Therefore this leap, the discontinuous as such, that which creates clefts in the course of time, is at the same time the nucleus, the time nucleus of the phenomenon, time out of which the phenomenon forms itself. The crisis in the Now that disperses and moves it, that turns it into a movement of the Now in the Now, is as the absolute medium historical time itself. The identity of leap and nucleus of the Now and thus the temporalizing direction [Zeitigungssinn] of its crisis can also be deciphered in another note from the Convolutes of the Arcades Project : The present determines where, in the object from the past, that objects fore-history and after-history diverge so as to circumscribe its nucleus (N11, 5). The present lies in the difference, the leap or the interval, that separates the fore- and after-history of an object, and is thus, in its disjunction, the agreement between it and its cognition. The nucleus of time lies in the cleft that its crisis opens up. Splitting between fore- and after-history, this nucleus lies between object and cognition, and is that in which the two touch each other, not in a positive third, but in the gap between them. About truth Benjamin thus says that it is not merely bound to a temporal function of cognition, as Marxism claims, but to a nucleus of time placed within the recognized and the one who recognizes at the same time. This is so true that the eternal, in any case, is far more a rufe on a dress than some idea (N3, 2). The nucleus of time, which is placed at the same time in the recognized and in the one who recognizes, can lie in nothing else than in this at-the-same-time. Since the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous, if it is understood as the being-at-the-same-time of positive Now-points, can in no way bring about the nucleus of time and thus time as time but, in the collapse of the entire temporal expanse, has to lead to the destruction of time, the at-the-same-time must not determine itself as identity within a single Now, but as leap between discrete Now-

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points. This leap (Sprung ) has to be understood in the twofold sense of both rift and leap over the rift (bersprung ): the difference between Now and Now has to preserve each instant as discrete and has to refer them strictly to each other as the difference between precisely these discrete points. What is at-the-same-time is only that which is not-at-the-same-time between the recognized and the one who recognizes and within each of them and thus that in them which as nucleus of a differential time resists its erasure. Time namely would be erased as soon as different Now-points contracted into a single one or were assimilated into the continuum of an always identical line; time would also be erased as soon as the difference between discrete Nows extinguished any relation between them. The possibility not only of historical cognition but of historical time as well thus has to be based on a third that is neither identity nor inability to relate, but distinction and relation at the same time. This possibility, is, for Benjamin, based in a leap which is not secured, held or founded, it is based in an original leap (Ur-sprung ) that separates the discrete Nows and one can say paradoxically, or, as Benjamin puts it, dialectically joins them in their separation. This leap, and nothing else, is the Now, the nucleus of time, the irreducible historical happening, which the historian has to bring to experience. In the leap of time (Zeit-Sprung ), in the origin of time (Zeit-Ursprung ), at least two different Nows stand together as one. The leap is Einstand of time; in it, the crisis that separates and the difference that relates stand together as one it is critical movement; in it movement and standstill stand together it is what Benjamin, using Gottfried Kellers words, calls petried unrest (J50, 5);8 in it, nally, the dialectical movement between has-been and present, object and cognition, stands still the leap is dialectics at a standstill and as such, for Benjamin, image. Because the image is the constellation in which one Now meets precisely the other one in which it becomes recognizable, the image alone is the place of historical time, being historical time in contrast to time as a mere ux. The image is dialectics at a standstill. For while the relation of the present to the past is a purely temporal, continuous one, the relation of what-has-been to the Now is dialectical: it is not progression but image, suddenly emergent (N2a, 3). For Benjamin, the image is the historical relation kat exochen , for it brings about and holds on to the discontinuity of appearances, the leap within them. It appears at that moment when nothing but the medium the middle and the element and thus the irreducibly dia-chronical and a-chronical between and in the phenomena is preserved. It is historical time as the crisis in the Now which only opens space for the times and sets free all times as nucleus of time. Benjamins claim that every present is determined by the images that are synchronistic with it will have to be made more precise with regard to the critical point in their movement: this synchrony can only be situated in the critical separation, that is, in an asynchronic difference as the common

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medium of the synchronistic images. Benjamin can therefore compare the process of determining this medium with the method of splitting the atom, i.e. not just with the enclosure of the nucleus of time but with nuclear ssion. If, however, only the ssion of the time nucleus sets free its historical forces, then this nucleus with its forces, paradoxically, is situated in the ssion. Now is Now always in the leap to another Now and is thus always a Now of the crisis of the Now. In its crisis the Now does not just split, it also becomes recognizable as Now only in its crisis: only by virtue of the ssure of the Now is its krinein , its cernere, its enclosure and cognition as nucleus and seed of time possible. If the Now is only Now and knowable in its crisis, then the truth of the Now is only fullled in the leap to another Now, the goal of its intention and it is not only fullled, but due to the doubling of the Now it is charged to bursting-point. Thesis XIV states: History is the subject of a construction whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time lled by the presence of the Now [ Jetztzeit] (GS 1.2: 701/SW 4: 395), and this statement is specied by a note from the Convolutes of the Arcades Project, namely that the truth is not only fullled with time, but fullled to the bursting-point and thus overlled because it is charged with another than its own time. Fullment the Paulinian pleroma is the pregnancy of a truth that cannot stay with itself and thus in the bursting becomes the origin the birth, as Benjamin puts it of the time of truth, of authentic historical time. This bursting, and nothing else, is the death of the intentio, which thus coincides with the birth of authentic historical time, the time of truth (N3, 1). With all these formulations, Benjamin takes up again the insights from his critique of epistemology in the preface to The Origin of German Tragic Drama , which are dedicated to truth as the death of the intention and where origin is characterized as that which springs from becoming and passing (GS 1.1: 216, 226/OT, pp. 36, 45).9 The rhythm of the original is there characterized as being open uniquely to a double insight: on the one hand, it needs to be recognized as a process of restoration and reestablishment, but, on the other hand, and precisely because of this, as something imperfect and incomplete. That is to say that in the origin singularity and repetition are conditioned by one another (GS 1.1: 226/OT, pp. 456). The uniqueness of a moment that has been only comes to light in its repetition, i.e. in its recognition; this repetition is nothing, however, if it does not demonstrate uniqueness, if the repeated moment is not itself, and therefore still unnished, incomplete and open for further repetitions. The Now has precisely this structure of the origin (Ursprung ), which Benjamin calls dialectic. It is thus the Now of recognizability both as that which has been reaching its recognizability in the present, and as the present Now in which that which has been becomes recognizable. Both the ability of the thing to be known and the ability of the historian to know it have a share in the recognizability as well as in the Now. The one, however, is not restored,

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re-established or repeated in the other without remaining unnished and incomplete precisely therein. Just as repetition has to be execution in order to testify to the uniqueness of what is repeated within it, so the Now can only occur in the happening and thus only as incomplete, as present, and cannot exist in the perfection of completeness. The Now of recognizability is thus to be thought of as an in principle incomplete or over-complete happening of its crisis, in which the discrete elements overll each other to the point of bursting and remain in the bursting. Now is its leap. Or, to use a mathematical metaphor that Benjamin repeatedly employs: Now is the time differential (Qo, 21).10 If the Now, however, establishes in the leap and the differential the immanence of historical time in phenomena, then the path of the historian and of the politician which leads to the Now has to correspond to the structure of this Now and be transcendence in the immanence of time. The Kantian theorem of innertimeliness (Innerzeitigkeit), namely that all appearances are in time, is overthrown in Benjamins theorem of the immanence of time; time stands in (steht ein) in the appearances, that is, in the Now of recognizability of the appearances. This theorem is made more precise in the theorem of the crisis of time: the Now of recognizability is a critical moment and the moment of the leap in the Now, of the leap between one Now and another exactly corresponding to it. This leap in the Now is what Benjamin considers when noting in Thesis XIV that, for Robespierre, Ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of the Now which he blasted out of the continuum of history (GS 1.2: 701/ SW 4: 395). This blast becomes possible only by virtue of a leap, which transports the time of the Now into one that has been and identies it as the repetition of what-has-been. The French Revolution viewed itself as a return to Rome. It cited ancient Rome the way fashion cites costumes of the past (GS 1.2: 701/SW 4: 395). This citation pulls together Now-time and Nowtime in such a way that what has been is charged with present time and overcharged to the point of bursting. The repetition is not a replica, it is the explosion of that which is repeated. For it there are given no historical data analogous to data of the senses. Any datum is datum only if it is marked with the datum of the Now-time that corresponds to it. A datum is only ever the one dated by another datum. For this dating a somersault of data is necessary: a leap that is only possible if it does not only proceed between the two Nows, but rather if it opens up each single Now to the other that corresponds to it. Fashion is a tigers leap into the past. Such a leap, however, takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands. The same leap in the open air of history is the dialectical leap Marx understood as revolution (GS 1.2: 701/SW 4: 395). Benjamin prefaces these thoughts with a verse of Karl Kraus: Ursprung ist das Ziel (origin is the goal). This sentence is misunderstood if one interprets origin as starting-point and the movement towards it as return. Origin is rather the goal as that leap that

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tears apart each point and each series of points, it is the moment of discontinuity by virtue of which there is, always for the rst time, historical time at all. Any revolution that, unlike the bourgeois revolution, did not take place in the arena of the ruling class, would be such a leap. Not a former Now into which a present Now leaps, but the leap itself is the revolution. Because the Now that has been as well as the present Now are Now only by virtue of this leap, the one that leaps ahead of both of them is the original leap (Ur-Sprung ). Only as such an original leap (Ur-Sprung ) that is, original crisis (Ur-Krisis) can it reach what Benjamin in the fragment Aus einer kleinen Rede ber Proust, an meinem vierzigsten Gerburstag gehalten calls original past [Urvergangenheit] (GS 2.3: 1064), that is: a past which was not there before the remembrance of it. In this sense, the Now is the origin of the historical. And in this sense it is messianic: the rescue of that which was not there before the rescue. With the notion Now of recognizability, which is fundamental for his philosophy of history, Benjamin insists on the transcendental status of that to which it refers. He is not concerned with the Now of cognition, but with the Now which, ahead of every actual cognition, xes the structural condition of the possibility of cognition. Just as the centre of his early study On Language as Such and on the Language of Man is not communication but communicability, the centre of his studies on historical time is the Now of recognizability. Thus no decision has been made on whether there is actual historical cognition and a corresponding politics. Neither has it been decided whether there is indeed a Now of cognition. The object of Benjamins analyses is not this Now as it actually now is, but rather how it has to be constituted in order to be able to be an actual Now. As little as this says about the existence of actual historical cognitions, as much does it say about the conditions it needs to full in order to become real as genuine historical cognition. Each actual Now is Now and actual only if it corresponds to the constitution which has been prescribed by this structure of possibility of the Now by Nowability ( Jetztbarkeit). Historical cognition is cognition and historical only if it fulls the conditions put forward by the structure of recognizability : in all other cases it is not historical, that is, no cognition that triggers history, and not a cognition that intervenes in history; that means it is, in fact, no cognition at all. The historico-philsophical aperus that Benjamin noted during his work on the Arcades Project and provisionally summarized in the theses On the Concept of History are both diagnostic and propaedeutic and in both respects critical. Written immediately after the HitlerStalin pact, which Benjamin, according to his friend Soma Morgenstern, saw as the total discrediting of the communists11 as well as of the social democratic movement, these notes give an explanation for the powerlessness of social democratic politics with respect to National Socialism: social democracy was powerless because it

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supported an ideal of a community of work and communication, an ideal that was to be reached on the path of the inevitable progress of mankind in the continuum of a time seen as an a priori form. Against this politically as well as epistemologically disastrous ideology, which mechanizes history as an automatic progression and neutralizes the subject of history to a homogeneous mankind that heads for an ideal of universal consent, Benjamin objects as follows (and this is what constitutes the arguments propaedeutic nature): the subject of history cannot be mankind, but only a class, that is, the class of the oppressed, of those deprived of their rights and of the exploited (even if they exploit themselves); and history cannot be an automatic process in an already constituted form of time, but can alone be that movement whose form is not set in advance, i.e. not directed towards pregiven goals but rather a movement that is in principle open to unforseeable realizations. History is not history as long as it does not happen. It cannot happen if it merely follows a predestined form and goal. Therefore, neither a form nor the goals of history can be regarded as historically neutral and established once and for all. The transcendental conformism of the social democratic ideology represents such a xing of form and goal, which in principle, i.e in its ideal of a consensual homogeneous mankind, joined forces with Nazism and the entire tradition of oppression that preceded it. In this conformism, however, it is not just one particular class that is exploited and oppressed, one that denes itself throughout history in diverse ways and thus not only as proletarian; in it, anything that diverges from the form of the course of history and the ideal of its goal is oppressed and exploited. The question that must be asked by anyone who is concerned that there be history and not merely a tradition of oppression; the question that, since anyone can become the victim of such oppression we must all ask ourselves, and that Benjamin had to ask himself most pressingly at that moment when he saw himself and all those who were close to him fall victim not just to oppression but to extermination; the question is simply and necessarily this: what is oppressed and what is exploited in the construction of a homogeneous course of history and of a similarly homogeneous mankind? In Benjamins writing the answer is as clear as it is often obscured by his readers, namely in the following insight: in this construction the fact of its constructedness, in the homogeneity the necessity of its genesis, in the continuity the structure of its creation is used, but used as a means for another end than that of its creation, i.e. exploited, driven out of the result and oppressed. If history is thus to be possible, then it is only possible as a history of all such oppressed that has no place in any form and yet is indispensable for its constitution. It is indispensable and a minimal condition for history, however, that it happens; that it is not xed in unvarying forms, but on the contrary that it happens each time in unpredictable ways, and that it happens between at least two moments that were not previously coordinated. History is the un-preformable event in which one Now meets another corresponding Now.

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History this is Benjamins nding is thus founded as happening in the possibility of a Now for a second Now, a possibility that can carry the logical and epistemological title Now of recognizability. Wherever this minimal structure of history is ignored and assimilated to a mere progressive form between equally valid points in time, the formal conditions are in place for the catastrophes of the progress to homogenization carried out by German National Socialism. But how, if at all, can this minimal structure of history be observed, realized in historiography and actualized in politics? For as long as this possibility is not secured and these forms are not made more precise, any reection on the philosophy of history has to suspect that history in Benjamins strict and emphatic sense cannot be realized and the progress in the destruction of historical possibilities is still underway. Neither this suspicion one could equally justiably say concern, doubt, horror or even despair nor the desire, longing or the hope that such history may exist can be external to the possibility of history and thus its structure. The desire for genuine history as well as the horror that it could be impossible have to be integral elements of the possibility of history itself. With this move, however, the perspective of an analysis in terms of philosophy of history is altered on principle: it is not merely that the conditions of the possibility of history will have to be claried, they also have to be claried with regard to their possible failing and thus with regard to a category an allocategory which has been regarded within transcendental philosophy, dialectics and phenomenology only as an exclusionary criterion, rather than as a structural threat, one that endangers the constitution of its subject domain as well as its procedure. Philosophy of history can no longer be transcendental philosophy and content itself with exploring the irreducible forms of historys constitution as happening and as cognition of this happening. In these forms it also has to address their possible failure, the de-constitution of even the irreducible in the register of forms, and thus address that which in history, were it to succeed, yet remains open to that which does not enter any forms but accompanies each form as that which is its exterior and other. The analysis must not direct itself towards a transcendental, and not towards anything that resembles it somehow: if it did resemble it namely as a quasitranscendental, then the principles of analogy or of correspondence would still remain within it, which can, however, emerge only with history itself and the synthesis of distinct Nows. The analysis rather has to look for that which cannot be predicated in any other terms than its being open to history be it open to the happening of history, open to its impossibility or to the happening of its impossibility and as such it belongs to a prehistorical, i.e. a non-historical that is nevertheless ready for history. That which is open to form, that which colours every possible form as the unexecutable in it, can be called attranscendental: as ante-transcendental, i.e. preceding every transcendental; as ad-transcendental, i.e. innitely open; as a-transcen-

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dental, i.e. not occupied by any transcendental. If there can be a history, then it can be only as that happening in which also its Not happens. In the phrase of Thesis V on the irretrievable image of the past which threatens to disappear in any present that does not recognize itself as intended in that image (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391), Benjamin characterizes history as an in principle singular, that is, unrepeatable, repetition of whathas-been in a present Now. If this repetition is the index for the doubleness and thus for the crisis of the Now in its historical experience, then the unrepeatability of this repetition is the index for the possibility of its failing. If history is always singular and unique, then it is missed if this one time it is not seized. Not only does every time therefore have a virtually corresponding time, in which it is recognized, and this means recognized as intending the latter; furthermore, this time is only a single one. What follows from this is: time is time only in the danger of not being time. Thus it is noted in Thesis VI: Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it the way it really was. It means appropriating a memory as it ashes up in a moment of danger (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). The moment of remembrance is the moment of a danger for the remembrance as well as for the one who seizes it. For the remembrance there is the danger of not being seized, or, even if seized, of being conformistically assimilated to the good of the powerful. In both cases there is a threat to that which has been missed that which is past that the slim chance to be transformed into happiness slips away. For whatever can enter remembrance is a promesse de bonheur which in remembering searches out the door to fullment. Since the claim only ever poses itself a single time, the one who could remember is threatened with the danger that the claim of the past is no longer intended for him, that he is no longer the addressee of the claims of the past and that he is no longer the one who has been endowed with a weak messianic power. That which does not enter remembrance has missed the possibility of nding redemption in remembering: there is no longer a messianic time for it, if the one that was meant in it does not recognize itself as the one that was meant. If remembering only ashes up in a moment of danger, it is the danger of disappearing never to be seen again. If danger is the index of uniqueness, involuntariness and authenticity of remembering, and thus also an index of the possible failure of remembering and history, then danger cannot be understood as being a mere external threat. On the contrary, danger belongs to the innermost structure of historical cognition to such a degree that it is, in each singular case, not merely cognition in the danger but also cognition out of that danger. Whoever remembers, remembers at the risk of not remembering, of not being demanded by a past, at the risk of missing the missed and that which demands completion all over again, and at the risk of missing, together with the claims of the past, their historical possibilities and thus history in general. In order to determine more pronouncedly the relation

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between the moment of remembering and the moment of danger, Benjamin thus writes, still in Thesis VI: The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over Antichrist. The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is rmly convinced even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). A historiographer namely has been given a weak messianic power only if he remembers the danger of not being able to remember, the danger of not being able to resurrect the passed-away times in his remembering, to re-present what-has-been, to wake the dead. Only the one who is imbued with the idea that even the dead could be killed and could stop asserting their claims upon the living, will stand up against this cessation; only the one who remembers the possibility that the past could become silent for him will help to bring up its claim towards language; only the one who is aware of the danger that there could be could be no history can write history. Thus, only because history is in danger of becoming impossible does remembering set in: for it is not only the remembering of a loss, an omission or a failure that lies in the past, it has to be primarily a remembering of that loss that also threatens it, hic et nunc, in the Now of recognizability: no longer being able to remember, no longer being equipped with the ability to recognize and the ability for the Now. That is what is remembered by the one who remembers, who remembers at the moment of danger; is imbued with that which never has been, is never supposed to be and yet threatens. One remembers Nothing. In each remembering the not-remembering is remembered: but it is not co-remembered as if it were a second object beside the initial one of the Now that has been; it is not remembered as a mere alternative to the image of the past. In the possible impossibility of remembering the making possible of the remembering is remembered, for only in the danger of not being remembered does remembering emerge. That is the minimal structure of history: that each Now of recognizability, in which one time leaps into another one, can also not be this Now, can extinguish its recognizability, and the leap can fail to succeed. There is no messianic claim that could not be missed and could fail to nd its Messiah. That is, no messianic structure of history that did not arise only out of the possibility that there could also not be a messianic structure of history. A Now of recognizability is only ever one that can be devoid of any cognition and can be not Now. The minimal messianism Benjamin sketches in Thesis II namely that the past carries with it a hidden index in which it refers to the weak messianic power of the present is connected, at the latest in the sixth thesis, to the internal endangering of its structure. This is rendered more precisely as something that could be called a-messianism: the notion that this weak messianic power inhabits only those who are imbued with the possibility of its failure; that a force is messianic only if it can fail. The Messiah could not come if his coming were assured and that means: if the Messiah himself would be certain as the one he is, if he comes. The

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Messiah is only the one who can also not come and can also not be the Messiah. The Messiah is only he who, even in his coming, might as well not come. Only he, who in his not-coming can still come. Because only the coming of the Messiah can give rise to time and can thus in no way by subjected to the form of a continuous and homogeneous course of time, he has to be the one who can come even before he has come, and who can come after he has already come. The Messiah only comes in a time that is distorted, however slightly, against any linear course. And only as distorted in such a way, as an always leaped time (ersprungene Zeit), can the messianic time come; it can only come as the distortion of time, distortion of the conditions of experience, distortion of its very possibility. The deepest distortion of the possibility of messianic time, however, the distortion of the messianic ability itself, which Benjamin calls messianic power, lies in its being exposed to the inability and thus the impossibility of perceiving itself, acting and fullling itself as the possibility, ability and power. Because messianic power is not a transhistorical substantial ability that realizes itself in history from case to case, but an ability out of which alone history could arise, it is a force that opens history without substantial and without historical assurances. It is only effective under the condition that it remains exposed to its own impotence (i.e. under the condition that it includes even this impotence into itself. It is a weak power because it is the power of weakness, because it is the power out of the missing of power. This weakness is not in contrast to power, but lies in its centre. For that power cannot be messianic that rescues only itself; messianic is only the power that rescues even its own failing. A Messiah is only he who rescues even the impossibility of a Messiah. He can only come in such a way that he might also not come, and come as someone other than the Messiah. And his coming this future expected by all pasts, that Benjamin touches upon in his theses this coming can only be possible out of that which not only holds back all coming but also threatens it with the possibility of being for ever impossible. The future of the Messiah would not arise out of the wealth of his possibilities, not even out of the single possibility that something like history and thus world, freedom and happiness could be experienced; it would arise from the complete loss of all possibilities of the future, out of the impossibility of its coming, and out of that alone. This impossibility of the coming, the impossibility of the future would be that which comes. In this coming of something that does not come and could not come and therefore can not come only therein would the coming be even in its most extreme possibility: that it fails to appear; only therein future itself and thus time would be rescued. What would be rescued is that there is no rescue. And this would be the Now of recognizability, the critical and only thus messianic Now of recognizability, the Now that constitutes history in the moment of its disappearance and with its disappearance: the Now of its Not.

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Among Kafkas notes the following sentence can be found: The Messiah will come only when he is no longer needed, he will come one day after his coming, he will not come on the last day, but on the very last.12 Benjamin does not cite this passage, although it can be assumed he knew it. However distant it may be from the manifest content of the theses on history, it draws out the lines that become visible in Benjamins reections. For when Benjamin notes that the past can only nd its Messiah in the moment of danger and thus ties the messianic possibility to the possibility of its impossibility, then Kafkas remark brings this possibility into the structure of the messianic future itself. He xes it in a paradoxical distortion of time. If the Messiah only comes the day after his arrival, that is, only after his coming, then the coming of the Messiah is his coming only in his not-coming, and thus it is the arrival of his failing to appear. The Messiah who only comes after his coming is not only the split and twofold Messiah that Jewish tradition knows under the names of the suffering and dying Messiah ben Joseph and the triumphant Messiah ben David. The one who comes after his coming, the Messiah that comes after himself and as another than himself, is the Messiah who is not necessary, who does not rescue and who is no Messiah; and more precisely, he is the Messiah of the Not-Messiah. The Messiah is Messiah of there not being a Messiah. This messianicity of the non-messianic, this messianic without the messianic this a-messianic is the last and nal crisis of which the structure of the messianic is capable. It is not destroyed by this crisis, but steps into it as into the centre of its force. In it, even the Nothing of the messianic is rescued.

4 DOWN THE K. HOLE: WALTER BENJAMINS DESTRUCTIVE LAND-SURVEYING OF HISTORY


STEPHANIE POLSKY

When is drawing a line a means of escape? When is freedom no longer the object, but simply a way out , right, or left, in any direction so long as it is as little signifying as possible?1 When does a surveyor begin charting a course? Perhaps it is the case that his task begins him. That he nds himself in the middle of a charter of events already in progress. Events which beseech him to take on a their course as much as his own. Perhaps this was the case with Kafkas character K. from The Castle who, when he arrived at the inn one snowy night, seemed to surface from nowhere, only to pick up an ofcial telephone and impulsively identify himself as the land-surveyor. Through this single gesture he was instantly and yet unwittingly part of the culture in the village. Perhaps this was also the case with Walter Benjamin at a point when his property rights on existence became so infringed upon in Berlin, that he responded by wilfully cutting himself off from Germany and alternatively identifying himself as the land-surveyor of European culture. His experience is similar to Kafkas K., in so far as there is no precedent for Benjamins role; he enters the village of cultural criticism without authorization. Like K. he must spend his time both devising his function and courting higher-ups, and above all biding his time always from a strategic distance. Indeed, Benjamin retains his post in life in a way similar to how K. retains his post in the Castle, that is to say through earnest follow-up on an absurd course of contestation, misrecognition and postponement of his job description. The crucial factor with Benjamin, like K. before him, will be an ability to obscure his points of entry, in such a way that he makes an anti-genealogy for his intellectual and personal motivations. This sort of approach requires a fair bit of meandering around ones ostensible goal. And indeed, what critics nd so maddening about Benjamin is the seemingly endless meandering of his thought, whose outcomes moreover can be readily described as Kafkaesque.2 In a somewhat reactionary stance

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many critics seem to approach Benjamins work with a mind toward bureaucratization, obsessively seeking out ways to reorganize and recatalogue his Schriften. What they disregard is that maintaining a disordered strategy of mind was quite possibly the most advantageous intellectual practice for a man in Benjamins situation. Here is a man who nds himself dropped in the middle of a modernist ethical scheme whose political programme institutes a position of dire scarcity (fascism), or replete abundance (communism), both of which are founded on a shaky platform of humanism. Benjamin, as someone wary of those projects, is nonetheless implicated in them, as he variously inhabits societies for which there is a termination scheme imposed upon those who are believed to fail compliance with these human regulation programmes. Indeed, for our purposes in mapping Benjamins political and cultural whereabouts, it is crucial to bear in mind that his coordinates are always already joined in a constellation of protofascism, not beginning in 1933 but rather in 1892, the year of his birth. He is in the unique position to claim that he was born into a generation of men, German Jews, whose lifetimes were determined from the start to end in cultural and historical obliteration. From the outset Benjamin had to confront a possible failure of traces. The Nazis determination to rub out gures like Benjamin from the historical record failed, but others less obviously succeeded in blurring his conceptual project so far as to obscure it in our readings of his work. One of the greater elements of that project, which remains somewhat obscured in current readings of Benjamin, is his interest in deploying writing as politics. It is widely known that Benjamin was a great admirer of Kafkas literary approach. What is less known is the degree to which he relied upon Kafkas literary work to cast his own politics in the later years of his work. Deleuze and Guattari (Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, A Thousand Plateaus, On The Line) are the only critics willing to stumble upon a political modus operandi within Kafkas writing, and therein provide great assistance in an attempt to lay the groundwork for a topographical historiography as opposed to a biography of Benjamins life. This topographical exercise has its beginnings in a rather conspicuous assumption, one that Deleuze and Guattari will come to associate with Kafka, and I later with Benjamin. Simply put, the assumption is that there is no ideology, and indeed there never has been.3 Thus it becomes evident to all parties that it is useless to choose political strategies, outside of your own. Even then, for the sake of expediency, this position too must be periodically voided. Therein there are no hard and fast demarcations of belonging, positionality, or as K. calls it t, but rather a geography extending outward composed of politicized gestures. Ideology or t would imply that these are solid congurations, when in fact they are, simply put, a matter of ows. Initially, K. will complain to the teacher, I dont t with the peasants, nor, I imagine, with the Castle. The teacher will reply, There is no difference between

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the peasantry and the Castle.4 Why is this so? Because as groups they are constantly negotiating for the same territory and in so doing rhythmically take on the characteristics of each other. In Deleuze and Guattaris words, they form a rhizome.5 A rhizome is not a matter of t, but rather a concern of mutual transformation. K. soon realized after making this assertion that he would need to rethink his approach and in so doing enter into mutual relations with both Barnabas, a Castle functionary, and Frieda, a peasant, both of whom have intimate contact with the Castle. There is no room for imitation in these relationships. Nor is any identication made between his and their position. Instead, K.s presence works to shift the ground of Barnabas and Friedas relationship of obedience to the Castle. Ironically, in doing so K. is becoming more and more engaged in his role as Castle functionary. K. deterritorializes their position, at the same moment that he reterritorializes his own. Conversely, it is Barnabas and Frieda who act to block K.s total absorption into Castle law. They function as blocks to encourage his continued strategy of building an adjacent relationship to the Castle: a way out that does not resemble escape so much as it reassembles the layout of the whole territory. K. is the land-surveyor after all, and the blocks he nds on his way to the Castle extend his capability to deterritorialize its signicance while dodging an understanding of it as a discrete signier. K.s task eventually reveals itself not to be to get to the Castle, but rather to get around it. This approach is fundamentally related to Benjamins project of a consistent realignment of our approach toward history. Real-life gures such as Asja Lacis, Gershom Scholem, Theodor Adorno and Bertolt Brecht play similar roles to Kafkas characters Frieda and Barnabas, in so far as they act as pressuring forces that periodically harden or solidify a contemporary position around Benjamin with regard to the entity of state politics. Through a series of intense encounters with these individuals, Benjamin is able to at once determine a political position for himself, and at the same time extend his professional viability by occupying an ostensible position within a particular political milieu. Indeed, he manages to operate quite convincingly within these milieux, using the reective extension of what is told to him by the others. In point of fact he possesses no deeprooted understanding of leftist debates, seldom enough to back himself up concretely within these arenas. He relies almost solely on his rhetorical prowess to get him by. This is not to say that Benjamin operates as a political charlatan, for at no point does he explicitly identify himself as a Bolshevik, Zionist, Critical Theorist, or even as a Marxist. Rather it is much more the case that through contact with the gures of Asja Lacis, Gershom Scholem, Theodor Adorno and Bertolt Brecht respectively, he is able to extend, for a certain period of time, his own personal capability in tackling the subjects. That is how he manages to carve out a provisional place within all these ideological camps. One example of this happened during his visit to

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Moscow in 1926. Here Benjamin employs Asja Lacis as his guide through the local terrain of Marxist thinking. Within a matter of days of being there, he has cause to remark in his diary: once again I realized just to what extent the possibility of tackling these subjects depends on my contact with her (MD, p. 18). This situation of seeming political dependency on Lacis does not appear to trouble Benjamin. On the contrary, he is quite happy for these sorts of majoritarian Politics with a capital P to ow over him, and for them to remain a point of contingency indenitely. This is the case so long as he maintains loyalty to a more pressing political objective: the task of assembling an intimate minor geography of European protofascistic terrains. This is perhaps the reason why Walter Benjamin never really made it to Central Park.6 Indeed, when recalling his writings, we confront another territory altogether. A territory transversed by a series of long-distance calls, signals coming in from a Europe that has long since been levelled, a summons that perhaps may even travel beyond the zone of Benjamins personal nitude. There is no history of Benjamins discursive impact in this century that does not have a past like that, an unworked-through dialling route beginning and in some ways ending along a Berlin-based circuit. We must take care not to undermine the signicance of the disappearance of Berlin and indeed of Europe as the fundamental aporia within the Benjaminian project. Benjamin does not wish to be emancipated from the scene of Europes devastation, but instead wishes to come to its defence, to argue for its continued recognition as a place beyond the realm of fascism, to argue for its future, its worthwhile position in the world, despite Hitlers appropriation of the place, and against the ever-encroaching forces of Americanism on one side and Stalinism on the other. What Deleuze and Guattari characterize as diabolical powers knocking on the door .7 If need be, Benjamin would prefer to greet these diabolical powers on the common ground of a European corpus, and by extension on the territory of his singular body as he understands it to be fundamentally European. With this attitude in mind, it should come as no surprise that the nomadic Benjamin of the 1930s was wary of joining Adorno and Horkheimer in New York. He took out his insurance policy with Kafka roughly 20 years before that, and had read the ne print carefully. When Kafka, in the opening lines of The Stoker describes the Statue of Liberty as holding aloft a sword, rather than a torch, Benjamin meticulously takes note of it. This was not a territorial defect on the part of Kafka: one made by a man who could barely convince himself ever to leave Prague. Rather it reads for Benjamin as a substantive prediction of what America was to become in the rst half of the twentieth century: a burgeoning imperial power poised to unseat the cultural domination of Europe, whose popular stance was one of hostility towards so-called European intellectualism (read Marxism). Kafka is ironically positive about this throughout Amerika , convinced that everyone has a place in the circus of American life. Perhaps this is so,

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because there is a deliberate absence of social critique in Kafka.8 Deleuze and Guattari observe that: In America, the most terrible work conditions dont inspire any critique in K. but simply make him more afraid of being excluded from the hotel. Although familiar with the Czech socialist and anarchist movement, Kafka doesnt follow in their path. Passing a workers march, Kafka shows the same indifference as K. in America: They rule the streets, and therefore they think they rule the world. In fact, they are mistaken. Behind already are the secretaries, ofcials, professional politicians, all the modern satraps for whom [he] is preparing the way to power.9 Populism such as this exacts its control through different, though no less beguiling, channels in a technocratic America than it does in a protofascistic Austro-Hungarian empire, or for that matter in a communist Soviet Union. All function to diminish the rights of the citizen against the state apparatus in ways that somehow naturalize the process of infringement. Benjamin rst started reading Kafkas work in 1927,10 and it may have been Amerika that rst convinced Benjamin that he and Kafka had a similar outlook on state violence, as something that is not altogether unpalatable to the average citizen. It is most probably In the Penal Colony, however, that awakened Benjamin to the fact that writing had some denite part in carrying out its outcomes. Kafka had difculty getting this story published. In a letter to his publisher Wolff, who had initially rejected it as too repulsive, Kafka replied: By way of an explanation, I will merely add that it is not only my latest narrative which is distressing; our time in general and mine in particular have been and still are distressing, and mine has even been so for longer than our time in general.11 In the Penal Colony was written during the First World War, when wartime sovereign exception had led to a toughening of the penal code and permitted infringements upon a private citizens basic rights of privacy. Fear of denunciation, arbitrary scapegoating and bureaucratic restriction began to form part of everyday life in Prague. These conditions were shortly to arrive in Berlin. The ofcial assures the visitor that Our sentence does not sound severe. The Harrow will write whatever commandment the man has disobeyed onto his body. This condemned man, for instance . . . will have written on his body: honour thy superiors.12 This is the same sentence that is rendered in numbers on the bodies accounted for by the National Socialist regime. The sheer number of prescriptions written onto the bodies of those it holds responsibility for allows for a certain mobility, that is, it allows the regime to mobilize through the various doctrinal signications these bodies communicate and display on their surfaces. The proliferation of messages therein get transported off the backs of citizens. Such corporeal branding allows National Socialism to spread in numbers through bodies

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in a way concurrent with its aggressive annexation strategies. In this way National Socialism assumes the character of a molecular ow. Deleuze and Guattari stress that under Nazi protocol the number is no longer a means of counting or measuring, but of moving: it is the number itself which moves through space.13 And therein results a proliferation of conicting and often contradictory messages from the regime onto bodies as they move through the spaces of its ever-expanding Reich. One example of this messaging strategy appears as part of the brochure State and Health of 1942, which was meant to promote the success of Nationalist Socialist policy to countries like France and Denmark. It was authored by, among others, Otto von Verschuer, whom Giorgio Agamben describes as one of the key persons responsible for the medical politics of the Nazi Party. As von Verschuer inscribes it: This politics begins rst of all with the establishment of a budget to account for the living wealth of a people and proposes to assume the care of the biological body of the nation. While Helferich estimated the German national assets to be about three hundred and ten million marks, there is also a living wealth worth one thousand and sixty marks.14 This living wealth, beyond being a means of accounting for bodies, becomes something that authorizes the state to rank them in terms of viability. In order for a body to remain viable it must carry on (it) the mandate of certain discursive economics. Any resistance to the assumption of such messages is understood as something that is bad for state business. Therein, anytime bare life resists its discursive politicization, a ow of potential state wealth escapes and in so doing reduces national worth. The state struggles to maintain and increase the quality of its living wealth through rhetorically and materially promoting various biological improvement campaigns. This process of enforcing the states rhetorical health policy is by no means a stable system, and uctuations are a constant reminder to the state that it must bear down upon or even eliminate bodies that do not comply sufciently with such corporeal reform strategies. In keeping with the theme of ows in our discussion, it is signicant to note that von Verschuer adds to his comments the assertion that Fluctuations in the biological substance and in the material budget are usually parallel.15 Such uctuations must, however, remain in check, and the state attempts to do this through various tracing techniques which include a combination of statistics, biological determinism and binary logic. These epistemological practices reinforce the overall notion of what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as a pretraced destiny, whatever name is given to it divine, anagogic, historical, economic, structural, hereditary or syntagmatic.16 Deleuze and Guattari would remind us that the trace always involves an alleged competence.17 The appearance of state competence can be periodically under-

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mined and this can occur through the introduction of a new diagram or map of the states operations which temporarily removes blockages and allows long disused connections to function again. However, a more likely scenario to take place from within this overcoded structure is that the trace itself becomes intense and in so doing takes on a diagrammatic, as opposed to grammatic, character trait. That is to say, it no longer subtends the solidied grammar of the state but rather forms out of that grammar a map of its utterances in such a way that it begins to assemble a radical parabasis to the states discursive logic, loosening the foundation of its signiers along the way. Deleuze and Guattari illustrate how this might happen: Accounting and bureaucracy proceed by tracings: they can begin to burgeon nonetheless, throwing out rhizomatic stems, as in a Kafka novel. An intensive trait starts working for itself, a hallucinatory perception, synesthesia, perverse mutation or play of images shakes loose, challenging the hegemony of the signier.18 In this instance the trace might expose the rhetorical signier of life in the Nazi state to be something that in material terms equates itself with death, with a death-dealing force. This is a force that goes on to exploit the living wealth by choosing to annihilate its own servants rather than terminate its own process. This is the moment at which the messages of National Socialism stop resonating in a state apparatus and causes them to interact with the war machine. The overall effect being that a line of destruction takes just so many bodies both docile and resistant with it in a massive march toward abolition. In response to the appearance of this telling trait in National Socialism, Benjamin is compelled to wage a last critical deterritorialization of literature. He does so through his essay of 1934, which reissues a critical consideration of Franz Kafka on the Tenth Anniversary of the Authors Death. In it he identies Kafka as someone uniquely able to put the writing on the wall to document violence, and moreover protofascism, portraying them both as a routine effect of the machinery of modernization. Kafkas job at the Accident Insurance Company was endured for reasons having nothing to do with a consistently stalled writing technique, but rather it was utilized as a means to train his skills of observation and reportage. Kafkas writing raised the tenor of bureaucracy to a political programmatics, making his own line of ight contingent on being wedged permanently in the bureaucratic apparatus of the ofce. Benjamin writes: the citizen of the modern state, confronted by an unfathomable bureaucratic apparatus whose operations are controlled by agencies obscure even to the executive bodies, not to mention the people affected by them. (It is well known that one level of meaning in the novels, especially in The Trial , is located here.) (SW 3: 325). Deleuze and Guattari concur with Benjamin and offer further that

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Walter Benjamin and History If Kafka is the greatest theorist of bureaucracy, it is because he shows how, at a certain level (but at which one? it is not localisable), the barriers between ofces cease to be a denitive dividing line and are immersed in a molecular medium (milieu) that dissolves them and simultaneously makes the ofce manager proliferate into microgures impossible to recognize or identify, discernible only when they are centralizable: another regime, coexistent with the separation and totalisation of the rigid segments.19

In Kafkas world the ofce manager becomes something of an inadvertent rhizomatic gure. Like the trace, he is able to break free of the overcoded bureaucratic environment and burgeon his appearance in such a way as to become his own boss, a general manager unto himself: one who starts to have an hallucinatory perception of his own power. He becomes paranoid and begins to mutate the bureaucratic codes to his own ends, imagining other ways they could appear or be understood. In keeping himself within that nebulous milieu, Kafka exposed himself to these gures on a day-to-day basis and was then able to appreciate that these protofascist managers were at heart over-industrious bureaucrats who took the rigidity of totalitarianism, sped it up, causing it to become a molecular ow which consequentially poured into all segments of society. Bureaucracy still very much exists under National Socialism, but instead of functioning sensibly, manageably on a mass level as in other totalitarian state apparatuses, it becomes something cellular and therein capable of travelling anywhere it wishes within the body politic. The fact that violence in these bureaucracies took a superior, classicatory tone, bespeaks the magnitude of networks of penetration it encompassed. The modern citizen could hardly say where the violence began and the law ended; only that the law seemed to exist both nowhere and everywhere within protofascistic societies and therein it was understood as a kind of mythic entity. Benjamins Critique of Violence shares the modern citizens preoccupation with violence outside the law (SW 1: 252) which nds its cohort examples in the description of K.s ofces in the Trial . Benjamin explores the issue of an unassignable law in his correspondence with Gershom Scholem. In a letter dated 20 September 1934, Scholem denes the relation of the law described in Kafkas Trial as the Nothing of revelation, intending by this expression to name a stage of life in which revelation appears to be without meaning in which it still asserts itself, in which it has validity but no signicance. A state in which the wealth of meaning is lost, and what is in process of appearing (for revelation is such a process) still does not disappear, even though it is reduced to the zero point of its own content, so to speak (CS , p. 142). According to Scholem, a law that nds itself in such a condition is not absent but rather appears in the form of its unrealizability. The pupils of whom you speak at the end are

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not so much those who have lost the Scripture . . . but students who cannot decipher it (CS , p. 127). Benjamin nds Scholems understanding of a law being in force without signicance objectionable based on his opinion that, as Agamben puts it, a law that has lost its content ceases to exist and becomes indistinguishable from life.20 Whether the pupils have lost It [their Scripture] or whether they are unable to decipher it comes down to the same thing, because without the key that belongs to it, the Scripture is not Scripture but life, the life as it is lived in the village at the foot of the hill on which the castle is built (CS , p. 135). Giorgio Agamben credits Scholems formulation of being in force without signicance as a faultless description of the ban (the term Agamben used to describe the relationship between bare life and the form of law), that our age cannot master, something which is directly akin to the status of the law in Kafkas novel.21 He gleans further from Scholems comments, that: For life under a law that is a force without signifying resembles life in the state of exception, in which the most innocent gesture or the smallest forgetfulness can have the most extreme consequences. And it is exactly this kind of life that Kafka describes, in which the law is all the more persuasive for its total lack of content, and in which a distracted knock on the door can mark the start of uncontrollable trials . . . in Kafkas village the empty potentiality of law is so much in force as to become indistinguishable from life . . . The existence and the very body of Joseph K. ultimately coincide with the Trial , they become the Trial .22 Moreover, Agamben contends this transformation of the body into law persists so long as: Law is maintained as pure form in a state of virtual exception, [and] it lets bare life (K.s life, or the life lived in the village at the foot of the castle) subsist before it. Law that becomes indistinguishable from life in a real state of exception is confronted by life that, in a symmetrical but inverse gesture, is entirely transformed into law.23 I would argue that it is on this point of subsistence versus absorption before the law that the virtual fate of the bare life meets with its real-life consequence. It is here, in a real state of exception, that Benjamins formulation of an asignifying law outstrips the virtual limitations of Scholems conguration of that same principle and emerges as the real life threshold of this new era of biopolitics. For in a biopolitical era, bare life is compelled to fold back upon itself, to invert its liberties toward a proliferation of state orders, to offer the body itself as a foundation for the assertion of sovereign power, for the transference of an asignifying law. Ultimately, Agamben too comes down on the side of Benjamins formulation as the denition of the law

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which best described the political parameter of the status of the law in this present era. Moreover Benjamin grasped, better than most critics of his time, how this condition of life under a law that is for all intents and purposes asignifying, inuenced writers like Kafka to transform themselves and their characters in response to tremendous pressures exerted on the organic body and assume the form things assume in oblivion, meaning that they are distorted. Benjamin goes on to cite a litany of examples of this distortion: The cares of the family man, which no one can identify, are distorted; the bug, of which we know all too well represents Gregor Samsa is distorted; the big animal, half lamb, half kitten, for which the butchers knife might be a release is distorted. These gures are connected by a long series of gures with the prototype of distortion, the hunchback. (SW 2: 811) These creatures occupy a corporeality that is composed solely out of writing, as such they could hold a place in a world so distorted that the virtual exception of the law now exists as a real state of exception. Under such a state of affairs these demonic creatures will continue to proliferate in their aberrant forms and can only disappear with the coming of the Messiah (SW 2: 811). This is interpreted by Agamben as an event wherein the law being in force without signicance has come to an end. For the Messiah will only be able to enter after the door of the law has been closed.24 Persisting in this state of distortion helps these abysmal creatures to elude what Agamben calls the absolute intelligibility of a life wholly resolved into writing which corresponds to the impenetrability of writing that having become indecipherable now appears as life.25 This is the condition a true-life gure like Benjamin faces. Only at this juncture of reality do the terms distinguished and kept united by the relation of ban (bare life and the form of the law) abolish each other and enter into a new dimension.26 Benjamin would argue that the cusp of this dimension has already emerged within protofascist Berlin, through an era in which, as Agamben would have it, That state of exception turned into rule signals laws fullment and its becoming indistinguishable from the life over which it ought to order. Confronted with this imperfect nihilism that would let nothing subsist indenitely in the form of a being in force without signicance, Benjamin proposes a messianic nihilism that nullies even the Nothing and lets no law remain in force beyond its own content.27 Prior to the arrival of this nullication, the existence and body of Walter Benjamin are left to coincide with National Socialism, destined to contend with its inuence, as the state of exception could not be separated out from

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the bare life of any individual residing in Berlin in the era National Socialism came to envelope. Under such an exceptional rule of law his existence, his very body, coincided with National Socialism to such a profound extent it began not just to resemble, or imitate the effects of National Socialism on his person but actually to manifest them rhizomatically. His body, thus written over with a force of law that was at once asignifying and profoundly consequential, meant that for Walter Benjamin ones only form of agency was to become a point on a point of view on the events which followed in its immanent wake, to become National Socialisms reporter. It was Leibniz: Who subjected the points of view to exclusive rules such that each opened itself onto the others only in so far as they converged. Nietzsche, contrary to Leibniz, argued that the point of view is opened onto a divergence which it afrms. In other words each point of view becomes the means of going all the way to the end of the other, by following the entire distance. In Nietzsches scheme divergence is no longer a principle of exclusion, and disjunction no longer a means of separation.28 The convergence of disjunctive events is now a means of communication. Everything thereafter happens through a resonance of disparities, point of view on a point of view, displacement of perspective, differentiation of difference, and not through the identity of contraries.29 The violence that Benjamin denes in the Critique of Violence as divine moves along on a similarly disjunctive principle. Following in line from Agambens arguments, it is situated in a zone in which it is no longer possible to distinguish between exception and rule.30 As such divine violence functions as a dissolution of the link between violence and the law.31 Benjamin can say that divine violence neither posits nor conserves violence, but deposes it. Divine violence shows the connection between the two [positing and preserving violence] and even more between violence and the law the single real content of the law.32 For Benjamin divine violence with its characteristic mode of incompossibility emerges in the modern age as the states most powerful agent for communication and perpetuation of law with signication, namely the law of dictatorial power. In the last paragraph of Critique of Violence, Benjamin asserts that the critique of violence is the philosophy of its history the philosophy of this history, because only the idea of its development makes possible a critical, discriminating, and decisive approach to its temporal data (SW 1: 251). In analysing this data Benjamin cautions that we must not take the short view: A gaze directed only at what is close at hand can at most perceive a dialectical rising and falling in the lawmaking and law-preserving forms

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of violence. The law governing their oscillation rests on the circumstances that all law-preserving violence, in its duration, indirectly weakens the lawmaking violence it represents, by suppressing hostile counterviolence. (SW 1: 251). The only means to break the cycle of this duration, and in doing so bring upon a new historical epoch is through the suspension of the law and the abolition of state power (SW 1: 252). The agent necessary to carry such an operation would be revolutionary violence, what Benjamin refers to as unalloyed violence, implying that it is a pure form of violence, perhaps related, in some sub- or superhistorical sense, to law in its pure form. For Benjamin, use of such violence is possible. What is less possible and also less urgent for humankind, however, is to decide when unalloyed violence has been realized in particular cases (SW 1: 252). That the appearance of this unalloyed violence persists as an uncertainty is largely due to the fact that it remains invisible to the judgement of mankind. Furthermore, Benjamin argues, the expiatory power of violence itself is invisible to men (SW 1: 252). This expiatory power of violence relates to history in so far as it grants it the power of redress. What I am pointing the way toward is Benjamins nal materialist document, The Theses for a Philosophy of History, which essentially promotes a rhizomatic approach to history; a situation where the future and past are constantly in the process of becoming each other. Undoubtedly some transhistorical material is always getting into the works of those becomings: what Benjamin refers to as the messianic. History then emerges as something far beyond the reach of mimetic historicism, the trace getting pre-empted by the code, history emerging as the capture of a code, the codes surplus value, an increase in valence, a genuine becoming33 porosity. In this essay, Benjamin is inuenced by Nietzsches Of the Use and Abuse of History, quoting him as saying, We need history, but our need for it differs from that of the jaded idlers in the garden of knowledge (SW 4: 394). Thus Benjamin is telling us that he is striving for an operative history, rather than a nostalgic one. Rather than looking to enslaved ancestors, Benjamin wished to direct our focus to their liberated grandchildren(SW 4: 394). This is an untimely view of history in so far as it seeks out futural probabilities for the coming moment, from the clues embedded within our understanding of the past. For Benjamin: Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal connection between various moments in history. But no state of affairs having causal signicance is for that very reason historical. It became historical posthumously, as it were, through events that may be separated from it by thousands of years. The historian who proceeds from this consideration ceases to tell the sequence of events like the beads of a rosary. He grasps the constellation into which his own era has entered, along with a very specic earlier

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one. Thus, he establishes a conception of the present as now-time shot through with splinters of Messianic time. (SW 4: 397) For Nietzsche the historical formulation is slightly different; he opposes historicism not to the eternal but to the subhistorical or superhistorical: the Untimely, which is another name for becoming: The unhistorical is like an atmosphere within which life can germinate and with the destruction of which it must vanish. It is true that only by imposing limits on this unhistorical element by thinking, reecting, comparing, distinguishing, drawing conclusions, only through the appearance within that encompassing cloud of a vivid ash of light thus only through the power of employing the past for the purposes of life and of gain, and introducing into history that which has been done and is gone did man become man: but with an excess of history man again ceases to exist, and without that envelope of the unhistorical he would never have begun or dared to begin. What deed would man be capable of if he had not rst entered into that vaporous region of the unhistorical?34 Benjamin relates Nietzsches concept of the unhistorical to the sign of a messianic cessation of happening which enables the materialist historiographer effectively to blast a specic life out of the era, a specic work out of the lifework. As a result of this method, the lifework is both preserved and sublated in the work, the era in the lifework, and the entire course of history in the era (SW 4: 396). Thus making history as well as biography dependent on a series of breaks and constant realignments, a vehicle of its own changing signicance over time. One way actively to effect these sorts of ruptures of history, both social and personal, is to develop a reliance on short-term memory, therein allowing for the replay of events in their singularity, as opposed to contiguity, in relation to all other surrounding happenings. This practice undermines historicism in so far as short-term memory eliminates the drive to focus on the totalized account of what happened. In line with Deleuze and Guattaris thinking on the subject, even the molar categories of history and biography can be deterritorialized through use of the faculty of short-term memory. Qualitatively speaking, short-term memory is of the rhizome or diagram type and long-term memory is aborescent and centralised (imprint, engram, tracing or photography). With those distinctions in mind it would appear that short-term memory has some distinct traits which make it amenable as an agent of deteriorialization. Deleuze and Guattari characterize short-term memory as being in no way subject to a law of contiguity or immediacy to its object. What is more, short-term memory can act at a distance, come or return a long time after, but always under conditions of discontinuity, rupture or multiplicity. These attributes, which Deleuze and

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Guattari associate with short-term memory, are common to both Nietzsches unhistorical and Benjamins monadology when it comes to dening a spatial relation to events in history. This is also true of short-term memorys approach to time, which is one of disjointed recurrence as opposed to seamless continuum. Moreover, it extends to the very conceptualization of how to write history and to the idea of history of itself, which is at a certain level profoundly integrated with the idea of memory. Deleuze and Guattari would argue for a charting of history in which one writes using short-term memory and thus using short-term ideas, even if one reads or rereads using long-term memory for long-term concepts. Through this approach history is not the present, which becomes static through its recording, but history as a functionary of short-term memory which includes memory as a process. Historical memory then merges not with the instant but instead with the nervous temporal and collective rhizome. This approach does not signal the elimination of long-term memory, but rather effects an alteration in the way it organizes material. Long-term memory (civilization, family, race, society) traces and translates, but what it translates continues to act in, from a distance, offbeat and in an untimely way.35 When applied to personal history, short-term memory takes on a quality of experimentation in contact with the real.36 In his essay Moscow, Benjamin countenances revolutionary life as one where, each thought, each day, each life lies here as on a laboratory table. And as if it were metal from which an unknown substance is by every means to be extracted, it must endure experimentation to the point of exhaustion (SW 2: 28). Adopting such a comportment for himself, Benjamin spews out before him a political eld (similar to Foucaults episteme) that is neither imaginary nor symbolic; instead it represents a heterotopic register of political spaces yet to come, whose possibility for emergence still lies dormant beneath the strata of the American technocratic apparatus or the Russian bureaucracy or the machinery of Fascism.37 Foucault points out that one of the features of heterotopias is their capability to juxtapose in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are themselves incompatible.38 These are the spaces Benjamin wishes to excavate, to nd their mineral as well as molecular contents, to locate their technical enplacements and to discover beyond these their monadology. History according to a materialist historiography is then borne of out of a history of abrupt blockages, what Benjamin terms monads. These monads congure themselves according to a logic of forces: Where thinking suddenly comes to a stop in a constellation saturated with tensions, it gives that constellation a shock, by which thinking is crystallised as a monad (SW 4: 396). For Benjamin thinking, and in this instance the thinking of politicized spaces, involves not only the ow of thoughts, but their arrest as well (SW 4: 396). For Benjamin this blockage presents us with a tremendous opportunity: a revolutionary chance in the ght for the oppressed past (SW 4: 396). Therein thinking is always rhizomatic, a becoming encountering a blockage, encountering another becoming.

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Benjamins thought approaches politics as though it were an experimental machine, a machine for effects.39 He learns this approach from Kafka, whose work was, from a certain point of view, to be taken literally: in a word, that it functioned on the surface of its signs and that the issue was not at least, not only to try and interpret it but above all to practice it as an experimental machine, a machine for effects, as in physics.40 Benjamins enforced transience by those political formations meant that he conducted many of these experiments on himself, as a political operative by other means. Literally then his writing becomes a means of giving authority to himself, not through anything resembling a fascist diktat, but rather by materializing a space in which he might proliferate his political campaign through various cultural formations that were not strictly speaking authorized for his perusal. Basically, then, Benjamins work might be viewed as a trespass, a kind of unauthorized intervention taking place at the crossroads of various historical formations paving the road to a universally adopted totalitarianism; one, I might add, that would dwarf the German war-machine of fascism according to Benjamins estimations. It is my opinion that we have yet to pick up on Benjamins signal in this regard. In a political discussion in 1938 with Brecht in Denmark Benjamin notes: I felt the impact of powers equal to those of Fascism, powers that sprang up from the depths of history no less deep than Fascist powers.41 Surely these depths will rise up again and require our most sober attentiveness. We can begin to chart these historical uprisings by examining Benjamins preoccupation with combinations, what Benjamin referred to as an awakening combination, at once a modern surface and an archaic depth, signal and oracle!42 I mentioned earlier Benjamins vision of what it means to become a materialist historiographer; it is to become a critical thinker who is able to grasp the constellation into which his own era has entered, along with a very specic earlier one (SW 4: 397). Hence Benjamins historical preoccupations with series: events that join up in places never thought of, never concerned to be closely situated. The topographical map he gives to history is similar to the one Deleuze and Guattari describe as the most striking topography in Kafkas work: two diametrically opposed points bizarrely reveal themselves to be in contact.43 For Benjamins part, he chooses to expose these sorts of alignments in history along the fault-lines of political objective. Thus, his approach to historical formation resembles something of a geological study, a plate tectonics of the will of nations. Benjamins early concepts of the ruin and porosity in Naples suggest that he was conducting a kind of archaeological dig into history to recover its lost features. Thus his approach surveys history on the level of the matrixial and molecular, beginning with the Trauerspiel and carrying right the way through to his Theses on the Philosophy of History. This happens well in advance of Deleuze and Guattaris combined use of the molar and the molecular as a means of assembling their views about the epochal events of history. This statement is

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not meant to inaugurate some stratied competition of philosophical might, but rather to demonstrate how molecules of Benjamins thought have lodged themselves into Deleuze and Guattaris battle-plan on the Signier. It is important to recognize that Benjamins is a tactical approach much more subtle than any taxonomic history standing alone. His interest lies in the potential of historical adjacencies; he is reticent about registering divisions since he does not accept that they materially exist. The historical materialist leaves it to others to be drained by the whore called Once upon a time in historicisms bordello (SW 4: 396). An historical materialist cannot do without the notion of a present which is not in transition but in which time stands still and has come to a stop. Historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past. The historical materialist remains in control of his powers, and thus is man enough to blast open the continuum of history (SW 4: 396). Benjamin is acting at the elemental level to re-map the coordinates of historical understanding. This is in line with Deleuze and Guattaris assertion that what distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely orientated toward an experimentation with the real.44 Such an experimental approach enables Benjamin, in the role of historys land-surveyor, to detonate with one hand historical materialism, and with the other to blast over a mimetic code of historical destruction. In that same spirit of experimentalism Benjamin himself might be approached as a map, a territory mapped onto himself, following Deleuze and Guattaris interpretation of the map as open and connectable to all dimensions as well as detachable, reversible and susceptible to constant modication. Moreover, they assert that as opposed to a trace, the map can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual group, or social formation. Deleuze and Guattari also give us ultimate licence for situating a map; for instance, It can be drawn on the wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation. Since Benjamins project inherently occupies most of these potential locations, there is a great cause for it to manifest itself here along similar lines of formation. What is not made manifest in Benjamins body of work is the proverbial map drawn on a wall.45 The absence of this map raises both a crucial omission and a crucial opportunity in the survey of Benjamins opus. It spurs the imagination toward an opening out of the territorial locations that lie dormant in his writing. But in doing so one must remain cautious about the means by which one endeavours to expose these zones in the body of the text. If they are inscribed too much they run the risk of being overcoded. On the other hand, too subtle a survey of them would leave them vulnerable to obscurity, or, worse still, open to endless bouts of aestheticization. What is required is not a tracing out of these areas, but rather a mapping technique that could relate them through diagrammatic extension, one aimed at composing a series of gestures as opposed to pinning down a singular meaning; one

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moreover that could install productive blockages as well as opportunities for subverting them. The apparatus most suited to this task would be historiography. This is not of course the most obvious tool of deterritorialization. Particularly when we take into account Deleuze and Guattaris views on history, as something associated with long-term memory, something that blocks desire, makes mere carbon copies of it, xes it within a stratum, cuts it off from all of its connections.46 When asked if they feel there is any potential for it to become a deterritorializing tool their response is tonguein-cheek, playing up a Jewish sense of humour: But, what, then can we hope for? It is an impasse. Nonetheless, we can realize that even an impasse is good if it forms part of rhizome.47 Benjamin quotes Kafka as having once said there is an innite amount of hope only not for us (SW 3: 327). Most people thought he was expressing desperation. Deleuze and Guattari read him as expressing humour. It is a politicized humour that they clearly wish to emulate: a humour which they credit in Kafka as forming A micropolitics of desire, a politics that questions all situations . . . Everything leads to laughter starting with The Trial . Everything is political starting with the letters to Felice.48 It is that way with A Thousand Plateaus, as well as their book on Kafka. A politics that questions all situations, which can see levity even in the most molar formations can also allow for a different formation of history to appear. A history that challenges memory, challenges the narrative form and challenges the regime of signication that reigns over the majority of historic enterprises. This approach, moreover, could bring an alternative practice of history into being to serve a linguistic enterprise. What I am proposing is a minor approach to history that would meet the criteria of Deleuze and Guattaris for a minor literature. Namely, that the events are affected by a high coefcient of deterritorialisation . . . that everything in them is political in so far as each individual happening is connected immediately to politics and that every event takes on a collective value . . . another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility.49 History as a thing that no longer forms anything but a sequence of intensive states, a ladder or circuit for intensities that one can make race around in one sense or another, from high to low, or from low to high. The [Event] is the race itself; it has become becoming.50 This mode of history has the potential to become something deterritorializing that would have no particular delity to a place, or for that matter in a signifying placement. It would produce events that form a rhizome with their surrounding accounts. Deleuze has already suggested that events might be further along than words in their potential to deterritorialize. In his volume on Leibniz, The Fold, he offers Borges The Garden of Forking Paths as being an example of such a deterritorialized becoming for the historical event, wherein history acts as a series of bifurcations or as a point in the neighbourhood of series divergences.51 Deleuze describes Borges as one of Leibnizs disciples who nonetheless takes a divergence

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from this pathway to become compossible with the Chinese philosopherarchitect Tsui Pen, the inventor of the garden of bifurcating paths, a baroque labyrinth whose innite series diverge or converge, forming a web of time embracing all possibilities.52 Remarking on Tsui Pens work, Deleuze observes that all outcomes are produced, each being the point of departure for other bifurcations.53 A similar pattern of bifurcation is responsible for establishing the individual in so far as Deleuze posits the real denition of the individual as an ad hoc mixture of concentration, accumulation, coincidence of a certain number of converging preindividual singularities.54 Therein the category of historical event no longer slavishly responds to the commands of the symbolic meaning, but instead proliferates those commands into innity, creating a series of transformations of meaning based on an intimate connection with somebody who is able to import them in line with their own unique zone of expression, dispersing them within his own mimetic idiom. Rather than contextualize the writings, minor histories are meant to speed the narrative, but not toward any particular outcome. Instead, they are meant to indicate something gestural, as opposed to symbolic, for the individual. Benjamin describes Kafkas work as something that constitutes a code of gestures which surely had no denite symbolic meaning for the author from the outset; rather, the author tried to derive such a meaning from them in ever-changing contexts and experimental groupings (SW 3: 801). A minor history operates in a similar way, through series, pairings, repetitions and deviations of the appearance of ordinary locations. These happenings then are not linked but instead form a constellation of little dramas. Benjamin, in describing how gesture functions in Kafkas work, explains that Each gesture is an event one might even say a drama in itself (SW 3: 802). Therein these gestures form a map of constantly shifting happenings, one that neither concerns itself with the vagaries of timing, nor space, but rather with the instant. As Benjamin had observed in The Theses on the Philosophy of History : The true image of the past its by. The past can be seized only as an image which ashes up at the moment of its recognizability, and is never seen again (SW 4: 390). This is very much the work of the topographical historiographer: to seize upon moments that are itting from existence. However, the historic act does not have to be one of memorial to the dead or drained instant, rather it can be used as a signpost for instants yet to come which share the same eeting appearance. A minor history is able to get involved in the proliferation of these instants, merging them into a collective rhizome, rather than isolating them and forcing their attenuation. Building up such a mimetic dossier on Benjamin is a perilous assignment, requiring recovering tactics of a different order than the archiving tendency of the trace can offer. This is why a minor approach is necessary, one that refuses to entertain any desires to house Benjamin, to remember him, to replace him as displaced gure,

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to mollify him. Instead these composites hope to speed his signalled departure, to send it racing into a series of departures and connections. Through a certain distribution of terms this can certainly be accomplished. Among these are: Connection. The construction of singular series. Also Conjunction. The construction of convergent series. And nally Disjunction . The distribution of a divergent series. These three tactics together equal an afrmation of mobility and of duration. Divergence however acts as the teeth that interlock the sequences, which are subdivisible in their respective series.55 It is this quality of divergence that also allows one to afrm distance over locatedness, as a starting-point of view. In the book Logic of Sense, Deleuze holds that: With Nietzsche, the point of view is opened onto a divergence which it afrms; another town corresponds to each point of view, each point of view is another town, the towns are linked only by their distance and resonate only through the divergence of their series, their houses and their streets. There is always another town within the town. Each term becomes the means of going all the way to the end of the other, by following the entire distance.56 It is in this sort of town that the ight of a minor history can commence from end to end, term to term, series to series, convergence to divergence and further on from there. During the course of his lifetime Benjamin faces a scenario of events where getting through might be just as bad as being disconnected: a somewhat horrifying prospect for anyone setting out. Benjamins journey is a prodigious operation which translates this horror into a topography of obstacles (where to go? how to arrive? Berlin, Moscow, Paris?).57 The surveyor has no choice but to journey onward, as he is compelled by forces beyond his true understanding: diabolical forces that are knocking at the door, jamming up the signal, confusing the network as to the vital task at hand. That task comes down to a redirection of the nineteenth centurys course of understanding, through twentieth-century communication tactics which could potentially act as line of ight, a means of distribution of a particular thesis; one requiring the transformation of the event of thought and of history back into a minor discourse.

5 THE SICKNESS OF TRADITION: BETWEEN MELANCHOLIA AND FETISHISM


REBECCA COMAY

FROM MELANCHOLIA TO FETISHISM Is it possible to acknowledge loss without thereby surreptitiously disavowing it? For whatever cultural and historical reasons, melancholia the unappeasable attachment to an ungrievable loss seems to have a peculiar resonance today. It might indeed be tempting to see in the very stubbornness of the attachment the loyalty to things a certain ethical dimension: the refusal to perform the mourning work of renunciation through symbolic mediation might seem to involve an encrypting of alterity within the interiority of the subject, which would as such divest itself of its illusory sufciency or self-containment. Freuds open wound1 would be the site of an originary extimacy as the subjects own opening to an innite responsibility. Buried alive within the vault of a self fractured by the persistence of what cannot be metabolized, the lost object would seem to assert its continued claim on those still alive. Melancholia would articulate this claim. Its tenacity would be the measure of the incommensurability of a loss whose persistence points both to the innite need for and to the nal impossibility of all restitution. The issue proves to be somewhat more complicated. Simply to invert Freuds infamous hierarchy between normal, normalizing mourning and pathological melancholia would be to ignore that the antithesis between mourning and melancholia nds an echo within the structure of melancholia itself, which displays its own internal conceptual self-division. The very history of the concept of melancholia shows a systematic oscillation between denigration and overvaluation a split which suggests that whatever the resonance of the concept today it should not be a question simply of privileging melancholia as somehow most responsible to the historical demands of an epoch devastated by the cumulative horror of its losses. Typically stigmatized in the medical tradition from Stoicism through

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Scholasticism (where, not coincidentally, its perils were typically coded as feminine), valorized in the Renaissance and Romantic tradition (where its benets were correspondingly coded as masculine), melancholia has from the beginning been burdened with a double valency. Linked, on the one hand, to paralysing pathology (the noonday demon of the Middle Ages), and, on the other, to ecstatic creativity (the divine mania of Ficino or Tasso), the concept of melancholia is itself ssured by a crucial ambiguity.2 The aporia is not simply that the emphasis on the opacity of the lost object deects attention from the lost object to loss as such, and from here, eventually, to the subject of loss a movement of abstraction which paradoxically aggrandizes the subject in its very abjection. Freud, who was to observe the righteous grandiosity of the melancholics self-lacerations, was thus led to draw the conceptual link between melancholia and a certain narcissism. More precisely: the preoccupation with an originary loss (as such) logically preceding the loss of any determinate object could function equally as a pre-emptive denial of loss which would mask the real inaccessibility of its object by determining it in advance as lost thus negatively appropriable in its very absence. The melancholic attachment to unknown loss (SE 18: 245) would in this way function apotropaically as a defence against the fact that the object lost was in fact never mine for the having. Melancholia would thus be a way of staging a dispossession of that which was never ones own to lose in the rst place and thus, precisely by occluding structural lack as determinate loss, would exemplify the strictly perverse effort to assert a relation with the non-relational. (Which is not to say that the assumption of lack in general cannot equally function pre-emptively by dissolving the singularity of contingent losses.) Trauma would itself in this way be mobilized as a defence against an impossible enjoyment: the melancholic derealization of the real here functions, as Giorgio Agamben has compellingly argued, not only to aggrandize the subject of fantasy, but in so doing ultimately to hypostatize what is unreal (or phantasmatic) as a new reality.3 The example of Baudelaire may briey clarify this recuperative logic of gain through loss. The strange coalescence of emptiness and plenitude explored in so many poems Andromache, for example, bent in ecstasy near the empty tomb of Hector (Le Cygne) points to the paradox that grief can provide its own most potent form of consolation. Lack yields its own fullment in the allegorical personications whereby the poets preoccupation with his own grief ma Douleur : capitalized, humanized, hypostatized comes to ll the vacuum left by the absent object. In Recueillement death itself is pre-empted by the intensity of the living sorrow which the poet cherishes like a mother her ailing child. The language of grief in this way comes to eclipse the loss which occasioned it and another familiar Baudelairean gesture announces the alchemical transformation of black bile into ink.4 It is not the formal dialectic of reversal per se which is my concern here, but rather what is at stake in it. Nietzsches analysis of the ascetic ideal is

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supremely pertinent. Over and above the logical loop evident in the melancholic conversion of privation into acquisition is the spectre of acquiescence which would this is Hegels beautiful soul embrace the present in the gratication of its own despair. There is nothing neutral about the drift to compensatory gratication. The sublime abstraction which nds power in disempowerment threatens to evaporate the object into an aesthetic phantasmagoria which would adapt the subject to the requirements of the present. The effacement of negativity would still the repetition which is the essential legacy of trauma the signature of its inherent historicity but which is equally, by that very token, its most generative power. The occlusion of the traumatic past cuts off any relation to a radically (perhaps catastrophically) different future. The structure of melancholia in this way begins to bleed into that of fetishism the compensatory construction of imaginary unities in response to a traumatic loss (castration) which structurally can be neither fully acknowledged nor denied.5 Perversion not only names the simultaneity of recognition and disavowal: it hints at the deeper paradox that the very recognition is the disavowal. There is no acknowledgement of trauma which in its claim to adequacy (a claim implicit in the very protestation of inadequacy) does not efface the loss it would concede. Despite appearances, the celebrated Je sais bien . . . mais quand mme structure outlined by Octave Mannoni in no way neutralizes by partitioning the contradiction it would announce.6 The fetishistic split which maintains the contradiction between knowledge and belief traumatic loss, on the one hand, redemptive totality, on the other provides no protective containment of its antitheses, but rather implicates both within a contaminating porosity and oscillation of one term into the other. Could such a perverse simultaneity of acknowledgement and disavowal be the condition of historicity? Far from indicating a simple deviation from some norm of repression (together with its counterpart of enlightenment), fetishism might rather indicate the subjects irreducible split between two contradictory imperatives an antinomy which itself marks the ambivalent legacy of every trauma. If every relation to history is always at some level a non-relation to another history a missed encounter with the others lack and as such a traumatic relation to the others trauma history itself would be dened by the recursive or reexive pressure of a loss recognizable only in its own effacement. Could perversion be the mark of the subjects impossible relationship to a loss which is ultimately not its own to acknowledge in the rst place but so too, equally, the index of a certain promise? The issue is all the more pressing at a time when the very proliferation of memorials, the manic drive to museify, threatens to spell the erasure of memory. It is less a question here of disavowing such disavowal (in the name, for example, of a demystied or disenchanted mourning) than to consider what might be at stake in such a contradiction. How to respond to the claim

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of the dead when every response (starting with the piety of the response which invokes the dead as if they were some kind of self-evident corporate subject) threatens to escalate the amnesia against which the anamnestic project is directed?

SURROGATE MEMORIES IN THE AGE OF MASS MONUMENTS We could begin, for example, by reconsidering the frequently remarked peculiarity of the contemporary memory industry;7 the recent discomfort over the cruelly labelled Shoah-biz is here symptomatic. At issue is the dramatically inverse ratio between the current proliferation of memorial institutions and the experience of direct memory: a ratio which expresses itself temporally, as the distance between the current spate of mnemonic products and the tangible experiences they reference; spatially, as the gap between these products and the subjects who consume them; cognitively, as the epistemic gap between the intensication of memorials and the numbing boredom and distraction these so frequently occasion. Rather than deploring this distance in the name of a more authentic or more inward work of memory, or simply denouncing the various opportunisms so frequently at work here, one might examine the precise logic of this dissonance. What does it mean that memory feeds on what structurally evades it: that our drive to remember is directed towards memories that essentially are not our own to remember, or that we perpetually seek our memories elsewhere in objects, in places, even in a frenzied theorizing about memory? The logic of this expropriation needs to be considered. The current lament that this cultural frenzy of commemoration is a prosthetic substitute for remembrance that we make things which will not only tell us how, when, where, to remember, but which will effectively do our remembering for us (a complaint which effectively resumes Platos denunciation of writing in the Phaedrus) only circles around the problem. Slavoj iek has elaborated the amusing and suggestive notion of interpassivity: you come home from work, op in front of the television, tune into the sitcom, and are suddenly confronted by this eruption of canned laughter.8 ieks point is that this onslaught of prefabricated response does not simply function, as one might think, as a tyrannical reminder to start laughing the notorious superegoic injunction to enjoy but that it actually does our laughing for us. And this not only as one more labour-saving device on a par with the remote control and the popcorn machine, but rather so as to mark the inescapable condition of self-dispossession which spells our inscription in a symbolic order. Such a dispossession was already noted by Adorno and Horkheimer when in the Dialectic of Enlightenment they observe how the commodied piece of music hears for the listener. It was noted by Heidegger in Sein und Zeit in describing the stubborn condition of Abstndigkeit distantiality or

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of self-dissension: the consumerist chain of surrogacy which denes the experience or rather non-experience of das Man (we take pleasure and enjoy ourselves as they enjoy themselves, we read, see, and judge literature the way they see and judge, and so on).9 Where ieks Lacanian formulation differs from, and just possibly explodes, the residual mandarism lurking in both Heidegger and Adornos earlier renderings is that this surrogacy, rather than constituting a limit on an authenticity predicated (mutatis mutandis) on the self-proximity of a subject, becomes the condition for an abyssal freedom in which the decentred subject nds itself overwritten by a signifying network that exceeds it: its own desire is registered as the desire of the Other. What would it mean for memorials to do our remembering for us? What Pierre Nora identies as the need for a lieu de memoire can be interpreted doubly:10 at once the situatedness of memory, memorys inherent drive to embodiment, and its inevitable displacement in a place or situation which usurps it. The lament that memorials take the place of memory assumes too quickly that memory itself is not from the start dened as expropriation. The idea that we are not contingently (according to the dictates of the market, the nation-state, the various pathologies of power) but structurally dispossessed of our own memories may be horrible, but it would at least suspend any automatic determination of memory as reappropriation, or (a certain interpretation of) Hegelian Er-innerung or internalization. It may indeed explain what Hegel could not have possibly meant, but nonetheless almost said, when he determined in the Phenomenology the fr sich (substance-assubject) as what presents itself fr uns. What appears for us is not only a function of our conceptual mediations but may reveal the impossibility of every standpoint from which to mediate; the very we who we are appears at once on our behalf and instead of us; experience is effectively determined as the experience of the impossibility of experience. The memorial which usurps or pre-empts our memories not only assumes the subjective attributes of its now reied consumers but inscribes the limits of the possibility of inscription. If every fetish is a mnemonic registration of a loss which is simultaneously repudiated (both a victory monument over and the stigma indelibile of castration, says Freud), then the fetishized memorial ambiguously commemorates not the lost object per se but the loss of loss : in staging the coincidence of memory with its own evacuation the memorial performs an impossible mourning rite for mourning itself and thereby demonstrates our irreducible eviction from our own experience. It is mourning as such which is now, impossibly, being mourned.

BETWEEN MELANCHOLIA AND FETISHISM The entwined destinies of melancholia and fetishism thus begin to emerge. This may seem surprising: are not the two attitudes opposed? Is

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not the immediate, banal contrast between the determined misery of the former and the voluptuous determination of the latter decisive? A grain of Nietzschean suspicion might go some way here: the deant exhibitionism of the melancholic reveals a streak of luxurious enjoyment matched only by the severity of the fetishists commitment to a jouissance which in its workmanlike assiduity displays a discipline and focus verging on the ascetic. Both loss and jouissance present themselves here as symmetrically and reciprocally traumatic. If castration names the trauma of our symbolic mediation, the encounter with the Real brings the equally devastating trauma of an unmediated proximity the hard kernel which marks at once the limit and the possibility of experience. The fantasy of loss can itself function as a defence against the trauma of enjoyment, just as jouissance itself can be reinected as a defence against the trauma of castration. Just as obsessional rituals can defend against the real death threatening to engulf the subject on the battleeld of enjoyment, so too even little deaths can be reconstructed as so many miniaturized defences against the symbolic mortications on the plane of language. The operative antithesis in this case would be thus not between symbolic castration and real enjoyment per se, but rather between the imaginary overlay each inevitably acquires in the face of the other: according to this Borromean logic, even trauma can be mobilized as a fantasmatic defence against trauma. The manifest opposition between the experiences of lack and excess is thus ultimately less decisive than the structures of fantasy which pre-emptively sustain them. One might then proceed to schematize the various parallels. Both melancholia and fetishism involve a doubling or splitting of the self in the face of a loss, the intractability of which structurally prohibits the recognition it thereby, as prohibition, demands. In the terms of Mourning and Melancholia the topological cleavage between the critical faculty of the ego and the ego as altered by identication (SE 14: 249) reects the ambiguity of a loss which is simultaneously accepted (by way of metabolizing identication) and disavowed (by way of literalizing incorporation) a permanent open wound which ambiguously commemorates the original instance of traumatic wounding in so far as it at once drains away every interior plenitude of the subject and (the catch) reies the resultant void of subjectivity as a last, stubborn surd of positivity, thereby reconrming or sustaining narcissism in the very injury which would deface it. A lack congeals, which in its hypertrophy pre-empts the very possibility of the substitution which it at the same time renders necessary. This brings melancholia virtually to coincide with fetishism, where the epistemic split between the afrmation and the denial of lack inevitably reproduces the very antithesis it seeks to neutralize: the split both retraces and effaces the castration which it is designed to regulate, in that it functions simultaneously both as catastrophic ssure and as stabilizing partition.11 The Ichspaltung in

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this way not only creates the very possibility of forming fetishist attachments but in itself functions as the ultimate fetish. Various other parallels ow directly from this. The paradoxical relation to loss in each case leads directly to an intensied attachment to things whose prosthetic role is neither countenanced nor entirely denied. Thus the apparent literalism of fetishist desire, the refusal of symbolic mediation, the irreplaceable thisness or singularity of the fetish object, and thus similarly the peculiar tenacity of melancholia. The cathectic loyalty12 to the lost object in this latter instance not only does not preclude but requires the secret construction of a substitute the remnant of the object incorporated within the empty interior of the subject which functions as a screen memory the very opacity of which remains both refractory and innitely tantalizing. (It is ultimately memory itself which gets determined as the ultimate fetish-object: the veil.) Thus the familiar paradoxes of recuperation: mourning itself becomes a fetishistic proxy for an object whose loss is overshadowed by the clamorous grief it occasions, and in this way furtively stages substitution precisely by insisting on the latters impossibility. Substitution in each case structurally requires the construction of a partobject whose fragmentation both prolongs and occludes the traumatic wound it commemorates. The fetishistic passion for the inanimate to objects, to body-parts, and even to the whole body itself now refashioned as its own synecdoche of itself (the erect body posing as substitute for its own absent member)13 displays a chiasmic exchange between unity and fragmentation whereby the subject nds vitality in the mortication which most shatters it and thereby retrieves a weird, excessive organicity in dismemberment as such. The supplement thus both denies and reveals the irreparability of the lack to which it is consecrated the part-object functions as the whole object and as such blocks the syntagmatic completion which it simultaneously incites and enables and in this way erodes the opposition between unity and fragmentation, an opposition which is in turn elaborated as the opposition between jouissance (oriented toward the viscosity of life-substance) and the dead letter of the law. In enunciating the law of enjoyment as his very own private law posited without the detour of symbolic mediation the pervert effectively elides the structural gap which is the essential condition of the law as such, and in this way, and through the various literalisms of his practice, aunts the law precisely in usurping as exclusive occupant the site of the laws own enunciation. Melancholia displays a similar logic. The incorporation of the object requires the latters abbreviation as a frozen attribute and thereby inicts upon it a kind of second death miniaturization reproduces the death which it simultaneously reduces a violence which will in turn reverberate within the sadomasochistic theatre of grief wherein, famously, it is the lost object itself which is being whipped by the subjects most intimate self-

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agellations. The refusal to admit the objects lack involves the concession of that very lack and exacerbation of the latters mortifying dismemberment. Reduced to a part-object within the hollow crypt of subjectivity, the object persists as living corpse, at once congealed remains and extruding surplus, whose death accretes like so much cellular eforescence.

FROM REPETITION TO RUPTURE Time here undergoes its own peculiar shattering: a ssure erupts within the continuum of experience. The melancholic xation on the past may explode the nostalgia to which it simultaneously seems committed, just as the perverse temporality of suspense or lingering may undermine its own implicit consecration of an embalmed or reied present. This may seem surprising: how might xation yield a form of rupture? At the level of fantasy, that is, as parallel forms of defence, the temporal registers of melancholia and fetishism surely appear equally and symmetrically conservative. The melancholic too late may function as a pre-emptive assumption of trauma which evaporates impending catastrophe by insisting on the latters absolute anteriority: no contingency remains; death is installed as always already accomplished; the sacrice is over before it begins. This is Kierkegaards denition of recollection as an aesthetic ideology, and it equally determines the ight from time in innite resignation: one lives in the present as if the worst has already happened. Recollection has the great advantage in that it begins with the loss; the reason it is safe and secure is that it has nothing to lose, writes Kierkegaard of the lover who mourns his beloved in advance, an old man by the second date.14 In a similar fashion the knight of innite resignation jumpstarts the dreadful moment of decision, rushes too eagerly up the mountain so as to bypass the night of Abrahams unbearable decision, and thus effectively overleaps time itself so as to win the payback of an otherworldly compensation: loss is staved off as always already in the past. Fetishism displays the same temporal logic in reverse: loss is warded off as always already in the future. Thus Freuds emphasis on the ritualized suspense which denes the temporality of perversion: traumatic belatedness is perpetually siphoned off to the next moment; perpetual foreplay seeks to recapture, immobilize and thereby retroactively construct the moment before the traumatic encounter to forestall disaster by deferring it to a chronically receding horizon. I turn back the clock so as to forever relive the very last icker of an imaginary innocent anticipation: the worst is forever in abeyance, I am permanently on this side of danger I reassure myself with the fantasy of a permanent not-yet.15 This is Lessings explanation of the strange beauty of the Laocon sculpture: the sculptor has captured the pregnant moment just before the full horror strikes the fathers mouth open but not yet

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screaming, the serpents venom not quite completely penetrated, the agony not quite yet at its climax: the gaze xes on the penultimate moment so as to block the revelation of the monstrous void. Penultimacy incompletion as such becomes a defence against a mortifying conclusion. Melancholia and fetishism would thus seem to collude to produce the illusion of an intact present solitary, sufcient, immune from past or future threat. Indeed they come to coincide: postponement of a death forever pending consummates itself in the pre-emptive fantasy of a death always already accomplished. Thus, in Proust, the blink of an eye from chronic prematurity to chronic, irreversal senescence, from the phantasm of the blank page to the phantasm of the bal de morts, from perpetual virginity to premature, perpetual mummication and into the no less reassuring fantasy that having already died, I have nothing left to fear from death.16 What would it mean to traverse the fantasy so as to release the present from a reassuring stasis? To negotiate the switching station between the too early and the too late, between fetishistic before and melancholic after, so as to change the terms of both postponement and its obverse? Here Benjamins reections on history may prove compelling.

BENJAMINS LOSSES . . . This is so true, that the eternal is more the frill on a dress than any idea. N3, 2 Is there a way of disentangling the dialectical image from the phantasmagoria of late capitalism? Adorno famously did not think so. The arresting, sometimes distracting details of the debate between Benjamin and Adorno at times veil over the depth of the rift between the two thinkers but so too, perhaps, their secret complicity. Responding to the sprawling, smorgasbordlike assemblage of the Passagen-Werk, Adorno charges Benjamin with vulgar Marxism: thus the lack of mediation notoriously discerned in Benjamins various attempts at linkage from base to superstructure, from sidewalk size to nerie, from wine tax to Lme du vin, etc. (C, p. 582) an inference which in its metonymic crudity at best overlooks the complex negotiations of the commodity fetishism chapter in Kapital, at worst falls under the spell of bourgeois psychology (C, p. 497). Vulgar Marxism would in this case conspire with vulgar psychoanalysis (Jung) in its reduction of the social imaginary to a dreaming collectivity which in its abstract homogeneity dissolves the explosive ambivalence the blend of desire and fear which signals at once the traumatic burden of the dialectic, the ssure of uncontainable negativity, but, so too, equally, its objective liberating power (C, pp. 4956). Implicit in Adornos repeated accusation of magical thinking is the suggestion that Benjamin has succumbed to more than one kind of fetish:

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to elide the dialectic is to veil the social conditions of production as the ongoing hell which denes the modern age (C , p. 496). Benjamins legendary Medusa gaze (C , p. 500) would on this reading function apotropaically to deect and mask a devastation whose pressure remains all the more unassailable in being reproduced. Benjamins superstitious enumeration (C , p. 583) of partial objects would in this sense plaster over the ultimate catastrophe ssuring history as a whole the dissonance of irremediable class oppression and as such blunt any demand for total social change. Although Adorno does not invoke these terms, the logic of pre-emptive fragmentation discerned here comes close to the psychoanalytic model. To linger on the disjecta membra (shoe, velvet, shine on nose, etc.) would be simultaneously to register and to occlude a deeper fragmentation (castration, death, irrecuperable negativity), and so to function both as victory monument over and traumatic reminder stigma indelebile of the loss it commemorates.17 Marxs celebrated analysis of the fetish, which Adorno does invoke, is in this respect not dissimilar. The animation of things both reects and veils the mortication of persons and thereby provides the compensatory phantasm of unity in the face of an irredeemably fractured social world. The commodity occludes the alienated labour it congeals and consecrates, and thereby commemorates a loss of bodily and social integrity ungrievable under existent relations of production. In both cases the fetish assumes an ideological role: by providing the consoling image of totality it pacies any desire for a different world, and this precisely by freezing time at the moment before the catastrophic insight. Underpinning Adornos charge of positivism is the suspicion of an idealization that naturalizes what it seeks to mobilize and thereby negates the very negativity it seeks to honour. Benjamins projection of a utopian horizon for the scraps of actually existing culture occludes the hell of a history eternalized as second nature, and thereby mollies the demand for radical social change. Chaque poque rve la suivante (GS 5.1: 46). Benjamins repeated recycling of Michelet is for Adorno symptomatic in that it elides the radical caesura between catastrophe and its antithesis, and thus absorbs utopia within the mythic continuum of the ever-same (C, p. 495). The attempt to read redemptive content directly from the bits and pieces of phenomenal history presupposes a synecdochal reduction to immanence the part stands in for the whole and thus blocks its possibility which in its elision of the dialectic of fragmentation (loss) and totality (redemption) inevitably sties the last, dwindling possibility of change. The dialectical image betrays utopia precisely by anticipating or imagining it, and in this agrant violation of the theological ban on graven images18 would fetishistically disavow the alterity it would thereby acknowledge. The problem with Benjamins micrological patchwork is thus, on this reading, not in fact fragmentation but just the opposite: Adornos less obvious and more painful reproach is that in renouncing the dialectical continuity durchdialektisieren

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of conceptual mediation19 Benjamin only reinstates a kind of identity philosophy all the more oppressive for going unnamed. If Benjamin abstains from theoretical totalization, this is only in the end so as to smuggle in a series of imaginary continuities within and between the epochs and within the body politic as such which in their very inconspicuousness assume an apologetic form. Underlying the ostentatious disaggregation of Benjamins so-called surrealist method is there a faith in unity all the more magical for being unspoken? Fragmentation as such can provide the most perfect alibi for its own denial; preoccupation with the rubble heap can serve to cloak a deeper devastation. Benjamins position would from this perspective slide inexorably into that of the pervert whose loyalty to the scattered things only prolongs a commitment to imaginary unities the phantasm of the revolutionary collective, of the golden age, of history itself as the site of specular condensation whose persistence inevitably assumes a consoling or ideological cast (lingering over the waxworks of the nineteenth century might in this sense satisfy more than one agenda). However irritating, Adornos harangue brings into perfect focus an ineluctable antinomy at the heart of Benjamins project.

CUTTING THROUGH HISTORICISM . . . the exact point where historical materialism cuts through [durchschlgt] historicism. Theses on History The chronicler who recites events without discriminating between major and minor ones takes into account the truth that nothing that has ever happened is to be taken as lost for history (GS 1.2: 694 SW 4:390). How to distinguish the prodigious contraction of messianic Rettung from a capacious historicism regulated by the consoling teleology of universal history?20 If the tigers leap into the past (GS 1.2: 701 SW 4:395) assumes as its truly problematic condition the determination to give nothing up (N3, 3) Origens heretical doctrine of apokatasis is always hovering (cf. GS 2.2: 458 SW 3:157) this ows explicitly from a theological conviction regarding the indestructibility of the highest life in all things (N1a, 5). Do the frozen cut-ups of Benjamins montage method secretly prolong the historicism they interrupt? The question reverberates well beyond the unnished monster which is the Passagen-Werk. Adorno had no particular reason to restrict his criticism, nor to reduce it to the notorious terms he did (arcades, balconies, etc.). If Adornos suspicion has any pertinence it should apply equally to Benjamins entire set-up from the early Trauerspielbuch to the nal Theses on History, the very texts Adorno thought he loved the best which is in this respect perfectly continuous from start to end. As the

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metaphysical problematic of part and whole unfurls into the more poignant Benjaminian problematic loss and redemption, death and resurrection the political, historical and indeed theological stakes begin to emerge. The issue here is not just the familiar paradox of capitalist recuperation the endless reintegration of every dissonance within the syncopated continuum of the history of the victors. Nor is it simply a question of Benjamins seemingly limitless capacity to blur antitheses the exquisite oscillation of virtually every item on the menu between subversion and subvention. Does the scavenging operation of, for example, Baudelaires chiffonier disrupt or merely reproduce the consumerist compulsion of capitalist modernity?21 Does the lingering hesitancy of the neur obstruct the trafc ow (as the transit authorities feared) or, by fostering the illusion of surplus leisure, secretly reinforce it?22 Does the enigmatic satisfaction of the allegorist the lingering lasciviousness toward the thing-world challenge the aesthetic plenitude of the symbolic or supply a brand of private consolation? Do the obsessional arrangements of the collector defy the functionality of capital or furnish it with the alibi of aesthetic disinterestedness?23 Is the melancholic delity to the dead decisively distinguished from the luxurious despondencies empathic acedia, left-wing melancholy of the vainglorious victors?24 Such fretful questions (the list continues) have from the beginning plagued the reception of Benjamin. The symmetrical chorus of reproaches too happy, too sad circles around, but perhaps itself shies away from the most intractable aporia. Does the revolutionary standstill blasting, freezing, exploding time, shooting the clocks, pulling the emergency brake, etc. disrupt the triumphal procession of the victors or merely invert it (thereby buttressing it, etc.) by reproducing the crystalline abstraction of alienated labour? The question is not entirely well-posed, but does have the merit of focusing attention for a moment on the profound congruity between, for example, the essays on mass culture and the various reections on history.25 Photography presents each time the privileged metaphor and model of temporal contraction: to seize hold of a memory as it ashes up at a moment of danger (GS 1.2: 695 SW 4:391) is to experience a synchronization of past and present which can be understood in the strictest sense as traumatic: the posthumous shock inicted on the past under the pressure of a present danger which is to say that history is experienced only as and at an irreversible delay. Where thinking suddenly stops in a constellation saturated with tensions it gives that constellation a shock, by which it crystallizes into a monad (GS 1.3: 703 SW 4:396). Benjamin does more here than extend Freuds or Prousts celebrated analogy between the deferred action of the photograph and the structural belatedness of experience. In pointing to the coincidence of trauma with its own abreaction the lightning ash retroactively inicts the shock it shockingly discharges he also points to an irreducible contamination between the messianic rupture and the oppressive viscosity in which

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it intervenes. The revolutionaries who shot all the clocks had, in the rst place, to synchronize their watches, had to afrm the historicist continuum in the moment of negating it, just as, in another register, the moment of awakening is negotiated only from within the claustral connes of the dream: the dream or phantasm not only gropes numbly towards the next enthralling episode but in so doing (Adorno ignores this part) turns with stealth and cunning towards its own overcoming (cf. AP, p. 13) Fetishism informs not only the content of the Passagen-Werk, and not just the form of its peculiar windowshop appearance. One might set aside the (by now) tiresome speculations regarding the mimicry at work here: is the Passagen-Werk itself a kind of literary arcade, a collection, a site of nerie, a department store, a museum, a cluttered interieur, a sad inventory; is Benjamin a shopper, a ragpicker, a brooder, a thief? A deeper and more intractable ambiguity informs the project: is it a ruin, a heap, a sketch, a scaffold, a constructivist construction? Is its posthumous, unnished quality provisional, accidental, structural: what is the measure of its incompletion? Is its unnishedness that of the collection (forever structurally just one item short completion both its presupposition and its logical undoing), and if so what sustains this logic of perpetual penultimacy? Is the fragmentation pre-emptive, the serial production of a lack generated so as to maintain the ction of totality, and as such a kind of fetishism in reverse? Liminal experiences pervade the Arcades Project and dene its most familiar landmarks from Metro entrances to railway stations to the twilight zone of the arcades themselves and Benjamin repeatedly invokes the magic of the threshold as paradigmatic both of nineteenth-century urban experience and of the work that commemorates it; the various spatial and optical ambiguities generated architecturally by glass and iron inside and outside, near and distant, past and future correlate with the deep existential ambiguities between human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living and dead. The very porosity of these distinctions in the dream-world of Baudelaires Paris speaks to the unease and fascination generated by the ambiguous timespace of capitalist modernity itself the birth-pangs of commodity culture as it pervades the interstices of the big city and acquires layered political and historical resonance in the aftermath of repeated revolutionary defeat. In the architectural phantasmagorias of post-1848 Paris, ruin and sketch converge monuments to missed opportunities, ciphers of futures foreclosed. Writing in 1935, and remarking on the preliminary nature of Baudelaires modernity (that is to say, his modernity tout court), Benjamin insists on the provisional or penultimate status of the various nineteenth-century innovations: all these products are on the point of entering the market as commodities. But they hover on the threshold [Alle diese Produkte sind im Begriff, sich als Ware auf den Markt begeben. Aber sie zoegern auf der Schwelle] (AP, p. 13/GS 5.1: 59). There is a sense in which Benjamin himself, on the

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eve of fascisms triumph, keeps on lingering on the mid-nineteenth century, prolonging the quotations, deferring the ending. Like the fetishist who keeps dwelling on the moment just before the inevitable, irreversible catastrophe, Benjamin keeps on constructing a retroactive before of missed opportunities, the moment before the nal congealing of capitalist social relations, the ickering of possibilities rendered legible only from the perspective of an irredeemably damaged present day. Hope in the past is just this counterfactual construction of an anterior future the retrospective awakening of a blocked possibility, the perpetually ringing alarm clock (cf. Surrealism essay) which rings all the more stridently for having been set too late. This denes the peculiar temporality of Benjamins messianism the rescuing of a past futurity and the retroactive stimulation of a not yet forever to come. Its secret fetishism, perhaps, but also the trace of a melancholy approaching that of a Kafka, for whom the Messiah always comes a day too late not judgement day but always the day after that, the day when he is no longer necessary, or no longer possible, or both. Arguably, too, by this token, hope in the past is the eruption of what Kafka equally describes as hope, an innite amount, but not for us.

6 TREMBLING CONTOURS: KIERKEGAARDBENJAMIN BRECHT


RAINER NGELE The conguration indicated in the title Benjamin between Kierkegaard and Brecht is not one that imposes itself self-evidently. Not only does there seem to be an unbridgeable abyss between Kierkegaard and Brecht, but also a glaring asymmetry between Benjamins very intense relation to Brecht on the one hand and his very rare references to Kierkegaard on the other.1 If we linger for a moment with the image of the abyss in the conguration and sequence of the three names: Kierkegaard Benjamin Brecht, the name Benjamin would then take the place of the abyss that separates the two incommensurable names Kierkegaard and Brecht and perhaps, at the same time, it is the impossible bridge but, no doubt, a shaky and trembling bridge. Benjamins essay on Brechts epic theatre Was ist das epische Theater?,2 which will be the focus of this essay, begins indeed with an abyss and with the levelling of an abyss: What is at stake today in the theatre can be determined more precisely in regard to the stage than to the drama. At stake is the levelling of the orchestra. The abyss that separates the actors from the audience like the dead from the living, the abyss whose silence increases the sublime in the drama, and whose resounding increases the intoxication in the opera, this abyss, that bears the traces of its sacred origin most indelibly among all the elements of the stage, has lost its function (GS 2.2: 519).3 Three times the abyss is invoked, as if in an act of conjuration to exorcise it forever. And indeed, at the end of the sentence, the abyss has disappeared or, more precisely, it has lost its function, ist funktionslos geworden . With the word funktionslos we enter into a different sphere and a different age: emerging from the world where depth and height, abyss and the sublime (Erhabenheit), the living and dead structure a world of metaphysics and of intoxication, we enter suddenly into a technological world of functions and utter sobriety. It is the world of Brechts epic theatre, so Benjamin tells us. And in telling it and in the way he tells it, it is as if in these initial sentences he were drawing in one bold line the movement and

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transformation of his own thinking and his style: from the dense and even esoteric metaphysical writings of the teens and early twenties to the stark and sober style of such essays as Der Autor als Produzent, Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit and, Was ist das epische Theater? It is of course not that simple. The essays on Karl Kraus (1931) and on Kafka (1934), written in a rather different style and register, go hand in hand with the seemingly so different tones of Was ist das epische Theater? (1931) and Der Autor als Produzent (1934). And the more Benjamin, in the last ve years of his life, launches into his major project on the Parisian arcades and the nineteenth century in the recognizability of the Now of the early twentieth century, the more Benjamin notices and recognizes, in another Now of recognizability, the foundational return of his early essay on language ber Sprache berhaupt und ber die Sprache des Menschen and his book on the baroque drama of mourning. No doubt, there were changes in Benjamins mode of thought and presentation, radical ones that even such a close friend and sensitive reader as Gretel Karplus, with whom Benjamin shared in the thirties perhaps the most intimate secrets of his thoughts as far as they were communicable, confessed that she did not recognize his hand in some of his texts any more. Benjamins reaction to this confession indicates a deep consternation: When you write of my second outline, that one would never recognize in it the hand of WB, I would call this a somewhat rude remark [so nenne ich das doch ein wenig geradezu gesagt] and you transgress with this remark certainly the borderline where you can be certain not of my friendship but of my agreement . . . WB has and this is not self-evident for a writer but in this he sees his task and his best right two hands. At the age of fourteen I decided one day [hatte es . . . mir in den Kopf gesetzt] that I had to learn to write with my left hand. And I still see myself today sitting for hours at the school desk in Haubinda and practice. Today my desk stands in the Bibliothque Nationale and I have taken up again the lesson to write temporarily in such a way on a higher level.4 In not recognizing WBs hand, Gretel Karplus has transgressed a limit, a border line and such limits were explicitly a constitutive part in the close friendship between Benjamin and his Felizitas, as he called and addressed her; she has transgressed the limit of an accord and almost, if not quite, as the denegation indicates, the limit of friendship. In a sense, in not recognizing WBs hand, Gretel Karplus has mutilated her friend, has cut off one of his two hands that Benjamin claims for himself. Claiming two hands is, as Benjamin remarks, not self-evident for a writer. For while most writers might have two hands, very few write with two hands, at least in the pretechnological age when people still used to write by

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hand, and by a hand that left its signature and mark in the writing as the signature and mark of the writer himself. Benjamin was among other things also a graphologist who occasionally earned some extra money from rare books with his graphological expertise. As a 14-year-old, Benjamin tried literally to learn to write with his left hand, and he now tries again to learn to write in such a way on a higher level, as he puts it. The line drawn from the school desk of the 14-year-old in Haubinda to the desk of the Bibliothque Nationale, where the 37-yearold Benjamin exercises his new style of writing with the left on the left is more than a shift from the literal, physical hand to a gurative hand: it is at the same time and this is at the centre of Benjamins whole project as a physiognomic project the inseparable interrelation, the Verschrnkung, of the literal and the gurative, the suspension of their clear separation in a hovering sphere of trembling contours that promise a new physics beyond metaphysics, something Benjamin will call a materialist doctrine of ideas or also an anthropological materialism. But I have jumped far ahead. We must return and patiently follow the traits of the two-handed writing of Benjamin. Benjamins exercise in lefthanded writing, temporary auf Zeit! as it might be, no doubt has left indelible marks in the style of his thinking and writing. But this transformation goes beyond the wilful exercise which itself seems more like a symptom of another transformation that the writer can only ascertain after the fact, as Benjamin writes to Werner Kraft on 25 May 1935: The Saturnine tempo of the matter has its deepest ground in a process of complete turning around [Umwlzung ], that a mass of thoughts and images, dating back to a long past time of my more immediate metaphysical, even theological thinking, had to undergo in order to nourish with its full force my present condition. This process took place silently; I myself knew so little of it that I was immensely astonished, when due to an external occasion the plan for the work was written in just a few days.5 Benjamin diagnoses the transformation as an Umwlzung, which literally means a rolling over or turning over of a heavy object or mass, such as a big stone or rock. It is also often used in German as a literal translation of revolution. Benjamin speaks of the rolling over of a mass of thoughts and images originating in a metaphysical and even theological thinking. He seems thus to conrm a radical revolution of his early metaphysical and theological thinking. But it is rst of all a revolution in the literal sense of the word, which after all originates in astronomy: something rolls over, turns around, yet it remains in its substance. The mass of thoughts and images originating in metaphysical and theological thinking are, to be sure, no longer in immediate connection with this mode of thinking after the roll

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over, but the emphasis on the unmittelbar indicates that a mediated relation might still continue. At the same time the rolling over seems to invest the mass with a kind of dynamic force, a Kraft that nourishes and propels the new condition. Only a few days later, Benjamin restates the transformation in a letter to Adorno in a slightly shifted image. He rst detects with some astonishment the striking analogies between his new project on the Parisian arcades and the book on the baroque drama of mourning, and he comments: You must allow me to see in this circumstance an especially signicant conrmation of the refounding process [des Umschmelzungsprozesses], that leads the whole mass of originally metaphysically motivated thoughts towards an aggregate state, in which the world of dialectical images is secured against all objections that metaphysics provoke.6 The Umwlzung has now become an Umschmelzung, a refounding, a transformation of the mass into a different aggregate state. The images and thoughts originating in metaphysical and theological thinking are melted in order to reemerge as dialectical images, that now seem immune against interventions and objections, the Einrede, of metaphysics or against metaphysics, the phrase can be read in both directions. And yet, this transformation nds its substantiation and conrmation precisely in the clearly emerging analogies with the earlier work. Umwlzung and Umschmelzung : the rst process leaves the substance of the mass intact, but rolls it over in order to expose its formerly hidden side. It is an image that recurs at various moments in Benjamins work on the Parisian arcades. If one turns over a stone, in the forest for example, that has rested on the ground for a long time, at the moment of the rolling over, a rush of countless little creatures will take place that leave nothing behind but a labyrinth of patterns that might appear like a script on the underneath side of the stone. Reading such scripts and traces is one of the tasks of the anthropological materialst and physiognomist. The second process of melting and refounding transforms the aggregate state of the substance in a procedure that evokes the traditions of alchemy. But alchemy itself is transformed in this process and reemerges as construction: This much is certain: the constructive element has the same signicance for this book as the philosophers stone for alchemy.7 It is in the middle of this process of Umwlzung and Umschmelzung in the early 1930s that Benjamin enters into a complex conguration with Brecht. It is one of the most enigmatic congurations in Benjamins life. While it is tempting to see in Brecht the secular, materialist, sober countergure to the metaphysical and theological sides of Benjamin, and while Brecht certainly liked to project this image of his role, there is something deeply enigmatic, deeply troubling like a cloudy kernel in Benjamins relationship to Brecht. Benjamins three closest friends Adorno, Scholem and Gretel Karplus were in agreement about one thing: their fear of Brechts inuence on Benjamin. There was apparently something in Brechts ways that evoked

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strong affects in all three of them. But while Adorno more or less rationalized his affect with his reduction of Brecht to a vulgar Marxist, and Scholem with his refusal to read the texts of Brecht that Benjamin kept sending him, Gretel Karplus addressed this affective level in a letter full of concern to Benjamin. And Benjamin responded for once on the same level in a long letter of June 1934 (GB 4: 440f.). In contrast to his letters to Scholem, where Benjamin vigorously defends his interest in Brechts work and its afnity with his own mode of thought on political and ideological grounds, the letter to Gretel Karplus approaches the cloudy kernel of the relationship. Benjamin recognizes rst a pattern of repetition: What you say about [Brechts] inuence on me recalls for me a signicant and ever returning constellation in my life. He mentions two precedents: the friend of his youth, the poet C.F. Heinle, who committed suicide at the beginning of the First World War, and a little later the somewhat dubious Simon Guttmann, whose inuence was the object of a passionate opposition on the part of Benjamins wife. Her opposition culminated in the reproach that Benjamin was under some kind of hypnotic inuence. Benjamin makes no attempt at refuting such a suggestion, but instead attempts to analyse the forces involved in such relations: In the economy of my existence, a few relations, that can be counted, play indeed a role that allow [sic] me to assert a pole that is opposite my original being. It is no longer a simple question of ideology, but one that concerns both existence (Dasein) and being (Sein). Benjamins concept of thinking in other peoples heads, his mimetic ability to occupy the most extreme opposite positions, nds here its most radical expression. The repetitive pattern of Benjamins excentric circles of friendship opens up to a Haltung, a posture, that involves an existential positioning of ones innermost being in the extremes. It is the most radical ex-position of ones existence. Benjamin is well aware of the protest of his friends: These relations have always provoked a more or less violent protest in those closest to me, as does now the relationship to B[recht]. Benjamin can only plead for an understanding of the incomprehensible: In such a case, I can do little more than ask my friends to trust me, that these ties [Bindungen], whose dangers are obvious, will reveal their fruitfulness. And, once more, Benjamin invokes the necessity of moving and of positioning himself in extremes but also the liberating potential of such a movement and position: It is not at all unclear to you that my life as well as my thinking moves [sic] in extreme positions. The expanse that it [sic] thus asserts, the freedom to move side by side things and thoughts that are considered irreconcilable, assumes its face only through the danger. A danger that generally appears also to my friends only in the form of those dangerous relations. These are, then, literally liaisons dangereuses with all their perverse implications.8 And yet, the danger appears as a physiognomic force that gives a

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face to the otherwise faceless; and the face is the gure of a readability of physiognomic traits. Thus danger is also the condition that the dialectical image appears as a moment of readability. Dialectical images, we have read, are the result of an Umschmelzung, of a refounding of images and thoughts that originated in and were motivated by metaphysical and theological thinking. But how do metaphysical and theological images become dialectical images? And what happens to metaphysics and theology in this process? For one thing is clear: it is not a question of simply discarding them. It is here that a closer reading of Benjamins essay on Brechts epic theatre might give us some clues. A theatrical abyss, the orchestra, has lost its function. What was its function? To separate the stage from the audience like the dead from the living, Benjamin says. The comparison with that radical separation of the world of the dead and the world of the living points at the representative function of the separating abyss: the physical separation represents a metaphysical separation between the physical space of the stage and what it represents and signies, the separation between a phenomenal world of appearance and a noumenal world of true being. What happens when this separation has lost its function? Audience and stage are now in the same physical space; the stage no longer represents another world. The stage is a stage, one might say. Yet it is still elevated, Benjamin points out, thus still indicating a difference. But the elevation is no longer the elevation of the sublime, no longer Erhabenheit, but the purely physical elevation, an Erhebung of a podium or a platform. And, as if to underline the atness of this platform, Benjamin states dryly: Das ist die Lage, this is the situation, here we have to install ourselves. Das ist die Lage. The sentence itself sounds at in its factual assertiveness. As Marx says of the ultimate condition of the proletarian revolution: the conditions themselves, the situation itself not any arbitrary wilfulness and decision must call out [die Verhltnisse selbst rufen]: Hic Rhodus, hic salta! 9 And yet, this Lage that according to Benjamin categorically demands of us to install us here, resonates with one of Benjamins earliest and most densely written texts, his essay on two poems of Hlderlin. There, in the middle of a seemingly well ordered metaphysical world, where gods and mortals move in well distinguished orders and in opposite rhythms (GS 2.1: 113) through the poem, Benjamin invokes the Lage as the space of truth. Hlderlins world, he writes, is die Erstreckung des Raumes, der gebreitete Plan, the extension or expansion of space, the expanded plain. This at plain of Hlderlins world becomes die Wahrheit der Lage als Ordnungsbegriff der hlderlinschen Welt, the truth of the situation as the conceptual order of Hlderlins world (GS 2.1: 114). The Wahrheit der Lage, the truth of the situation, the situation as a space of truth rests literally in the fact that the Lage is gelegen , opportune, and thus a Gelegenheit , an opportunity for truth. Es sei alles gelegen dir, says Hlderlins poem, and thus the poet walks on

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that which is true like on carpet: Geht auf Wahrem dein Fu nicht, wie auf Teppichen?10 And this is what Benjamin calls die Wahrheit der Lage. There seems to be an abyss between this Wahrheit der Lage in Hlderlins poem and the Lage that is the stage of Brechts epic theatre. Yet the line that arches over the abyss from Lage to Lage is perhaps opportune enough to form the bow that Benjamin hoped for in order to be able to shoot the ultimate arrow of his work, as he writes to Scholem in October 1934: Whether I will ever be able to stretch the bow in such a way that the arrow speeds off, is of course uncertain. But while my other projects have soon come to the end where I took leave from them, this project will occupy me longer. Why this is so, is indicated by the image of the bow: here I have to deal with two ends simultaneously, namely the political and the mystical.11 The two ends of the bow, that Benjamin characterizes here as political and mystical, reaching from Lage to Lage, are both situated in a plain, in a surface which, according to Benjamin, is the condition of readability: Lesbar ist nur in der Flche [E]rscheinendes , Readable is only what appears in the surface (GS 6.1: 32). It might seem that the essay on Brechts epic theatre only handles the political end of the bow. Yet we must not overhear the resonances of the Lage, as at and sober as it might be in the form of a podium. Benjamins rst step is to redene the function of the podium: it is not simply an elevated space from which political messages are sent to the audience, but it becomes part of a functional context and what is at stake is the transformation of this functional context by changing the relations of its elements that include, besides the stage, the audience, the text, the performance, the director and the actors. Each of these elements assumes a new function in the epic theatre: the stage becomes for the audience an exposition space instead of a space of illusion, the audience is no longer a hypnotized mass but an assembly of interested individuals, the text loses its central signicance for the theatre and becomes an experimental sketch that has to prove itself and its potentials in the performance. Thus Benjamin moves through each of the elements and characterizes the functional changes in its relation with the others. For, like Marx, Benjamin locates the materialist ground not in reied things, but in relations, in Verhltnisse. Almost as a by-product of these changes in the theatrical relations, another relation is put into question and confronted with the challenge of a radical change: that of theory and praxis, or, in Benjamins words of theory and existence (Dasein), a word perhaps better translated more literally as beingthere, in order to avoid the heavy ideological burden of the word existence. Benjamin speaks of the professional critics who were unable to recognize the exemplary staging of Mann ist Mann in Berlin, because of a theory languishing

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in the Babylonian exile of a praxis that has nothing to do with our being there [mit unserem Dasein]. Theory is in a Babylonian exile, because it is cut off from our Dasein, from its specic situation, its Lage, it thus has no relationship any more to the Wahrheit der Lage, the only rm ground as changing and volatile as it might be for theory, and, one might add, for art. For already in his book on the baroque mourning play, Benjamin criticizes what he considers to be the abyss of Nietzsches aestheticism: The abyss of aestheticism opens up, Benjamin writes, where art takes up the centre of existence [Dasein] in such a way that it makes the human being its appearance instead of recognizing in the human being its ground not as its creator but his existence [sein Dasein] as its eternal pre-position [als ihren ewigen Vorwurf ] (GS 1.1: 2812). Dasein as Vorwurf, as pre-position, as pre-disposition of art and theory, cannot be reduced to a reied, naively understood reality, although it is real enough as that which pre-positions and pre-disposes the structures of our relations in our sphere of living, the possible movements in our environment, the horizon of our space of freedom to the degree that we have such a space. The task of theory would then be to articulate these structures and their disposition. To do that, theory sometimes must become silent, must at least be kept at a distance, as Benjamin writes already on 23 February 1927 in a letter to Martin Buber, proposing a report on his experience in Moscow for Bubers journal Die Kreatur (GB 3: 2312). All theory, Benjamin insists, will be kept away from this report, in order to let something else speak, what Benjamin calls das Kreatrliche. Kreatur, which was also the title of Bubers journal, and das Kreatrliche are located at a curious intersection of theology and materialism. Kreatur embraces animals and human beings as creatures (of god, theolo-gically) and as bodies and esh subjugated and exposed to the sufferings of the body and the esh, and ultimately exposed to death. It is a word that plays a central role in what Benjamin calls later anthropological materialism, a word that is as important to Buber as it is to Brecht. Paul Celan, in his Meridian speech will talk of Georg Bchner as the Dichter der Kreatur. While Kreatur is often thought of as mute die stumme Kreatur Benjamin wants to let it speak. And in order to let it speak, theory has to be silenced for a while. How does it speak? Its language is determined by the dispositions of Dasein, and these, for Benjamin, are radically new in the Moscow of his experience, and thus the language is a very new, very strange language (diese sehr neue, befremdende Sprache), and it resonates through a resonating mask (durch die Schallmaske) of a completely changed environment. When the Kreatur enters the stage of the epic theatre and Brecht indeed often speaks of Kreatur it speaks less in resounding speeches than in gestures, and when it resounds it might be the sound of the mute Kattrin in Mother Courage, drumming on the roof to awaken the city. That is how the stone speaks: Der Stein spricht, is the title of the scene. But more than the sound of the drum, it is the slowly diminishing rhythm of the gestures of the drumming Kattrin that makes up the language of the creature.

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In another short, apodictic sentence, that corresponds to the apodictic Das ist die Lage, Benjamin sets the accent of the epic theatre: Das epische Theater ist gestisch (the epic theatre is gestural, GS 2.2: 521). Gestisch, gestural, is not the same as gesticulating; while it has its basis in the postures and movements of the body in its environment and in relation to other postures and movements in that space, it also encompasses the settings and postures of words and sentences. The apodictic brevity of the two Benjaminian sentences is itself a gesture. Brechts rst explicit discussion of what Gestus and gestisch is demonstrates it in Luthers translation of a biblical sentence. Das epische Theater ist gestisch : the apodictic character of the gesture of this sentence is not only due to its sharp brevity, but it gains its strong gestural character because it abruptly interrupts the previous paragraph and its discussion of the inadequacy of the critical vocabulary in face of this new kind of theatre. It cuts off, so to speak, the language of an inadequate aesthetic theory in Babylonian exile, it cuts itself off from it in order to open another space and another language. It interrupts abruptly, but not without an ironic hidden gesture waving back to the last sentence of the previous paragraph. The conventional critical language and its aesthetics are all the more inadequate, that last sentence says, because they are xated on the poetic and literary text, whereas the epic theatre concentrates on the construction of the new stage and allows itself all liberty in regard to the poetic text, literally allows itself a free hand in regard to the poetic text (der Dichtung gegenber sich freie Hand lt). The hand is there, free and ready now for the gesture. But in the gesture, more precisely in the gestural space of the epic theatre, the hand is no more free than the word in the sentence; it is part of a structure, the gestural space of the epic theatre is structured like a language. But Benjamin ascribes a certain privilege to this other language of the gestural, that is not only another language besides the verbal language, but also a language underlying the spoken and written language, a kind of underground, and also, perhaps, underlying it, its subject, its immediate Vorwurf. Gestures, Benjamin says, are the privileged material of the epic theatre; and they are a better material than other expressions and statements of people for two reasons. They are less deceptive and, secondly, each gesture can be framed with a specic beginning and end. Why should gestures be less deceptive? The assertion seems to come dangerously close to the naive assumption that gestures are somehow more natural and therefore more spontaneous than words. But that is not what Benjamin writes. First of all it is not a simple opposition of deceptive or true utterance, it is a matter of degree. Gestures are less deceptive than other expressions, which in Benjamins formulation are thoroughly deceptive (durchaus trgerisch). If gestures are somewhat less deceptive it is to the degree that they can be less easily dissimulated, not because they are more natural, but the difculty of dissimulating them increases to the degree in

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which they are unobtrusive and habitual. The more unobtrusive, the more habitual, the more mechanical they are, the less consciousness, which in Benjamins as in Freuds experience is the primary agent of deception, can interfere. Such gestures are like the hand in Dr Strangelove that constantly rises up to the Hitler salute against the will of its subject. But gestures are more than revelations of an individual subjects hidden intentions: they are witnesses of an interest in the most literal sense of that word. They testify to a sphere of inter-esse, of a sphere between the subjects and between their world. Gestures are, so to speak, sedimentations of movements in a sphere of interests. Their movements reveal the patterns of the network of pathways possible or impossible in a given social and cultural setting. While the relative distance of gestures to the controlling consciousness thus allows them to be witnesses of the sphere of interests, the possibility to frame them in terms of a clear beginning and ending turns them into means to dissect what Benjamin calls the complexity (Vielschichtigkeit) and opaqueness (Undurchschaubarkeit) of peoples actions. Gestures are the epic theatres equivalent to the Aristotelian plot, the mu`q o~, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As such, they interrupt the constant ow and current of life and events which, of course, have no xable beginning or end. Every beginning in our experience has something before, and every end something after it. The gesture, frozen in a xed beginning and a xed end, functions as a caesura in the ow of actions and events, just as Hlderlins caesura interrupts the torrential stream of representations (Vorstellungen). While the interruption of the current of Vorstellungen uncovers the Vorstellung itself, according to Hlderlin, the interruption of the action in the epic theatre uncovers and discovers, according to Benjamin, states of affair, conditions or situations (Zustnde). This functioning of the gesture as a caesura would demand a further extensive reading and analysis. But it is time for a caesura in this text whose title promised not only the names of Benjamin and Brecht, but also of Kierkegaard. The latter seems to have disappeared with the abyss of the orchestra in the epic theatre. To nd him again, to nd him at all will not be easy on this stage and podium. But then, even in his own writings, Kierkegaard is often quite evasive, hidden behind pseudonyms, if indeed he can be found there. Pathways to Kierkegaard tend to be circuitous, demanding most of the time elaborate detours. If a shade or a trace of Kierkegaard can be suspected at all in Benjamins essay and evidently I am suspecting something of that order it would most likely be found at that end of the bow of Benjamins writing that he called the mystical end, where the transformations of the earlier more directly metaphysical and theological elements are taking place in a kind of alchemistic melting process. It is of course that end of the bow that in this particular essay is particularly unobtrusive; but then it is the unobtrusive that is invested with a special revelatory quality. We have already noted

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a subtle resonance of Hlderlin in the Lage that offers a rst precarious ground over the aesthetic abyss of the conventional theatre. With the acknowledgment of the crucial function of the caesura in the epic theatre, the Hlderlinian resonance emerges with full force; and this is more than a literary game of allusions, because it touches at the centre of the problem of (re-)presentation, of Vorstellung and Darstellung. The caesura, as we have seen, interrupts, according to Hlderlin, the torrential stream of (re-) presentations, of Vorstellungen in order to allow the Vorstellung itself to emerge. In an analogous way, the gesture, as a framed entity with a xed beginning and a xed end, interrupts the changing scenes of the theatrical (re-)presentation in German also called a Vorstellung in order to allow the emergence of the underlying Lage, the situation, the conditions that shape the structure of the gestural space. What precisely is the status of a Vorstellung ? This is the question that Hlderlin poses in a fragmentary text of philosophical letters, written several years before the remarks on the Sophoclean tragedies, probably in 1797. Why is it, the interlocutor of the fragmentary dialogue asks, that humans must represent to themselves the relationship between themselves and their world? (Warum sie den Zusammenhang zwischen sich und ihrer Welt gerade vorstellen . . . mssen).12 The gerade gives a special turn to the question in the sense of why is it specically in the form of Vorstellung that this takes place? This form of Vorstellung is further differentiated into two modes: why must they [i.e. humans] form an idea or an image of the relationship between themselves and their world (warum sie sich eine Idee oder ein Bild machen mssen). These are the two modes of (re-)presentation: sensual representation in the form of images, and representation as thought in the form of ideas. But precisely these two alternatives are inadequate for the representation of the sphere that constitutes the space of interaction between human subjects and their world, because this sphere, which constitutes the Geschik that structures the human world, a word that encompasses fate, but also the subjective ability and hability to act in the appropriate way, as well as the objective suitability, the Schicklichkeit, to act in a way that is adequate and suitable to the situation this sphere of Geschik, the interlocutor says and the main voice of the essay agrees can, strictly speaking, neither be adequately thought nor does it actually lie before our senses (das sich genau betrachtet weder recht denken liee noch auch vor den Sinnen liege). The sphere of the human world, of the world of human interaction, is a sphere that always already transcends the purely empirical state and yet it is not a world of pure thought. Thus a different mode of representation needs to be found. And it is that mode that Hlderlins fragment tries to articulate. And this is precisely the question and task that Brechts epic theatre confronts. As committed as this theatre is to a strictly materialist view and interpretation of the world undercutting all idealist transgurations, it is yet structured on the assumption that the simple empirical reproduction

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of the world is inadequate. A set of photographs of the Krupp factories, Brecht writes, will not necessarily reveal the social reality in which they function, for the social reality is structured by relations, what Marx called Verhltnisse. And it is the sphere of Verhltnisse, of relations that can neither be adequately represented in a purely empirical mode, nor purely in abstract thought. Thus the epic theatre works with constellations of scenic images, lmic images, texts, slogans, songs and above all interruptions. The same problem of (re-)presentation leads Benjamin to the construction of the dialectical image, which is neither an empirical pictorial representation of the world, nor an abstract thought or idea, but a kind of Denkbild , a thinking image, that has its place in language, because it is structured like a language. Benjamins essay on Brechts epic theatre is one of the crucial texts toward the construction of such a different kind of representation. For this reason he needs the bow with the two ends, in order to shoot the arrow of the dialectical image. And it is here that we nally encounter not Kierkegaard, but an echo of Kierkegaard in a moment where the sober text literally begins to tremble. It happens in a long paragraph whose movement almost emblematically draws the line of the bow with the two ends. It begins at the height of technology: The forms of the epic theatre correspond to the new technological forms, the cinema and radio. It [the epic theatre] stands at the height of technology (GS 2.2: 524); and it ends with emissaries of higher powers, Platonic ideas and trembling contours (das Zittern der Umrisse , GS 2.2: 525). This paragraph thus performs the inverse movement of the rst sentences of the essay: from the metaphysical abyss to the functions of technology there, from the height of technology to the Platonic ideas here. The movement of this line passes through Caspar Nehers stage decorations, which, according to Benjamin, are actually less decorations than posters. Benjamin also calls them projections: Nehers Projektionen , a word that already suggests both the technology of optical projections on the stage and something approaching the fantasmatic, and even the fantomatic. (Brecht himself talks of lmic projections on the stage as taking over the role of Hamlets ghost, or of ghosts generally in the older theatre.) Nehers projections in their sober function as posters, Plakate, are in Benjamins eyes a means for the literalization of the theatre, the interweaving of image and letter, turning the scene into a kind of Denkbild . But something else happens with and through these posters, a curious doubling takes place, when for example in Mahagonny Jakob der Vielfra b , the character who eats himself to death, sits in front of another Jakob der Vielfra b, drawn by Caspar Neher. The pictured Vielfra b is not an illustration of the real Vielfra b , says Brecht and Benjamin quotes him but he takes a stand in relation to the real one. At this point, for the rst time in the essay, Benjamins gesture indicates a certain distancing from Brecht, or at least takes a step further. So far so good, he writes, after having quoted Brechts statement about the double

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Vielfra b , but, he continues, who guarantees [wer steht mir dafr] that the Vielfra b played on the stage [der gespielte Vielfra b ] has the advantage of reality over the pictured one [vor dem gezeichneten die Wirklichkeit voraus hat]? Benjamin undermines Brechts simple opposition of a real and a pictured Vielfra b . Instead he confronts two representations: one played, the other drawn. At this point, the status of the real is suspended. Nothing hinders us, Benjamin says, to have the played gure sitting in front of the real one, that is to let the pictured gure be more real than the played one. Once the status of reality as a rm ground and difference to the ctional has been suspended in the double representation, another space and structure enter into play; another scene opens up on the stage of the epic theatre. Once the real is movable and can move from the foreground into the background, the play in the foreground assumes a kind of fantomatic aura: many of the players, Benjamin writes, appear as emissaries of the greater powers [als Mandatare der gr beren Mchte] that remain in the background. As in medieval and baroque allegories, the gures on the stage gure another reality, with the minor spatial difference in this case that the other reality, the other scene, der andere Schauplatz , as Freud called it, is not a higher, metaphysical sphere, but horizontally displaced in the background from where their effects emanate into the foreground, functioning like Platonic ideas.13 Thus Nehers projections become something very paradoxical, what Benjamin calls materialist ideas. But to the degree that these projections are visible they assume themselves a strange intermediary place: although being materialist ideas, they can become visible only by tearing themselves off from their status as ideas, for even materialist ideas are outside the realm of the empirically visible. But how then do we recognize their real status? Through a minimal effect in the mode of their appearance: as close as they have moved to the event [on the stage], the trembling of their contours [das Zittern ihrer Umrisse] still betrays from what much more intimate proximity they have themselves torn away in order to become visible. A trembling at the edges indicates the effect of another scene. And in this trembling in Benjamins text, the effect of another gure can be read: the effect of an ever so brief intersection, an ever so brief crossing of paths between Benjamin and Kierkegaard, after which their paths will move in opposite directions. But what legitimates such a reading? To simply base it on the word Zittern that evokes the title of the German translation Furcht und Zittern , would certainly seem far-fetched although, as we will see, it is not all that far-fetched in Benjamins unconscious. Yet the trembling in Benjamins text is the echo of another trembling that Kierkegaard evokes in his text as the signal and effect of another sphere, and it is as unobtrusive as the trembling of Caspar Nehers posters. Kierkegaard describes the gure of the knights of innity (Unendelighedens Riddere Ritter der Unendlichkeit, in the German translation).14 These knights are completely inconspicuous in this world, they even have in Kierkegaards description a striking

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resemblance to bourgeois philistinism (p. 38), such a knight makes one think of him as a pen-pusher who has lost his soul to Italian bookkeeping, so punctilious is he (p. 39). But like Kafkas betters at horse races, who immediately recognize in the gait of the lawyer Bucephalus the gait of a horse, Kierkegaard, or rather Johannes de Silentio, is a keen observer of movements and gestures. And it is in this particular gaze and attentiveness that the brief encounter and intersection between Benjamin and Brecht is possible. As unobtrusive as these knights are in everyday life, they are also dancers, whose movements elevate them from time to time into a higher sphere, but only an ever so slight wavering, when they touch ground again, indicates that other sphere from which they return: The knights of innity are ballet dancers and have elevation. They make the upward movement and come down again, and this, too, is not an unhappy diversion and is not unlovely to see. But every time they come down, they are unable to assume the posture immediately, they waver for a moment [de vakle et jeblik], and this wavering shows that they are aliens in the world. It is more or less conspicuous according to their skill, but even the most skilful of these knights cannot hide this wavering. (p. 41) A slight wavering (vakle in the Danish text, Schwanken in the German translation of 1923) signals that these gures come from elsewhere, just as the trembling of the contours signals that also the gures on the stage of the epic theatre are emissaries of greater powers. The small, yet signicant difference, as I have already indicated, is the spatial structure of the relationship between the spheres: vertical in Kierkegaards text, horizontal in Benjamins text. It is the difference of two kinds of invisibility: the invisibility of a metaphysical and theological transcendence in Kierkegaard, and the structuring invisibility of determining relations in Benjamin and Brecht. Benjamin does not mention the name Kierkegaard in this text. The constellation of his trembling contours with the wavering posture of Kierkegaards dancer thus might still seem an all too thin thread for establishing a relation. Indeed Benjamins text seems to move immediately into a very different direction, evoking afnities with the Chinese theatre. But precisely in this move, the text begins again to resonate with echoes from Kierkegaard. First Benjamin displaces the accent from the general structures that might lead to certain expected effects to an emphasis on the incommensurable and singular (aufs Inkommensurable, Einzelne); and here, suddenly, the gure of the ballet dancer appears: someone who writes for the epic theatre, Benjamin says, has a relationship to the plot [verhlt sich zur Fabel ] as the ballet master to his pupil [wie der Balletmeister zu seiner Elevin]. It is his rst task to loosen the joints to the limits of the possible (GS 2.2: 525). Not only in the gure

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of the dancer, but in the homophony of a curiously displaced word, the echo of Kierkegaard can be heard. Kierkegaards elevation of the dancer (Elevation in the Danish text, Elevation in the German translation of 1923) reappears in Benjamins Elevin . It seems that Kierkegaard can appear in Benjamins texts only in strange displacements. But he does appear, against Benjamins intention, with a curious insistence and in curious slips of the pen. Eight years after this rst version, Benjamin rewrote his essay on the epic theatre for publication in the journal Ma b und Wert in 1939. In this version he refers to Brechts play Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reichs, but the title is disgured and appears as Furcht und Zittern des Dritten Reichs (GS 2.3: 1387). Benjamin is rather embarrassed about this lapsus and, on 6 August 1939, he writes an apologetic letter to Margarete Stefn only to produce another lapsus : In puncto Essai bin ich reumtig, was den Titel von Brechts Stck angeht (es gab da eine unentschuldbare Kollision mit Kierkegaards Furcht und Sitte) . (Concerning the essay, I regret what happened to the title of Brechts piece [there was an inexcusable collusion with Kierkegaards Fear and Manners]: GS 2.3: 1386). The Zittern has turned into a Sitte, a custom, a habit, manners, perhaps even a haunting mannerism through which the ghost of Kierkegaard invades Benjamins writing. It might also be the ghost of theology in the process of its transformation that appears in the displaced and displacing effects of Kierkegaard, who seems to occupy the place of theology as the hunchbacked dwarf in Benjamins version of the chess automaton (GS 1.3: 693 ).15 The hunchback, that also plays a signicant role in Benjamins Kafka essay, is the gure of the displaced, forgotten things that haunt, as emissaries of greater powers, our lives and (hi)stories. The hunchbacked dwarf theology, small and ugly, remains invisible in Benjamins allegory, but the puppet plays all the better even, and perhaps especially, on the sober stage and podium of Brechts epic theatre, where Kierkegaards ghost as a revenant of the ghost of Hamlets father insists with Benjamin on that intermediary status of a Vorstellung at the edge of the visible and invisible. The displaced encounter between Benjamin and Kierkegaard takes place on the site where the theological and political are at the same time in the most extreme opposition and in the most intimate interpenetration. It is the innitely small point of a metabolh V , an Umschlag, a sudden shift and turning around from the one to the other without any mediation. And here, in the rejection of mediation, Benjamin comes closest to Kierkegaard, when he tries to explain the paradoxical event of the reversal, the metabolh V of the extremes. It is also the point of the transition from theory to praxis and to being-there. This transition [Benjamin says] is humanly possible only in a paradoxical event: This is humanly possible only in two ways: in a religious or a

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political viewpoint. I do not concede a difference of these two viewpoints in their quintessence. No more, however, a mediation. I am speaking of an identity that proves itself only in the paradoxical turning [Umschlag ] of the one into the other (no matter in which direction) and under the presupposition that each view of the action proceeds without consideration and radically in its own sense.16

7 THE SUBJECT OF HISTORY: THE TEMPORALITY OF PARATAXIS IN BENJAMINS HISTORIOGRAPHY


DIMITRIS VARDOULAKIS

1 Focusing on the subject of Walter Benjamins notion of history inevitably conjures up the image of the chess-playing automaton of Thesis I of On the Concept of History. In the writing of history, the subject gures both as the hidden chess-player inside the mechanism, and as the puppet that moves the pieces on the chessboard outside. There is a mechanism that can potentially be propelled indenitely, but its operation at each time is determined by the denite stamina of the player crouched in the dark, suffocating compartment. On the board, the continuation of the game is related to the hidden player, while the puppets jerky movements are incidental to the games duration. Thus the image of the Turk, as the automaton was known, provides a complex temporality: in terms of movement, the machine can go on for ever, while the man only as long as he can cope; whereas in terms of the game, its perpetuation is dependent on the calculating man, while the puppet is incidental. Thus the complexity of time is created by the juxtaposition the parataxis of man and puppet. Thereby, the subject becomes an integral part of the act performed by the automaton, but the medium of that act is time itself. As the image of the automaton is refracted through Benjamins writings the subject as historian and as the subject that appears within written history will assume a clearer outline. The coordinates for such an outline can only be provided by Benjamins writings themselves, and rst of all by the unnished Arcades Project to which the Theses were conceived in part as a methodological grid. The fact that the Arcades Project to remain unnished is be a problematic element in such an investigation, and one that Benjamin is well aware of: Outline the history of The Arcades Project [die Geschichte der Passagenarbeit] in terms of its development. Its properly problematic

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component: the refusal to renounce anything that would demonstrate the materialist presentation of history as imagistic in a higher sense than in the traditional presentation (N3, 3). Benjamin is not referring simply to the book that was published posthumously as volume 5 of his Gesammelte Schriften. Benjamin is also referring to the work (Arbeit) of collecting in les a huge volume of material the enormous list or parataxis of copied citations and written notes. If this material is regarded as constituting the objects of history, then those objects are given through their relation to the subject in the unfolding of time. And since both the object and the subject are given through forms of parataxis, then parataxis becomes the concept that can yield forms of temporality that determine the subject of history. Parataxis, as the refusal to give anything up, has at least two conceptual aspects: First, to the extent that the parataxis of notes aspires to present a specic place (Paris) in a specic period (the nineteenth century), what the refusal announces is the totality of everything that makes up that specicity. Yet this totality was to remain incomplete. A single specic moment is impossible to grasp in its totality, let alone the complete specicity of a whole era. The second conceptual aspect is to be discerned in the criterion for collection: the materialist historiography. To the extent that materialism, as understood by Benjamin, is a transformative critique, a writing in which the material itself unfolds towards a future happiness, historiography has a weak messianic power (Thesis II). The past is indexed to something incomplete, the future. Yet this indexing depends upon completeness as the past without which the incomplete future is inconceivable. Thus, the two aspects of parataxis show that the subject of history the historian who writes the history and the subjects for whom the history is written can only be given through this process of destruction whereby a complete specicity is made incomplete and an incomplete innity is made complete. The interplay between completeness and incompleteness introduced by parataxis yields forms of temporality that are in each case disruptive. This disruption is the manner in which the complete gives itself up to the incomplete, and vice versa. To introduce the notions or concepts of completeness and incompleteness in historiography is to view the writing of history through the prism of universal history. Universal history is not an arbitrary choice of term. There are two reasons why universal history is crucial. First, universal history at its most basic introduces the issue of a comprehensive inventory of the course of history. Universal history is a form of list-making, the writing-down of parataxis. The list has a vital connection to a philosophy of language and hence to narrative, as well as to the condition of the possibility of knowledge. This can be demonstrated with a brief look back at list-making. On the one hand, from the perspective of the development of different narrative forms, it is important that the earliest examples of different genres utilize lists in crucial ways: thus, Homer in his epic poem of the Trojan war is not

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frugal with space in recording each citys contribution to the Greek army, or the items on Achilles shield; and Herodotus in his Histories provides detailed inventories of the armies in the Persian wars or of what he saw in his travels; and it should not be forgotten that the earliest European script that has been deciphered, the Minoan Linear B, has been preserved as clay tablets recording the goods produced and stored at the Cretan palaces. The fact that decisively different narrative forms use the same apparatus, only proves, as Longinus recognized, that the list is a fertile topos for stylistics to turn into a philosophy of language thereby addressing both the human and the object.1 On the other hand, the thinkers of the modern era were equally aware of this: Montaignes use of the list as the only way to record his own experience is a telling example, even if somewhat timid compared with the compulsive list-making of a Rabelais or the lists that comprise La Popelinires perfect history.2 It is not a coincidence that Foucault starts his history of words and things from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century with extrapolating on the way that a list records not only the objects perceived as well as the reection upon these objects, but also the pistme that is sedimented between the individual listed items and which comprises the order, or the grammar, of the list.3 The issues of narrative, subjectivity and the epistemological status of objects coalesce in the notion of the list so that their relation to history can be examined. The second reason that universal history is crucial is derived from Benjamins writings. It is not only that the huge list known as the Arcades Project can be viewed as a type of universal history. In addition, universal history is a term employed by Benjamin himself. Although Benjamin refers to it only once in the Theses, that reference in Thesis XVII is of extreme importance for a discussion of the historiographic method. Further, if universal history is taken to mean a completed history, then contrapuntal to this idea is that universal history is also messianic. The authentic concept of universal history [Universalgeschichte] is a messianic concept (N18, 3). This assertion is signicant enough for Benjamin to jot down a number of times in the preparatory notes for the Theses, for instance: Only in the messianic realm does a universal history exist (SW 4: 404/GS 1.3: 1235). Universal history, as the term around which completeness and incompleteness entwine and unfold, is a necessary condition of Benjaminian history. However, it is not a sufcient condition of history. The stress in the last citation from the preparatory notes is on the only: universal history can be actualized only with the coming of a Messiah, on Judgement Day. Moreover, Benjamin warns: Universal history in the present-day sense is never more than a kind of Esperanto. (It expresses the hope of the human race no more effectively than the name of that universal language) (SW 4: 404/GS 1.3: 1235). The utopian vision of universal history in the presentday sense a qualication which will be shown to be of signicance for Benjamin is nothing but wishful daydreaming. If humanity could ever

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think of pinning its hopes on a universal language such as Esperanto, the historical actuality in which Benjamin was writing the Theses (Nazism, the HitlerStalin pact, etc.) would beg to differ. Yet, if hope and its language or the language of hope, the spero in the Esperanto are halted by a pervasive impossibility, Benjamin can still insist that such an impossibility is annexed to a possibility. It is a regulative impossibility. This impossibility could be made productive, so long as it remained regulative. In other words, the aporia about the insufcient necessity of parataxis and messianic temporality for history may yet provide a methodological reorientation or reversal. After all, as the essay on The Elective Afnities afrms, hope is for the hopeless, and the hopeless in Benjamins notion of historiography are the oppressed, in whose name the history that insists on recording the minor detail is constructed. The hopeless are the subjects of written history. The reversal, then, that will recongure universal history has to be performed by/through the subject of history. Yet the hapless historian who undertakes the enormous collecting task of a Passagenarbeit is no less hopeless. In unfolding the notion of the subject of history, the historian will prove at the end to be as important as the oppressed of the past although what is ultimately of the most importance is the way that the subjects of written history are related to the gure of the historian. What has to be avoided is to place the oppressed and the historian in a hierarchical structure, that is to pit them against each other in a power struggle.

2 To avoid such a power struggle, it is important that the two notions of the historical subject are clearly delineated. Only then would it be possible at the end to indicate what kind of struggle they avoid, what is the nature of their alliance their complicity. For the moment, the investigation should proceed with the oppressed by asking the question: Who are the oppressed? Who are the hopeless? An answer will reveal that according to Benjamin there is no one identiable group of people that can be called the oppressed. The question leads to the realization that a philosophy of time is needed. Temporality will yield the historiographic method. Yet this method will require the reshaping of the question: How are the hopeless to gure in a historical narrative? The latter question will lead back to the historian. It may appear self-evident who the oppressed have been. To assume that there is an obvious way of identifying the oppressed and the hopeless, namely as those who have suffered injustice, the slain [who] are really slain, as Horkheimer put it in a letter of March 1937, would be to miss the crux of Benjamins thought. When Benjamin transcribed Horkheimers letter in Convolute N of the Arcades Project , he appended the corrective that history is not merely science but also a remembrance (Eingedenken) that can modify

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the facts of science. Remembrance can make the incomplete (happiness) into something complete, and the complete (suffering) into something incomplete (N8, 1). Historiography then identies the suffering as the realm of particularity that tends to be viewed as completed. However, this suffering cannot be grasped in toto and thus always remains incomplete. At the same time, the promise of happiness that the oppressed hope to be carried out in the future remains incomplete, since the future cannot be foreclosed, it is always open to possibilities. Yet these possibilities are always already circumscribed by the past, they are dependent upon the past and thus complete. This chiasmus between completeness and incompleteness unfolds in remembrance (Eingedenken) and, in Benjamins sense, yields history. Thus, at the heart of history, at the chiasmus of Eingedenken, there is an aporia: the hopeless and the oppressed are not merely discovered in the past they also solicit the discovering of that past. History does not exist without them, no less than they do not exist without history. This twofold movement is crucial. The response offered to Horkheimer makes it clear that the hopeless and oppressed are not to be discovered directly in a past, historical occurrence; rather, they are to be determined by the chiasmus. Benjamin is not contending that the oppressed are in some sense unreal, a kind of simulacra marching forward from a bygone time. If anything, the opposite is his very point. The reality of hopelessness has to be secured through a conception of time that does justice to such a reality. There is a negative part to Benjamins assertion, when he denies that history is science. This is the rejection of historicism. Although the attack on historicism permeates Benjamins thought on history, from the Arcades Project , to the Theses, to several published works of the same period such as the Fuchs essay, as well as the preparatory notes for the Theses although, then, the assault on historicism is unrelenting, historicism remains a term never adequately dened by Benjamin. Historicism would indicate at least three distinguishable conceptions of history. First, there is the teleological history, one that asserts that enlightened man will head towards a cosmopolitan ideal, as Kant argues, or one that poses freedom as an end whose attainment in the present would signal historys end, according to Hegel. Second, historicism also includes the attempts to identify independent historical disciplines, a history of art, a history of politics, of economy, of technology and so on. The problem with autonomous historical inquiries is that they either presuppose a rupture between that discipline and society, or they extrapolate inadequate relations between the two, as for instance the psychologism of the Warburg school.4 Third, historicism nally includes the practice of adding up facts, while insisting in Rankeian fashion on the self-evidence of these facts what Benjamin calls the strongest narcotic of the century (N3, 4). What these different types of historicism have in common is a conception of time as continuous. They presuppose a linear chronological development, which is always dependent on empathy with the

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rulers who determine that linearity. Conversely, historical materialism has to blast apart the historical continuum. Time has to come to a standstill. The dialectical image activates the emergency brakes of history. Therefore, who the hopeless are cannot be secured by their being conceived as originating from within a chronological continuum. This would merely be tautological, trying to secure history from within history itself. To say that ultimately the slain are really slain is nothing other than reverting to historicism. Had Horkheimer been presented with the problem of who the hopeless are in this way, he might have retorted that the tautology cuts both ways: does not dialectical rigour demand that continuity and discontinuity, as its opposite, mutate to each other? Therefore, Benjamin himself would not overcome historicism, if he merely imposed a different form discontinuity to the already existent material. This line of argument misconstrues Benjamins rejection of the presupposition of a temporal continuum. The call to blast apart the historical continuum presupposed by historicism is not a call to hypostatize discontinuity. Discontinuity cannot be equated with a generic narrative that identies a specic group of people as hopeless. This would not make sense, if, as already intimated, the hopeless both make history and are made by it. Discontinuity is not content. History is not self-legitimating. There is no narrative particular to history (cf. SW 4: 406/GS 1.3: 1240), there is no narrative particular to the oppressed. Thus, when Benjamin refers to montage in relation to the writing of the Arcades Project , montage is not at all a stylistic device but a methodological procedure (cf. N1a, 8). And, when Benjamin talks about the historiography in a positive manner, he does not refer to the narration of history, but to its construction: History is the subject of a construction (SW 4: 395/GS 1.2: 701). The sentence goes on to assert that the site of this construction is lled with now-time ( Jetztzeit). What underlies historiography is an operation of temporal discontinuity. Thus, the philosophy of history has turned into a philosophy of time. This is the inevitable conclusion, if discontinuity is not to be reduced to content, and if history and historiography are not to be locked in a vicious circle. Further, viewing discontinuity as a temporal category, rather than merely a stylistic mannerism, accords with the development of Benjamins thought. As Andrew Benjamin has shown in tracing the meaning of the caesura in Benjamins work, the caesura in the early critical writings, such as the dissertation and the Goethe essay, is that which stages the contact between particular and absolute. But this interruption works on a formal level and it can be reduced neither to content, nor to something transcendental that legitimates that content. The relationality of the elements of this structure makes possible judgements about the truth content (Wahrheitsgehalt) of the artwork. The notion of temporal discontinuity in Benjamins thinking on history transposes the formal structure of the caesura from art to time. Time as the absolute is that which allows for interruption; but equally what is evidenced by that interruption.5

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The extrapolation of the Absolute in relation to time does not only hark back to Benjamins early writing. It also recalls the extrapolation earlier of the oppressed in relation to history. With the oppressed it was shown that a chiasmus takes place between history and those for whom history is written. The temporal caesura repeats the chiasmic structure. The fullness of time makes incompletion possible, but it is also made by incompleteness. This chiasmus does not indicate that the complete and the incomplete, the particular and the absolute, the oppressed and messianic temporality are the same thing. Rather, the point is that the terms of those conjunctions are given within the same structure that has arisen out of Benjamins philosophy of time. Thus, what is repeated is not solely the complete in the incomplete, and so on, as if they were identical. What is repeated is the constructive principle of history. The paratactically presented information in historiography and the messianic temporality can only be necessary conditions of history. The additional constructive principle indicates that they have a structural connection. This is what makes possible the mutual transformability of the complete and the incomplete, as Benjamin wrote in reply to Horkheimer. It makes possible the little gate of particularity through which the Messiah might enter any second now (SW 4: 397/GS 1.2: 704). In other words, it is the structural arrangement that makes particularity and the absolute consupponible and codeterminable. The Messiah is not a religious concept; rather, the Messiah is the regulative impossibility that allows for interruption as the temporality that pertains to history. At this juncture, nothing more can be said about who the hopeless are, other than that they are whoever occupies the nexus of particularity in the formal structure of the constructive principle of history. This formulation already discloses at least three points: rst, the subjectivity of the hopeless does not conform to historicisms forms of selfhood, such as its identication with a Geist or with an autonomous individual I. Second, if the early Benjamins structural argument about criticism is indeed transportable to the later philosophy of time, then the hopeless will occupy a position akin to that of the material content; and to the extent that the material content is always in a process of ruination, the same process of disintegration of subjectivity will be expected to take place in history.6 Simultaneously, and this is the third point, specifying the particularity of subjectivity as other than a fact of historicism discloses the limit of the question who are the hopeless?. For it can only provide an answer in the negative. A positive articulation requires the hopeless to gure in a different question: how are they to be presented? This in effect asks for the way that the subject gures in, as well as congures, the chiasmic relations between the complete and the incomplete. In other words, what sort of gure of the subject can make possible Benjamins philosophy of time? What is the nature of this subjective act that allows for guration?

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To start answering these questions requires to focus on the historian and the methodology of historiography. The crucial passage in this respect is Thesis XVII. This thesis is important enough to be quoted in full here, even though only the rst half will be treated in the present section, and the second at the end: Historicism rightly culminates [ gipfelt] in universal history. It may be that materialist historiography stands out [abhebt sich] in method more clearly against universal history than from any other kind. Universal history has no theoretical armature. Its technique [Verfahren] is additive: it musters the mass of facts in order to ll the homogeneous and empty time. Materialist historiography, on the other hand, is based on a constructive principle. Thinking involves not only the movement of thoughts, but their arrest [Stillstellung ] as well. Where thinking suddenly comes to a stop in a constellation saturated with tensions, it gives that constellation a shock, through which thinking crystallizes itself into a monad. The historical materialist approaches a historical object only where it confronts him as a monad. In this structure he recognizes the sign of a messianic arrest of happening [Stillstellung des Geschehens] or, to put it differently, a revolutionary chance in the ght for the oppressed past. He perceives the monad in order to blast a specic era out of the course of history [Verlauf der Geschichte]; thus he blasts a specic life out of the era, a specic work out of the lifework. The product of his technique [Der Ertrag seines Verfahrens] is that the lifework is both preserved and sublated [aufbewahrt ist und aufgehoben] in the work, the era in the lifework, and the entire course of history [der gesamte Geschichtesverlauf ] in the era. The nourishing fruit of what is historically understood contains time in its interior as a precious but tasteless seed. (SW 4: 396/GS 1.2: 7023) On the one hand, Thesis XVII offers a formulation about the method of historiography. There are two techniques contrasted, universal history and materialist historiography. On the other hand, in order to expand on the latter, Benjamin refers to the historian. The materialist historian is based on a constructive principle. Thus, subjectivity is implicated in method. The latter point will be left unattended for the time being. Approaching technique means paying attention to the complexities of this passage. And a complexity emerges from the very beginning in the contrast between materialist historiography and universal history. For if the entire course of history is something that can be methodologically entertained, as Benjamin suggests in the penultimate sentence, then what is it that really separates it from universal history, taken to mean precisely the aim of representing the entirety of facts? The problem will not be solved easily

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with reference to the precious seed, time. For the very next thesis states that messianic or now-time comprises the entire history of mankind in a tremendous abbreviation (SW 4: 396/GS 1.2: 703). Prima facie a moment that comprises the entire history of mankind may not appear all that different from the project of a universal history, namely to add up all the facts. Thesis XVII may indicate why Benjamin relates elsewhere universal history to the messianic (e.g. N18, 3), but universal history is thereby, if anything, even more elusive. A closer look at the term universal history is called for, yet it should be kept in mind that Thesis XVII explicitly address the historiographic method. Universal history will become a fruitful concept only if it is viewed in relation to writing, and thus in connection to narrativity. This is not to say that there is a specic kind of historical narrative this has been rejected already. There still is, nonetheless, a method and a technique of writing history. The issue of what can be recorded in written history the historical object in general, which includes the oppressed revolves around the notion of universal history. The reason is that universal history can present most clearly the difference in technique between historical materialism and historicism. What does Benjamin mean by the term universal history? The assertion in Thesis XVII that historicism culminates in universal history is not a straightforward identication of historicism and universal history. If the metaphors in the verbs of the rst two sentences are heeded, then what is conjured is an image of vertical mobility. Universal history is at the summit (der Gipfel ) of historicism.7 And materialist historiography only rises (heben) even higher. Thus, universal history is not only the meridian of historicism, but also a median between historicism and materialism. Further, the twist in Benjamins logic has it that universal history as messianic concomitantly functions as a meridian of materialism. The middle point between historicism and historical materialism is, simultaneously, the highest point of each. The fact that the term universal history is used only once in the Theses in Thesis XVII makes it all the more enticing given that Benjamin refers to it consistently in the preparatory notes. There, Benjamin strategically draws a qualitative distinction between the present-day sense of universal history and a more authentic sense. After repeating the call for the destructive energies of materialism to blast apart the temporal continuum, Benjamin observes that this would serve as the precondition to attack the three most important positions of historicism. Benjamin continues by immediately identifying universal history as the rst such position: The rst attack must be aimed at the idea of universal history. Now that the nature of peoples is obscured by their current structural features as much as by their current structural relations to one another, the notion that the history of humanity is composed of peoples is a mere refuge of intellectual laziness (SW 4: 406/ GS 1.3: 1240). Universal history is unproblematically a historicist category, only if the completeness alluded to in it is meant to signify the sum of

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people. In other words, only the history that sees the victors as those who were really victorious and the slain as those who were really slain. Yet this is not the whole story; Benjamin immediately opens a qualifying parenthesis: (The idea of a universal history stands and falls with the idea of a universal language. As long as the latter had a basis whether in theology, as in the Middle Ages, or in logic, as more recently in Leibniz universal history was not wholly inconceivable. By contrast, universal history as practised since the nineteenth century can never have been more than a kind of Esperanto.) The universal history of historicism the universal history in the presentday sense is that of nineteenth-century positivism. Conversely, universal history is still relevant to a Leibnizian monadology, a monadology recongured in Benjamins philosophy of time as the monad or the dialectical image which, according to Thesis XVII, crystallizes thinking into a constellation in order to make it possible for the historian to approach the object. The distinction, then, between the two notions of universal history hinges on the way that the historian presents an entire record of objects. The question of how the subject of history is presented can be reformulated as how the subjectivity of the historian is to be construed in relation to the writing of the historical object. Universal history coalesces three terms the subject, the narrative and the historical object under the rubric of completeness. The endeavour to record the entire course of history recalls what was called at the beginning the paratactic presentation of the specic. A parataxis of things is by denition the most emphatic attempt to present those things in their entirety. Such an inventory is a necessity for history. Lists may appear to be simple grammatical structures to the extent that they repeat the same part of speech. This simplicity is deceptive. The historicist fault is to be deceived by this simple grammar. Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal nexus among various moments in history (SW 4: 397/GS 1.2: 704). The story that this causal connecting presents is precisely an adding up of facts, an unreective universal history. The positivist historiographic methodology can be likened to a vast collection of index cards, each card representing a fact. The historian merely arranges the cards in a way that makes sense utilizing the causal methodology of the natural sciences.8 Such a historian can never question the rhetorical structure of the narrative, because its language is all along assumed to be referential to be scientic. But this is nothing but the wishful thinking of an Esperanto. Just as positivisms facts rely on a metaphysics that pronounces an unproblematic relation between those facts and their interpolations, so also Esperanto relies on a simplied grammar which assumes the unproblematic relation between the name and its referent. And, just as

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positivism was blind to the grammar of its metaphysics, so was Esperanto blind to the metaphysics of its grammar. This conguration of languages formal properties vis--vis its referential power and the metaphysics underlying it prescribes a narrative dogmatism. It presupposes a grammar which makes language purely referential. This corresponds to the grammar of the pure language that Benjamin extrapolated as early as 1916 in On Language as Such and on the Language of Man. It is the recognition from within a philosophy of language that universal history not only presupposes a pre-Babel language in which every sentence can be translated, but moreover that it is that language itself (GS 1.3: 1239). A pure concept of universal history requires a pure language. In other words, it requires a narrative devoid of all ambiguity and essentially self-referential. In On Language as Such Benjamin identied the essential property of such a language: it is both creative and the nished creation; it is word and name (SW: 1: 68/GS 2.1: 148). Thus, it is a completely self-enclosed language, the completed language of God which Benjamin distinguishes sharply from the human language of names. Just as a pure language is non-human, so also a completely self-referential narrative is impossible for the historian. To the extent that this grammar is presupposed in a way that makes an ontological commitment, then it can only posit itself. Starting from the innity of pure language, it is impossible to reach the particularity of the naming of human language. In this sense, the grammar of positivism turns out to be no grammar at all, but merely a solipsistic onomatopoeia. The movement from the innite to the nite is always curtailed, never fullled. No wonder that the second fortied position of historicism, which Benjamin attends to straight after the parenthesis that distinguishes between nineteenth-century universal history and authentic universal history, is the idea that history is something that can be narrated [sich erzhlen lasse] (SW 4: 406/GS 1.3: 1240). There is no technique of presenting a linear narrative that will lay a claim to present the facts as they really are, no matter how many facts are enumerated. For these facts, derived as they are from an innite grammar, will always remain incomplete. Thus, for the historian, there can never be an essentially historical narrative.

4 This is not to say that historiography is impossible. Rather, historiography is to be viewed from the vantage point of a philosophy of time. If incompleteness and innity are to be retained, then they cannot be constructed as positivisms pure language. Only then will the qualitative difference between the present-day universal history, and the universal history as a possibility or at least as that notion of history that allows for a conception

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of the possibility of history. For a genuine historiography, Benjamin insists that time cannot be conceived as an accumulation of constitutive moments. Only by overcoming the historical continuum will the grammar of time assume a regulative function. After having singled out the universal history of positivism as the rst historicist position to be attacked, Benjamin continues his attack on the second bastion of historicism by elaborating on its narrative form: In a materialist investigation, the epic moment will always be blown apart in the process of construction (SW 4: 406/GS 1.3: 124041). Just like linear time, so also the linear narrative must be blasted apart. The mention of epic narrative, as it comes immediately after Benjamins discussion of universal history, points to the Leskov essay. The Storyteller can be read as an argument about how the temporality of storytelling (Erzhlung ) can produce a notion of particularity as the temporal ground of the innite.9 Storytelling presupposes a rich notion of experience, attainable through a slow-paced life. Thus, the audience can achieve the ultimate state of relaxation, that is boredom, so that the story can be retained in memory (Gedchtins). Immediacy also gures as the literal presence of the narrator whose purpose is to provide practical advice and counsel. The righteous man, as the subject who has the know-how and moral rectitude, is the subject to which storytelling aspires. With death, the immediacy of the telling of a story is referred to the idea of eternity (SW 3: 150/GS 2.2: 449). Everything that the storyteller can offer refers to this eternity. In which case, death is the sanction of everything that the storyteller can tell (SW 3: 151/ GS 2.2: 450). The movement of storytelling is from the immediate to the innite. Benjamin illustrates this movement the technique of storytelling with the example of a list. The example, which comes from a story by Hebel titled Unexpected Reunion, is concerned to show how parataxis the writing of the historical object can be allowed to gure in historiography. The story describes the death of a young girls betrothed in a mine collapse and the subsequent rediscovery of his corpse many years later. What catches Benjamins attention is the paragraph that bridges the gap between the two distant times. This paragraph is the parataxis of historical events: In the meantime the city of Lisbon was destroyed in an earthquake, and the Seven Years War came and went, and Emperor Francis I died and so on (SW 3: 152/GS 2.2: 450). In this list, death is present in every turn of phrase. In the rst paragraph of the section that follows, section XII, Benjamin elaborates on the meaning that death assumes in the narrative form of storytelling. This is conducted in terms of historiography, and in such as way that it points directly to the Theses: An examination of a given epic form is concerned with the relationship of this form to historiography . . . The chronicler is the history-teller [GeschichtsErzhler]. If we think back to the passage from Hebel, which

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has the tone of a chronicle throughout, it will take no effort to gauge the difference between one who writes history (the historian) and one who narrates it (the chronicler). The historians task is to explain in one way or another the events with which he deals; under no circumstances can he content himself with simply displaying them as models of the course of the world [Weltlaufs]. But this is precisely what the chronicler does, especially in his classical avatars, the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, the precursors of todays history. By basing their historical tales [Geschichtserzlungen] on a divine and inscrutable plan of salvation, at the very outset they have lifted the burden of demonstrable explanation from their shoulders. Its place is taken by interpretation, which is concerned not with an accurate concatenation of denitive events [Verkettung von bestimmten Ereignissen], but with the way these are embedded in the great inscrutable course of the world. (SW 3: 1523/GS 2.2: 4512) Every epic form, that is every linear narrative, is intricately connected to historiography. But this is not to say that every narrative is properly historical. However, even if the chronicle is still not history, nonetheless it still aspires to history in a manner that presents its objects as inscrutable. What this manner precludes is a conception of historiography as a chain of independent events there is no concatenation of denitive events, that is, there is no causal narration in the manner practised by positivism. Such a collection of independent facts can never be tted into the great inscrutable course of the world. In contrast to positivism, storytelling makes possible a different form of innity, and hence a different notion of totality. The difference arises from the immediacy of the presence of the storyteller and the rich experience of storytelling. This is an experience of particularity, an immediate specicity. Whereas the pure language of positivism presupposed an innite and self-referential grammar, the storyteller starts with the immediacy of the multicoloured (bunte) world view (SW 3: 153/GS 2.2: 452). And, whereas positivism is trapped in that innite grammar, the storyteller, because he starts with particularity, still has access to innitude. This is Benjamins point when he evokes the chronicler in the Thesis II: The chronicler who narrates events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accord with the following truth: nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost to history. Of course, only a redeemed mankind is granted the fullness [vollauf ] of its past which is to say, only for a redeemed mankind has its past become citable in all its moments. (SW 4: 390/GS 1.2: 694) The demand of the universal history is clear in the chronicle: nothing is to be lost for history. The chronicler can entertain this refusal to let the thing disappear, because his narrative the Geschichtserzlung is one of

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immediacy. The chronicle then, in the language of Thesis XVII, stands at the summit of materialist historiography. Pointing the road to innitude from the standpoint of nitude is both the strength of storytelling and the chronicle, as well as the reason that they are not genuine history. For they pose a bad notion of innitude. Storytelling has no denite end. In the manner of Scheherazade, the end of a story is only the beginning of a new one (SW 3: 154/GS 2: 453). Equally, the chronicles notion of totality is an impossible one: it is the totality of the Judgement Day (der jngste Tag ) (SW 4: 390/GS 1.2: 694). The last day is also the rst ( jngste), and thus completion gives way to incompletion in a movement of eternal return. If the chronicler makes possible the compilation of a list and thus raises the possibility of a record of the historical object and of a universal history, then this remains outside the possibilities of historiography. The summit that the chronicle represents is separated from the mountain of historical materialism as if by a bed of clouds. The clouds may always be moving and the demarcation between the two may never be a xed line. But it is a demarcation nevertheless, because for the materialist that summit is always impossible to scrutinize through the clouds it is inscrutable. The value of the storytelling narrative is that, despite its impossibility, it still moves history to a region where possibility becomes an issue. This is the region of the particular. Storytelling departs from the particular. Thus, its technique makes immediacy possible. The failure of storytelling only shows that potentiality alone is not enough for Benjamin to guarantee historiography. What is also needed is an act the very act that the chronicler lacks because he refuses to distinguish between events. This is the act of explaining, which according to the Leskov essay distinguishes the historian from the chronicler. Earlier in The Storyteller, in section VII, Benjamin uses another example which not only includes death and parataxis, but also pregures his distinction between the historian and the storyteller. This story from Herodotus tells of the Egyptian king Psammenitus, who has been defeated in battle, lost his kingdom and, to add insult to injury, he is made to attend the victors triumphal procession. Psammenitus remains unmoved at his daughter and son passing by he may not even have recognized them since he stood with his eyes xed to the ground (SW 3: 148/GS 2.2: 445). But he was deeply moved at the sight of his old manservant, which prompted him to beat his head and wail. Herodotus, Benjamin argues, is a real storyteller because of the complete lack of explanation. The story is presented in a dry manner, and does not expend itself it reaches a point of incompletion from which it will not budge. Nevertheless Benjamin moves on by offering four different explanations: Montaigne referred to this Egyptian king and asked himself why he mourned only when he caught sight of his servant. Montaigne answers:

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Since he was already over-full of grief, it took only the smallest increase for it to burst through the dams. Thus Montaigne. But one could also say: The king is not moved by the fate of those of royal blood, for it is his own fate. Or: We are moved by much on the stage that does not move us in real life; to the king, this servant is only an actor. Or: Great grief is pent up and breaks forth only with relaxation; seeing this servant was the relaxation. (SW 3: 148/GS 2.2: 446) These explanations are acts of judgement. The historian differs from the chronicler in that he makes judgements. But here judgement is not understood as any arbitrary ascription of value on a given object. Rather, judgement is the act that intervenes in what is possible. The judgement halts the innity of potentiality, it intervenes in the perpetual pendulum of completeness and incompleteness. More emphatically, it is the interruption of the movement between innite and nite.

5 Interruption is the act of the technique of materialist historiography and that which makes possible a conception of the innite and the nite, of the complete and the incomplete. However, if interruption is also to be linked to judgement, the parataxis of judgements with which Benjamin responds to Herodotus story does not seem to x the problem of a bad innity. For they may appear as individual judgements, pointing towards a notion of innity as an aggregate of similar judgements a dialogue between independent and individual points of view. However, innity and the nite have to be given by temporality itself. Therefore, time will have to operate in judgement. The time inscribed in the parataxis of judgements in section VII of The Storyteller can be presented only when it is distinguished from the temporality of each judgement on its own. The rst judgement, which Benjamin copies from Montaigne, emphatically asserts the immediacy of experience. It was at the point that the king was lled up with grief that he had a visceral reaction as if his body could not help it. This is the temporality of specicity. Conversely, the invocation of fate in the second judgement installs a temporality that eschews specicity, the temporality that knows only of the decisions of the gods and effaces human freedom and ethical responsibility. The image of the world as a theatre in the third explanation partly repeats the temporality of fate: the actors act according to a script that cannot be altered. However, here the exclusion of the king from the innite play on the stage makes it possible that the king could stop being indifferent at the drama and react. The kings reaction is provoked by the eternity of the stage-action. The nal explanation, with its proverbial nature, has the structure of a storytelling

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narrative: it offers wisdom. Thus it has the temporality of an immediacy that is directed towards an eternity. None of these construals of time offers a genuine possibility of interruption, since neither can offer an interruption of the relation between the innite and the nite that does not privilege one of the two terms. The argument here is that for Benjamin none of these judgements on their own in the parataxis could have been a genuine judgement. The possibility of judgement in this passage depends entirely on the gure of the king Psammenitus and the way that he intervenes interrupts the parataxis of judgements. As already noted, in Benjamins retelling of the story, the king stood with his eyes xed to the ground during the parade, hardly noticing his own children. To this parataxis for parataxis in Greek means precisely placing side by side, like a parade of individual catastrophes the king remains impervious, like the bored and distracted spectator of a play. His eyes look at his son, but there is hardly a recognition. Until, that is, he acts himself. Until the moment that his eyes are raised and stop on an image. That this moment is precisely when his old manservant walks in front of him is fortuitous although one might contend, even more emphatically, that it is entirely gratuitous. All that matters is not what the king sees but how he sees: he recognizes in a frozen moment, in an instant. The angel of history may x his gaze on the entire course of humankinds catastrophes, but the gaze of the subject is not all-encompassing; rather, it is instantaneous, a rapid adjustment of the eyes. This instant already transports him from the auditorium where he previously sat indifferent into the centre-stage of the narration where he has to assume his responsibility. This xing of the eye, the gaze directed to the image of the oppressed confronting him, this hardly perceptible adjustment whose condition of possibility has been parataxis, is all that was missing for a Benjaminian judgement to be made possible. It is very important that Benjamin has changed Herodotus story in a very crucial respect. While Benjamin claims that Herodotus offers no ex-planation, in matter of fact paragraph 14 of Book 3 concludes with the Persian king sending a messenger to inquire why Psammenitus cried over the old man but not over his own children. And Herodotus records Psammenitus answer: My private grief [oikeia] was too great for weeping; but the misfortune of my companion [hetairou] called for tears.10 Recognition, and hence judgement, can only take place when the other is a hetairos, someone who is distinguished from the self, yet also someone who belongs in a community with the self. Judgement is not merely a private affair it is not an opinion about ones own house (he oikia). Rather, judgement takes place on the communal, and hence on the political, space. Just as judgement is distinguished from private opinion, on the same grounds recognition is distinguished from mere looking: recognition involves the political. In recognition, self and other become complicit. In this instant of judgement,

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the king recognizes in the manner that the historian judges. His tears are the historians judgement. The complicity that is established between the king and this hetairon is the complicity that also pertains between the historian and King Psammenitus at that moment. The act of judgement is the act whereby a spectator becomes simultaneously an actor. The historian makes, and is also made by, the object of history. This chiasmus corresponds to the chiasmus identied earlier in pursuing the question of who the subject of history is. It will be recalled that then it was shown that the hopeless make and are made by history; and also that time, as the absolute, creates and is created by the interruption of the temporal continuum. These chiastic relations were shown to be the structural principle of historiography. The correspondence of Psammenitus gaze to the earlier chiasmoi discloses the essential quality of the principle of historiography: it is the act of judgement. The most general answer as to how the subject gures in history is: through this instantaneous act. The act that is performed in such a way that the parataxis is recognized. If it is recognized as parataxis, then the historians gaze cannot be xed on the whole parade of catastrophes but it has to concentrate on the anonymous (cf. SW 4: 406/GS 1.3: 1241) old man. Yet the old has to be recognized as a paratactic object, that is as belonging to the structure that unravels the relation between completeness and incompleteness to the innity of time.

6 If this innity of time is consistently pursued, the conclusion can only be that a subjective judgement is no longer possible. What this means is that a subjects judgement can never attain a self-consistent truth. The subjective act is never occlusive. No matter how many individual acts of judgement are possible, they can only be secondary to the possibility of judging as such. This signals the destruction of the subject. The subject cannot x itself on a stable position from which to pronounce a judgement. The act of judgement destroys the singular individual, because the subject is now dissolved into the I and the hetairon , the I and the object that looks back at it forming a community that is complicit in judging. The standstill of this judgement is not that of standing on a xed point. It is, rather, a dispersal, which is crucial to the constructive methodology of materialist historiography, as it is described in Thesis XVII. It will be recalled that Thesis XVII starts with a vertical movement between historicism, universal history and materialist historiography. The ascent (abheben) from historicism to materialism is mediated by universal history. However, by performing a kind of leap, universal history in the form of the chronicle has been shown to be also at the summit of materialism. Benjamin insists in Thesis XVII that this up-and-down movement is not enough: Thinking involves not only

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the movement of thoughts, but their arrest [Stillstellung ] as well. But this Stillstellung is not something exhausted within the gure of the historian: He [the materialist historian] perceives the monad in order to blast a specic era out of the course of history; thus he blasts a specic life out of the era, a specic work out of the lifework. The product of his technique is that the lifework is both preserved and sublated [aufgehoben ist] in the work, the era in the lifework, and the entire course of history in the era. (GS 1.2: 703 / SW 4: 396) The historian perceives the monad, he recognizes the historical object. But the product is not up to the historian on his own. Rather, the product is given through his technique. In the aufheben of Benjaminian sublation the abheben from historicism to universal history to historical materialism is halted by erasing the subject from the sublating. The individual I is no more, because historiography can methodologically entertain the entire course of history only through the complicity of the historian with the hopeless. The process of sublation, in Benjamins sense, is to disperse the historian in the hetairon , the hetairon in the historians writing, and then both, as subject of written history, to historys innite unfolding. This destruction of the subject does not mean that the practice of history does not matter. It does not say that the construction of history destroys the historian as such. Rather, it indicates that destruction is constitutive of historiography. There is no psychological communication between the historian and the historical object no empathy that mediates their relation. The relation is given through time. On the one hand this is a full time, one that allows for the entire course of history to parade before the historian; on the other hand it is a nowtime, the instant of recognition that concentrates on one object in the parataxis rupturing its relation to the whole of history. The subject is occupying the position at this point of tension between relationality and nonrelation, between the complete and the incomplete. The subject is given through its occupying. This is another way of saying that the question who are the subjects of history? is inadequate. The destruction of the subject demands that only the manner in which the subject acts that is, only the judgement can be questioned. And, thus, it is a productive destruction, the condition of the possibility of the historical construction. What is destroyed is history as pure immediacy, understood either as specicity or as a transcendental other. What is constructed is a political community, and the possibility of a materialist historiography as political praxis. In the dialectical reversibility between completeness and incompleteness, the nite and the innite, politics attains primacy over history (K1, 2). The destruction of the individual subject announces the political in the complicity established between the I and its hetairon. This complicity is captured in the image of the Turk from Thesis I. To see it, it is crucial to follow the movement of the relation between the

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chess-player and the puppet. The parataxis of man and puppet precludes any sharp denition of one independently of the other. They can only be independent in their interdependency. Thus, what matters in the operation of the chess-playing automaton is not who controls the game of chess.11 Asking this question will inevitably conate the movement of the pieces and the game itself. In relation to the movement of the pieces, what matters is the cooperation between the hidden chess-player and the puppet. And in relation of the game itself, both the player and the puppet as independent entities are secondary compared to the move the act on the board. This board is the historians writing page which, however, is not blank. The black and white pieces are already poised in a parataxis without which historiography is impossible. But historiography is equally impossible without the empty squares that form the space between the pieces. Those squares can be lled to innity with different moves, but in each case are occupied by a single piece, which is the product of a single move a single judgement of the complicit man and puppet.

8 TRADITION AS INJUNCTION: BENJAMIN AND THE CRITIQUE OF HISTORICISMS


PHILIPPE SIMAY*

Most commentaries on Benjamins conception of history have focused on the critique of positivism and of the philosophy of progress, which are common traits of vulgar Marxism, conservative historicism and social-democratic evolutionism. Several of Benjamins texts present themselves indeed as a disavowal of the naive optimism which characterized the thinking of the Left between the World Wars, and which would lead the Right to failure. To prevail over fascism, historical materialism had to annihilate in itself the idea of progress as quickly as possible. Hence, the necessity of an inversion, properly revolutionary, announced in Zentralpark : the concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe. That things are status quo is the catastrophe (GS 1.2: 683/SW 4: 184). This fragment, as it is known, will nd its allegoric translation in the gure of the Angelus Novus, whose gaze, turned toward the past, contemplates the ruins of history. Consequently the usual reading goes On the Concept of History will object to the existence of a progress as well as of a causality and purpose in history, and will develop a conception based on discontinuity, privileging the gaps of time. This reading is correct, but it does not fully account for the complexity of the theoretical device deployed in the Theses. Against the idea of progress, it would have been enough to mobilize a conception of time centred on the present; there was no need to displace the question of history to the eld of tradition, or to bind the latter to the recollection of a forgotten or badly transmitted past, which waits to be redeemed. This displacement is all the more intriguing since Benjamin considers the discontinuity of tradition as the cornerstone of the Theses, but also as their fundamental aporia. Why then did Benjamin put tradition at the centre of his conception of history? Because only tradition allows him to think in ethical terms of the relationship which the present maintains with its own anteriority. And it is precisely in the name of this anteriority that Benjamin contests not just one,
*Trans. Carlo Salzani.

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but two forms of historicism: the rst, which is well known, postulates the existence of a historical evolution; but also a conception of time apparently close to Benjamins discontinuous, retrospective, entirely devoted to the present which however swims with the current, because it considers the past as a reserve of moments and things freely exploitable. If this second side has gone relatively unnoticed, it is due mostly to the mixture of the different characterizations of the concept of tradition which Benjamin developed throughout his work. In this chapter I intend to go back over the route which leads Benjamin to think the tradition in the present, to invent other modalities of transmission, to reject the instrumental uses of the past, in order to restore the subversive force contained in it. And in order to show that tradition is not at all a principle of continuity, or something that can be mastered, but rather the sudden appearance of an ethical injunction.

TRADITION IN THE PRESENT Let us start from the commonly accepted idea that Benjamin diagnosed a rupture of tradition. Modernity would designate the moment from which tradition cannot reach us any more, and in which the past ceased to hold any authority in order to make room for an uncertain present. From the very rst texts up to the great essays of the 1930s, Benjamins thought is indeed marked by the feeling that the continuity between the generations has disappeared for good. Thus, in Experience and Poverty, he observes, not without bitterness: Who still meets people who really know how to tell a story? Where do you still hear words from the dying that last, and that pass from one generation to the next like a precious ring? Who can still call on a proverb when he needs one? And who will even attempt to deal with young people by giving them the benet of their experience? (GS 2.1: 214/SW 2: 731) Incontestably, Benjamin diagnoses a crisis of the transmission: what the past used to entrust to us under the sign of continuity is no longer obvious or self-evident, and we do not know anymore what or how to transmit. On the other hand, it is difcult to know to which conception of tradition his remarks relate. Is tradition a reality with clear contours, or is it a nominal entity to be used in a descriptive way as it is the case with many thinkers of modernity? In other words, is tradition something transmissible, or is it a repetitive concept within the history of representations? The whole interest of Benjamins reection on tradition resides in the rst place in the rejection of this alternative. Few philosophers have questioned with the intensity of Benjamin the protean notion of tradition. In The Storyteller, Benjamin proposes a novel approach to this notion. Unfortunately, this essay is read too

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often as a funeral oration for tradition, or as the nostalgic acknowledgment of the end of a world. It is therefore important to read it again, leaving aside the question of the disappearance of the storyteller, in order to focus better on the anthropological aspects of the text. Reading the essay, we notice right away two points: rst of all, Benjamin is not interested in the story as a product, but, rather, as an activity. What interests him is the pragmatics of narrative communication: the fact of telling stories, not the stories in themselves. Then, this activity is all but literary. Even if Benjamin uses Leskov as a model, the latter is but the illustrious representative of the anonymous storytellers whose common trait is the fact of never having written their stories. What matters to Benjamin here is the fact that the story is transmitted orally, by mouth. The Storyteller is a reection on the oral transmission: on its destiny, of course, but rst of all on its functioning. Very explicitly, the essay blames writing for the relegation of the oral transmission to the domain of the archaic. As it is known, writing allowed for the storing and ling of information in a more massive way that memory could do. It presented itself at the same time as a means of relieving the individual memory and as the possibility of its exteriorization, whereas oral transmission depends on the uctuant capacities of memory, writing, changing support, introduces the exactitude of all that is xed and denitive. We better understand why, by comparison, Benjamin denes storytelling as a craft form of communication. In fact, the story depends on the capacity of the storyteller to listen and repeat a certain amount of information. Now, the cognitive capacities of memory are limited and inevitably give way to oblivion, deformation, but also innovation. From one generation to the next, stories change without their modication being detected by the listeners. Everybody, on the contrary, agrees on the fact that the stories are told with exactitude. The thing is that, as Marcel Mauss emphasized, for want of an objective referent, it is impossible to verify if a story corresponds to its original form. Thus, we cannot but take the storytellers word for it. The storyteller is certainly aware of his limits. Therefore, for Benjamin, the storyteller does not pursue in the least exactitude, but only delity. The story does not aim to convey the pure in itself or gist of a thing, like information or a report. It submerges the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus, traces of the storyteller cling to a story the way the handprints of the potter cling to a clay vessel (GS 2.2: 447/SW 3: 149). Far from considering the story a denite sum of information, the storyteller refuses to consider the past as a closed chapter, as if it had been consumed for good. He knows well that for his listeners the past extends a long way back, and that it invests every new experience with its authority. So that, to the identical reproduction of writing, which reveres the past as past, the storyteller opposes the spoken word which, in a concern for transmission, recurred to the mediating inventiveness.

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This aspect allows for the seizure of the authentic temporality of narrative communication. If the story presents itself as an ancestral account, it nevertheless takes form in the present: there is in it a part of invention, of recreation. To make his account transmissible, the storyteller must actualize what has been bequeathed to him according to the expectations of his listeners; otherwise the listeners will pay no attention to him. He always performs a critical evaluation of the past from the starting-point of its own context of reception. This inventory work, properly hermeneutic, allows him to make actual what is not actual any longer. The story is thus an answer found in the past to a question formulated in the present. But, as it is in the past that the present nds its answer, it inscribes itself within the framework of a continuity a retrospective continuity, since it is the critical recovery of the past, not the past itself, that has here a power of liation. For Benjamin, wisdom designates precisely this capacity of narration to make past experiences actual and, vice versa, to make novel experiences customary, relating them with things different from themselves in order to create liation and establish an intergenerational continuity. In fact, the account, at the same time as resumption and as variable, possesses a singular power of implication. On the one hand, the storyteller is always concerned with describing the source from which his message comes and his supposed competence ensues. He is authoritative just inasmuch as he is able to mobilize in the narrative act the lineage of storytellers within which he inscribes himself. On the other hand, he invites his listeners to inscribe themselves too within this continuity. A man listening to a story is in the company of the storyteller (GS 2.2: 456/SW 3: 156), says Benjamin. He reinscribes dialectically in his own person the whole of past and present generations. Thanks to his account, the past is constantly actualized and the present is interpreted within the language of tradition. Precisely for this reason, the storyteller is not simply the representative of a past tradition: he fabricates tradition. These analyses on the narrative pragmatics introduce a novel approach to the traditional phenomena. Displacing the attention to an anthropological ground, they disclose the way in which tradition is constituted in time. They invite an investigation of its genesis in the present and no longer in the past, as had been done until then. It is this displacement which leads Benjamin to reject respectively the substantialist, essentialist, prospective and cumulative conception of tradition. Actually, it is with the substantialist conception that Benjamin rst breaks off. This conception, which identies tradition with a thing or group of things, is the most ancient and the most widespread. It originates in the Roman law where it designates the transfer of material goods from a possessor to a purchaser. By extension, it eventually came to designate only the thing itself susceptible of being alienated and handed over in person. Benjamin takes the opposite course of view. For him, not only is tradition

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not a thing, but the elements which compose the tradition are not a priori traditional. They become traditional only from the moment in which they are transmitted. It is transmission that traditionizes its objects. The important thing to reect on is the process, not the product. This change of perspective implies another change: if the elements which constitute the tradition are not a priori endowed with a specic quality which confers on them the privilege of being transmitted, that is because they do not have an essence. Benjamin redoubles his critique of substantialism in a critique of essentialism . He insists on showing that the content of tradition, far from resembling an immutable truth, alters with time. Antiquity and continuity are thus not the essential attributes of tradition. Tradition, even though it has an identity within time, does not have an essence. What is being discredited here are all those representations that assimilate tradition with an intangible deposit and, therefore, also the institutions which claim to be the traditions exclusive keeper. Finally, Benjamin rejects the prospective and cumulative conception, which postulates that tradition, far from being a simple repetition, integrates also new elements. This novelty would introduce a cumulative dimension, purely quantitative, which would explicate the continuity of tradition within time. Whether it is assimilated to a concatenation of prejudices by the French Enlightenment, or to a sedimented wisdom by the English counterrevolutionaries, tradition is, in both cases, assimilated to a continuum. It is against this conception that Benjamin will deploy his most radical arguments. They can be found already, in a form indeed highly speculative, in the epistemo-critical prologue of the Trauerspiel book. His questioning the notion of origin did in fact lead him to doubt the possibility of a veritable transmission of the past in a linear and continuous form. Origin [Ursprung ], he said, although an entirely historical category, has, nevertheless, nothing to do with genesis [Entstehung ]. The term origin is not intended to describe the process by which the existent came into being, but rather to describe that which emerges from the process of becoming and disappearance (GS 1.1: 226/OT, p. 45). Since origin is that which recurs as absolutely primary at any instant of its historical deployment, any form of linear transmission cannot but betray it. Tradition as a continuum ruins all that it transmits; it crystallizes the past considering every one of its moments as bygone. In The Storyteller, Benjamin rather concentrates on the prospective aspect of this continuum. The double movement of reception and bequeathing indicates well that the active locus of tradition is not to be found in the past, as the traditionalists like to repeat, but rather in the present. The authentic movement of tradition does not go from the past to the present but, inversely, from the present to the past. Benjamin thus turns inside out, like a glove, the prospective conception of tradition. The constitution of tradition happens always afterwards, in a properly retrospective way. Therefore, it is not possible to consider tradition as a

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continuum. A fragment of the Passagen-Werk conrms the purely nominal nature of traditions continuity: It may be that the continuity of tradition is mere semblance. But then precisely the persistence of this semblance of persistence provides it with continuity (N19, 1). In other words, continuity is not in the least an attribute of tradition. It is a simple appearance, but so old and so commonly shared that eventually it came to don the appearance of an essential characteristic. If the storyteller has been able to maintain for a long time the appearance of a continuity of tradition keeping together the generations within the web of his account, his time has passed now. For Benjamin, this is not simply because the conditions of existence of the storyteller have disappeared, but above all because he becomes aware of the ethical and political stakes which go together with the uses of tradition. This is the reason that he rejects the recourse to any form of continuity: the one, prospective, from which originates the classic historicism, and the one, retrospective, from which proceed the historiographies inuenced by the narrative model and its hermeneutics of temporality. It would be wrong to think that Benjamin rejects only the prospective conception of the continuum as anthropologically false. He equally condemns the retrospective conceptions, the solutions of continuity which occlude the discontinuities of history. For the retrospective fabrication of the continuum is not solely the mark of the storyteller, it also characterizes a type of historic construction which makes tradition an instrument at the service of the dominant class. Certainly, this instrument has historically changed its face. Tradition is no longer the code in whose name the heterodox practices are condemned and repressed. It is now an instrument of conformity, susceptible to modelling the idle masses awaiting for a reassuring vision of the world. Where mercantile society produces in excess, fragments and secularizes, it exhumes also, as a compensation, something authentic, something ancestral and something traditional, as if they were forged anew in their entirety. This strategy of pacication and control is today well known. The historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger have established that, at the time of the English industrial revolution, a great number of traditions were invented, without, for all that, lacking effectiveness. The peculiarity of invented traditions, emphasizes Hobsbawm, is that the continuity with it is largely factitious. In short, they are responses to novel situations which take the form of reference to old situations, or which establish their own past by quasi-obligatory repetition.1 The invention of all sorts of traditions conceals the lines of division that society generates and the breaches where contestation risks always taking place; it turns out to be a powerful instrument of legitimation of the institutions and an effective means to evade social antagonisms. It is precisely this that Benjamin had anticipated, half a century before and in a clearly more critical perspective: The enshrinement or apologia is meant to cover up the revolutionary moments in the occurrence of history. At heart, it seeks the establishment of a continuity. It sets store only by those elements of a work that have

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already emerged and played a part in its reception. The places where tradition breaks off hence its peaks and crags, which offer footing to one who would cross over them it misses (N9a, 5) Thus, Benjamin aims less at the prospective dimension of tradition than its retrospective reconstruction, and the instrumental uses which follow. This point shows well that Benjamins critique does not deal solely and not even mainly, with the philosophies of progress. Thinking the tradition in the present and as discontinuity must hinder any instrumental form of transmission and reception of the past. What remains to be done is to establish a different relationship with the past, to nd how it can be transmitted without lapsing into the pitfall of a normative continuity.

DESTRUCTIVITY AND TRANSMISSIBILITY It is in destructivity that Benjamin discovers the gesture susceptible of establishing a different relation with the past. This intuition is already present in The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism and in the Trauerspiel book; moreover, during the 1930s it will play a central role in many essays. Thanks to Hannah Arendt, attention has been drawn to these texts, neglected in the study of Benjamins conception of history. She has the merit of having seen in destructivity the modus operandi of a new system of historicity characteristic of modernity. Unfortunately, her analysis leaves aside the connections which link destructivity to the question of tradition. For her, Benjamins destructivity comes directly from the traditions loss of authority and from the rupture which followed. She points out the ambivalence of modernity, divided between the desire to keep the past and the desire to destroy it. We think on the contrary that what is at stake for Benjamin is not whether to destroy or to conserve the past, nor is knowing where we are when we think without the support of tradition. These are questions which are peculiarly Arendtian, and which she confounds with those of Benjamin. What Benjamin questions are the normative forms of transmission, not tradition itself. Rescuing tradition from a certain form of thinking, transmitting and utilizing it is, on the contrary, a constant preoccupation in Benjamins thought. It is this that determines his whole reection on destructivity. In The Destructive Character, a quasi-autobiographical text of 1931 which Arendt omits to mention, Benjamin articulates the practice of destructivity with a more general reection on the sense of tradition: The destructive character stands in the front line of traditionalists. Some people pass things down to posterity, by making them untouchable and thus conserving them; others pass on situations, by making them

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practicable and thus liquidating them. The latter are called the destructive. The destructive character has the consciousness of historical man, whose deepest emotion is an insuperable mistrust of the course of things and a readiness at all times to recognize that everything can go wrong. Therefore, the destructive character is reliability itself. (GS 4.1: 396/SW 2: 542) Benjamin is clear: the destructive is a traditionalist. Nevertheless, such an assertion raises a certain number of paradoxes: how can one transmit what one destroys? Why are the traditionalists those who destroy? In what way will the distrust towards the course of things be more faithful to the past? These paradoxes are related mainly to how Benjamin seems to compare the two modes of transmission as if each was autonomous. On the other hand, the contradiction disappears if we do not consider destructivity as an autonomous practice, but as a response to the aporias of the conservative approach. It is therefore important not to dissociate Benjamins considerations on destructivity from the critiques of tradition as a continuum. Once again, what must be destroyed is a type of tradition, not tradition as such. Destructivity is not just, as Arendt thought, a simple destruction. Its rst vocation is rather of a critical nature. Its rst task is to reveal. Attacking the conservative mode, destructivity casts light on that dark part which tradition strives to mask behind a normative continuity. It unveils its violence. This violence pertains to the process of transmission itself, which manages to retain the past only at the expense of its appropriation and reication: it morties and strikes to make it powerless in order to keep only the material content. Once transmitted, the past becomes then the object of tradition patrimony or booty at the disposal of the present. The destructive character reveals that tradition is also a destructive force itself, because it ruins all that it transmits. And if he uses a violence against it, thats because of another violence, more insidious, which anticipates and founds it. Violence for violence then, destruction of what is destructive: such are the elements of a strategy which consists in turning tradition against itself. This permits the wrenching of moments of the past from the process of transmission, to restore to them the force of which they were deprived by the normative continuity, to make them transmissible again. If there is a paradox of destructivity, it lies in the fact that it reveals, restores and rescues that which the linear transmission keeps betraying. The study of three authors Kafka, Kraus and Fuchs allows Benjamin to bring to light these three functions of destructivity. Within the tradition of destructive characters who inspire Benjamin, Kafka incontestably holds the rst place. For Benjamin, as for many intellectuals of his generation, Kafkas work embodies the disarray of the sons facing the secularized Judaism of the fathers, the authoritarian guarantors of a tradition fallen into abeyance. Kafkas texts evoke this atrophied,

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incomprehensible tradition, in which he cannot recognize himself because it has been transmitted to him as a simple material devoid of wisdom. Unlike the ones who adapt to this situation, Kafka had the courage to reject and denounce the legacy of tradition. In his long letter of 12 June 1938, Benjamin exposes to Scholem the destructive device from which Kafka unveils the arbitrariness and violence of tradition: Kafkas real genius was that he tried something entirely new: he sacriced truth for the sake of clinging to transmissibility, to its haggadic element. Kafkas writings are by their nature parables. But that is their misery and their beauty, that they had to become more than parables. They do not modestly lie at the feet of doctrine, as Haggadah lies at the feet of Halakhah. When they have crouched down, they unexpectedly raise a mighty paw against it. (C , p. 565) Exporting into the literary eld the form of the Jewish parable, Kafka freed the latter from its legal reference. Far from submitting to the law which it is supposed to illustrate, the parable turns against it, asserting its autonomy. Keeping only the transmissibility of the parable, Kafka thus catches out tradition at its own game: every one of his texts seems to conceal a secret meaning, but all the parables which would allow accession to it are illusory references, for they generate so many interpretations that it is impossible to retain even one of them. Through an excess of transmissibility, they dissolve the truth content of tradition. Consequently it is no longer possible to consider tradition as the preservation of an ancestral knowledge; tradition is but a collection of indecipherable prescriptions, debris of a law which in the past was a living thing but now is exerted only as an unjustied power of sanction. The destructivity of the Kafka parable has thus mainly a heuristic function. This is its force but also its weakness: if, on the one hand, it unveils the moribund and tyrannical nature of tradition, on the other hand it does not destroy it. Because at all costs it clings onto the pure transmissibility of the account, the narrator has sacriced its content. There is nothing more to say. He lacks above all that which would allow consideration of the debris of tradition as the fragments of a rescued world, and not as simple products of decomposition. Because of this Kafkas work bears the marks of failure. What the Kafka parable lacks the faculty of seizing hold of the past in order to return it in a different form Benjamin will nd in Karl Kraus, in the modern practice of citation. Contrary to its ordinary use, citation does not have solely an illustrative function. It also possesses a perturbing, disordering force. The citation does not merely unveil the false peace instituted by any normative usage; it also possesses the force to purify, to tear from context, to destroy (GS 2.1: 365/SW 2: 455). In opposition to all that the text strives to unify, the citation works in undermining it: it dissociates, singularizes,

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fragments until it empties the text of its own substance. The destructivity of citation does not consist merely in extracting fragments of thought out of texts, but also, and maybe principally, in subtracting them from the course of their exposition in time, in breaking with the process of transmission that inscribes them within a unique reading and a unique usage. Here comes to light the restoring function of citation: its destructivity emancipates, frees from the discursive order, that is, at the same time from the texts and from the contexts of their reception. It is, says Benjamin, the only power in which hope still resides that something might survive this age because it was wrenched from it (GS 2.1: 365/SW 2: 455). What conservation neutralizes, destructivity restores. Diverting these fragments of thought from their primary signications and destinations, citation opens up for them a different destiny. It makes its own content exploitable and hence transmissible. It then regains its critical intensity and its subversive power. Wrenching things from the continuity of tradition this is, for the destructive character, the means to make them transmissible. For Benjamin, no one demonstrates this better than the collector. He too wrenches the work from its original context and frees it from the continuum of art history. In his collections, things, far away from the world which saw their creation, gain a novel signication. Like the one who cites, who recuperates apparently insignicant fragments of texts, the authentic collector like Pachinger or Fuchs becomes attached to any kind of object independently of its commercial value or its cultural recognition. He destroys the codes of the art market. For the fetish of the art market, Benjamin reminds us, is the masters name. From a historical point of view, Fuchss greatest achievement may be that he cleared the way for art history to be freed from the fetish of the masters signature (GS 2.1: 503/SW 3: 283). The collector makes visible the objects in the act of citing them, that is, in the fact of considering them for themselves. As Benjamin says, the collectors true passion, very misunderstood, is always anarchic, destructive. For this is his dialectic: to tie the delity towards the thing, towards the singularity that it conceals, with a subversive and obstinate protestation against the typical, the classiable (GS 3: 216). For the collector, the only understanding of things lies in the acknowledgment of their uniqueness and in the rejection of their normativity. Arendt acutely spotted, behind the collectors apparent irreverence, the blow dealt to tradition: Therefore, while tradition discriminates, the collector levels all differences. Against tradition the collector pits the criterion of genuineness.2 But, according to Benjamin, for the collector it is less a question of levelling all differences than of questioning the classicatory logic of tradition, the legitimacy of criteria by which it isolates and transmits cultural contents. In the essay on Fuchs, the collector appears as opposing all the normative processes of transmission and reception. Beside the ofcial art history, which conserves from the past only the masterpieces, his collection lets a subterranean history appear; it

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gives a right of inclusion to those anonymous objects never considered by the dominant class; it does justice to the ignored objects. An innite task, in which the collector would exhaust himself, if he proceeded otherwise than by accumulation. If the collector nurses the dream of offering a place to the objects, of gathering everything up, following the example of the ragpicker, he tries rst of all to make his collection transmissible. That is why Benjamin recognizes that a collectors attitude toward his possessions stems from an owners feeling of responsibility toward his property. Thus it is, in the highest sense, the attitude of an heir, and the most distinguished trait of a collection will always be its heritability (GS 4.1: 395/SW 2: 491). The collector inscribes his collection within a complex, discontinuous, non-genealogical liation, for even when his pieces are dispersed, they still remain things which are inherited and which one tries in ones turn to transmit. Through his essays on Kafka, Kraus and Fuchs, Benjamin thus discovered that, wrenching phenomena from the continuum of tradition, we renew the relationship that the present maintains with them, we make them transmissible again. Moreover, Benjamin has made destructivity the motive force of a writing capable of restoring the pasts force of contestation. First of all by recovering for his own benet the subversive usage of the citation: quotations in my work, Benjamin says, are like wayside robbers who leap out, armed, and relieve the idle stroller of his conviction (GS 4.1: 138/SW 1: 481). Here again, Benjamin departs from the modern hermeneutic approach, for which every quoted fraction of the text is apprehended as a truth in which the interpreter participates, but that he cannot comprehend except by actualizing it, that is, translating it into his own language and accordingly to his own expectations. In this perspective, the dialectical reinscription within an actual context of reception clears away the disturbing strangeness of past vestiges in order to turn them to the patrimony of the present. Citations are no more those autonomous and rebel fragments, but, wrapped up in a mass of commentaries, the instruments of opportune retrospective liations. As Benjamin emphasizes, reconstruction within identication is homogeneous. Construction presupposes destruction (N7, 6). To the traditionalizing effects of commentary, Benjamin thus opposes the citation as shock, which shatters the continuum and which does not resolve itself in any solution of continuity; and, on the other hand, the citation as montage the literary equivalent of the collectible item which puts the fragments of the past in a relation of simultaneity. Montage is this construction (different from any recomposition under the form of a whole or of a sequence) in which the fragments come into connection in order to form a constellation intelligible to the present, because no kind of continuity exists between them and it. Thanks to the practice of citation and montage, Benjamin becomes aware of the historical and historiographical value of destructivity. He knows that

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the past has become citable. And if it is not in the power of the historian to cite integrally every one of its moments, he can nevertheless wrench some of them from the homogeneous and empty time in which various forms of historicism put them. It is these forms of historicism that the Theses will contest in order to restore the true face of the past.

THE WORK OF CONTESTATION At the beginning of the 1940s, a certain number of steps in the characterization of tradition had already taken place. It is they that, for a large part, will constitute what Benjamin calls tradition as discontinuity. The expression appears in the preparatory notes to the Theses, but curiously not in the denitive text. Benjamin opts for another formulation, entirely different: the tradition of the oppressed. Do these two formulations refer to different traditions? No, the distinction is but nominal. For Benjamin, there is just one tradition, but it goes together with diverging representations whose majority come from an instrumental usage. However, this distinction is not gratuitous. It points out that Benjamins conception of tradition is deployed on several fronts and confronts different adversaries. Some of them are well known: Theses XXII take charge of the critique of vulgar Marxism and of social democracy, both adhering to a naive philosophy of progress; Theses IIIVII deal with historicism and, more exactly, with the relationship between the sense of the past and writing of history. It is on the latter Theses that we wish to focus here. They present themselves rst as an attack against certain representatives, ofcial or unofcial, of the historic school. Certainly, these historians mistrust the metaphysical speculation from which the course of history is thought. To the idea of a unilinear progress, Ranke counterposes the equal value of the epochs in the eyes of God; against the idea of a teleology indifferent to the historic moments, Droysen sticks to the singularity of facts. In order to rediscover the historical facts in their integrity, the historian must, as Fustel de Coulanges prescribes, study directly and uniquely the texts in the most minute details, believe only what they demonstrate, separate resolutely from the history of the past the modern ideas introduced by a false method.3 These prejudices towards the temporal distance favoured by the scientic approach will lead Dilthey to advocate empathy as a comprehensive method consisting in bracketing the historicity of the historian and of the object being studied in order to re-experience it. Now, for Benjamin, the historicist school remains prisoner at the same time of the philosophies of history and of the sciences of nature from which it intended respectively to free itself. On the one hand, it does not escape the causal logic, since, unlike the materialist historian who wants to cite everything, it retains the past only as the events susceptible of returning the unity of an epoch. Univocal more

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than unilinear causality, but one that nonetheless recreates a continuum. On the other hand, when it avoids progress and claims to seize the past the way it really was (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391), it levels the moments of the past conferring on all the same importance. Its relativism and its positivism which also originate in a purely additive logic institute a temporality incapable of seizing the content of the events. The method of empathy only reinforces this fault, because for Benjamin it is evident that the past allows itself to be seized only by being robbed, but also it can only be understood in the light of the present, within their mutual recognition. For it is an irretrievable image of the past which threatens to disappear in any present that does not recognize itself as intended in that image (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). If Benjamins critique of empathy consisted only in the condemnation of the positivism of the historicist school, in reminding us that it is not possible to abolish the temporal distance or that the past cannot be comprehended but in the light of the present, then it would not present anything original. In fact, that critique had been already advanced by Heidegger. For the author of Being and Time, Diltheys hermeneutics remained a prisoner of the aporias of a foundation of knowledge of a Cartesian type. Dilthey tried in vain to force on the human sciences and on the historical conscience a model of methodical knowledge incompatible with the experience of historicity. Now, it is because we are thoroughly historical beings that no knowledge or positive foundation of the human sciences can transcend these conditions. Gadamer will prolong this analysis in Truth and Method , by rehabilitating the work of the history of effect (Wirkungsgeschichte), which thought it was able do without empathy. Not only the transmitted contents undergo modications with time, but history affects us too.4 With this argument, Gadamer intends to overstep the objectivizing conception of Diltheys hermeneutic. Understanding is an event which draws us into the game of tradition, and understanding is to be thought less as a subjective act than as a participating in an event of tradition, a process of transmission in which past and present are constantly mediated.5 It is this experience of temporality which phenomenology puts in the heart of the hermeneutic project of existence in Heidegger and of works in Gadamer. In both cases, understanding is not a method any longer: it is a way of being that we can understand only in the present but on the background of a belonging to tradition. In many aspects, Benjamins position seems close to Heidegger and Gadamers: a critique of positivism, a rehabilitation of the anteriority of tradition, the retrospective viewpoint, etc. Nevertheless, Benjamin, who was acquainted with Heideggers thought, makes a point of differentiating himself from it. From 1930, he evokes in a letter of 20 January to Scholem the confrontation between our two very different ways of looking at history (C , p. 360), and in the Arcades Project he species that Heidegger seeks in

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vain to rescue history for phenomenology abstractly through historicity (N3, 1). Benjamins disinterest towards historicity does not implicate just Heidegger, but the whole phenomenological approach from Husserl to Gadamer, whose conclusions Benjamin had assuredly anticipated. Benjamin points out that the acceptance of the temporal distance does not constitute an alternative less questionable than the one of empathy. Because of this, in a quite signicative way, Benjamin does not draw a distinction between the hermeneutics of historicism and that of phenomenology, in which, although according to different methods, the questioning of the sense of transmission is almost absent. Benjamins critique places itself far upstream from the methodological or even ontological questions of understanding; it is instead directed towards the ethical and political legitimacy of the hermeneutic project. Thus, whereas Gadamer is concerned mainly to dene the inventory work to which the modern conscience submits tradition according to its own expectations, Benjamin, twenty years before, questions the origin of such a legacy: before we can know how we have to inherit, we must ask from whom we inherit. Bringing to light the tradition of the oppressors, Benjamin does not merely question the identication with the victors of the history from which empathy derives; but, far more broadly, the possibility of a hermeneutics which, no matter what it considers the work of history to be, is nonetheless dependent upon the cultural contents transmitted by the dominant class. This is precisely the meaning of Thesis VII: All rulers are the heirs of prior conquerors . . . Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which current rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried in the procession. They are called cultural treasures . . . There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is never free of barbarism, so barbarism taints the manner in which it was transmitted from one hand to another. (GS 1.2: 696/SW 4: 3912) Here the attack is addressed no longer only against the historians who went into the service of the powerful, but against all those who, consciously or not, take part in a kind of transmission whose modalities are dened by the dominant class. The victors are those who, having the possibility of transmitting, decide what will have the right to exist in history, but also the modalities according to which we will have to relate to it. The triumphal procession that Benjamin evokes designates the process of transmission itself. For Benjamin it is the process of transmission of the works that is to be blamed, not the works themselves. For it is only as documents of culture that they become documents of barbarism. This process neutralizes the contestation contained in the works assigning them a place and a usage in the mausoleum of culture. The Benjaminian notion of the victor must thus

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be broadened: with the manifest oppressors side also the conservatives, who contemplate the past only under its patrimonial form. Therefore, Gadamers hermeneutician is not so different from the historian who identies with the victor. Both take part in the same hypocrisy which consists in remaining insensible to the nonfullment of the past and to the laments contained in it by transforming them into heritage. It is proper here to remember that, for Gadamer, understanding the tradition means rst of all nding in the past a legacy accepted with reservations. This appropriation of the tradition is only possible if we postulate that the past has ceased to send signals to the present and that we do not expect anything more from it. Gadamer, moreover, willingly conrms this. According to him: Traditions essence implicates the unreected restitution of the transmitted past. In order to form an explicit conscience of the hermeneutic task of appropriating tradition, tradition itself must have become problematical . . . With the emergence of the historical conscience, which implicates the presents gaining a fundamental distance from the whole of the transmitted past, understanding has become an entirely different problem that requires the guide of a methodology.6 The approach of understanding proceeds deliberately from a double outdistance from tradition: on the one hand the past presents itself a priori as a text to be deciphered, which will be proper to translate according to our own criteria; and, on the other hand, the present claims to be the instance of judgement which allows it to become the heir of the tradition without being under any obligation to it. Postulating that the past is henceforth stricken with strangeness, hermeneutics neutralizes the contestation which comes from it; remaining deaf to the injunctions that it transmits, hermeneutics betrays the tradition from which it claims to derive its authority; assimilating tradition to a legacy, hermeneutics reduces it to a sum of items, it makes it an alienable good that can be mastered: an instrument in the hands of the dominant class. If, in Benjamin, the tradition as discontinuity makes way to the tradition of the oppressed, it is because this is inseparable from the recollection of a past of suffering, absent in Gadamer. Benjamins critique of the schemes of historicity thus also includes a certain mode of thinking tradition in the present. For Benjamin, the present cannot be that margin of exteriority from which we redene tradition in order to make it more easily a principle of conformity to anything whatsoever. The notion of tradition of the vanquished commits us to think of the ethic relationship that the present maintains with its own anteriority: if the present turns towards the past, it is not in order to interpret it or to nd in it its benet, but rst of all in order to be questioned by it. The past is not written in a foreign language. What it says is clear to anyone who makes the effort to listen to it. For it:

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Carries with it a secret index by which it is referred to redemption . . . There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Then our coming was expected on earth. Then, like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak messianic power, a power on which the past has a claim. Such a claim cannot be settled cheaply. (GS 1.2: 694/SW 4: 390) Nothing is more remote from Benjamin than the idea of a present disinvestment which will have no obligation whatsoever towards the past, and that will ignore the injustice from which it originates. The present cannot elude the injunctions that the past addresses to it; it must do justice to it, rescue it by answering its call. Some have said that Benjamins rescuing exposes the image of the past to a radical process of historicization. It is exactly the opposite: the historicization of the past is precisely the strategy of the victors. But for the one who detects behind the rewriting of history the presence of a different tradition, the rescuing of the past in the present means wrenching it from the normative process of transmission, citing it to restore its true face, continuously deformed by its successive recompositions. Benjamin well remembers that the materialist presentation of history leads the past to bring the present into a critical state (N7a, 5), that is, to deprive it of its arbitrariness. Tradition will not be able to become a product, and the reconstructions which constitute it, although efcient, are not, for that, less illegitimate. Otherwise there would be no difference between tradition and the institution which represents it. Having said this, Benjamin is perfectly conscious of the difculties that his conception of tradition raise. In the preparatory notes to the Theses, he calls it a fundamental aporia: Tradition as the discontinuity of the past in opposition to history as the continuity of events . . . The history of the oppressed is a discontinuity. The task of history is to get hold of the tradition of the oppressed (GS 1.3: 1236). We easily make out the nature of this aporia: if the tradition of the oppressed is discontinuous and constitutes itself only subsequently, what distinguishes it from a simple reconstruction, from a reversed liation where the son invents his own father, according to the interests of the moment? Vice versa, if there is no real continuity between the oppressed of yesterday and the ones of today, by virtue of what will we recognize that the working class is the heir of all the vanquished? Because it is not able to keep together the retrospective character and the certainty of being the authentic addressee of the tradition, Benjamins conception becomes as arbitrary and opportunist as that of his adversaries. For Benjamin, the key to this aporia lies in the notion of the dialectical image. With it, he postulates the existence of a correspondence between the present instant and a moment from the past.

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Every present day is determined by the images that are synchronic with it: each now is the now of a particular recognizability. In it, truth is charged to the bursting point with time. . . . It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a ash with the now to form a constellation. In other words: image is dialectics at a standstill. (N3,1) The dialectical image forms a constellation where the past and the present nd, in a dialectic movement, their historical correspondence without the necessity of going through the mediation of the temporal continuity. This way, Benjamin manages to keep together the idea of discontinuity and the one of a true relationship with the vanquished. We can regret that the critics main concern has been to nd out whether materialism or theology will remove this aporia in interpretation, without exploring other tracks. We wish, as a conclusion, to interrogate a bit more the anthropological dimension of the tradition of the oppressed and examine once again the Benjaminian concept of discontinuity. Discontinuity is associated with the idea of breaches, of ruptures, or of the explosion of the continuum of the tradition of the vanquished, but it characterizes also the tradition of the oppressed as such. The conclusion is generally that the tradition of the oppressed is the reverse of the one of the oppressors, which makes it similar to the linear model, with the exception that it will be punctuated with interruptions. Now, the tradition of the oppressed is not structurally identical with the one of the victors: the discontinuity of the tradition which characterizes the former is different from the one which affects the latter. The discontinuity of the tradition of the oppressed is not a rupture, even though it solicits a rupture in the continuum of the victors. Nor is it linked to the retrospective character of tradition, but to the fact that it is not something which can be possessed and transmitted from hand to hand. Actually, in so far as this tradition is neither a deposit nor a sum of items an inheritance susceptible to being alienated it is impossible to establish in advance or retrospectively the chain of its successive heirs. It is not simply something whose advance within space and time we can follow. Discontinuity is thus to be thought differently: it is more similar to a discrete in the mathematical sense of the term series than to an addition of segments. The linear model, with its axial, sinusoidal, segmentary logics, has to be substituted by a radial model: diffusionist, disseminating, rhizomatic, even if these words, foreign to a Benjaminian vocabulary, still spatialize too much the mode of action of the tradition. We could here reverse Ren Chars sentence according to which our heritance is not preceded by any testament, for Benjamin, unlike Arendt,7 does not lament here the rupture of a continuum, but rather afrms that the tradition of the oppressed points

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to a testament without inheritance, without heirs, which belongs to no one and which no one can master. Therefore, it must be admitted that this tradition is not transmitted, in the proper sense of the term. It is conveyed by different linear traditions, inscribed within the reverse or the lining of a process of transmission that is foreign to it. Therefore, it becomes transmissible as soon as it is wrenched from the continuum. The citation, the collection, the montage are the privileged modes of this transmissibility: breaking up the historical continuity, they rescue from oblivion all that the powerful occludes or rejects, the scrap of the triumphant history which can constitute the material of a subversive relationship with the present and contest it in its basic egoism; exploiting this material, the ethic injunction that exists in it is deployed in every direction and addresses those who want to listen. All who remain attentive to the way in which the past enjoins the present can become at any moment the authentic addressees of tradition. There is thus no contradiction between the retrospective character of tradition and the fact of being its legitimate addressee. Nonetheless, it remains to be claried what is implied in this ethical injunction. It is not enough to recognize oneself among the victims of the past in order to be its legitimate heir, otherwise anyone could claim it for him/herself. Without its theological guarantee, the recognition of a correspondence between the past and the present is not in itself sufcient to dismiss the risk of arbitrariness. The oppressed class is not a priori innocent, it can exploit the past to its own prot, with the same empathy and the same historicism as the oppressors, even though in a minor mode. Moreover, todays victors do not recognize themselves any longer among those of yesterday: they have understood that the strategy of playing the victim clearly pays off better. It would be thus erroneous to think that in Benjamin oppression stems solely from a sociohistorical condition. It rather stems from, as we saw, a certain mode of transmission. The oppressed becomes oppressor as soon as s/he celebrates the past as his or her own possession, as soon as s/he inscribes it within a normative process of transmission. The present generation cannot be the heir of yesterdays vanquished if it does not wrench tradition from the hands of its actual administrators, if it ignores the re-vindication of the victims of history. For tradition is not an instance that can be claimed as an authority. We can only answer its call. Becoming an heir means honouring the demands of justice and liberation that the past pushes forward to the present. Thus the oppressed class is not a priori the heir of the tradition of the vanquished: it becomes the heir only inasmuch as it is the avenging class, that is, inasmuch as it fulls hic et nunc a promise incessantly betrayed and incessantly deferred. As long as this event does not take place, we are always at risk of opportunism. Thats why only a redeemed mankind is granted the fullness of its past (GS 1.2: 694/SW 4: 390). This last point shows well enough that to belong to the tradition of

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the vanquished does not release one from the (responsibility of) the decision. Subjectivity is not the place of its inscription. It is only when the exigency of justice will be entirely fullled that we could tell what this tradition was and to whom it belonged. In the meantime the way we relate to tradition constitutes nothing less than its condition of possibility. The tradition of the vanquished is thus neither an authentic relationship with time nor the assurance of a rectication of the past injustice. It offers no guarantee. But it has the advantage of staying clear of all historicisms and of their instrumental constructions of time. Benjamins message is subtle but of great importance: it reminds us that considering tradition as the transmission of a content which the past entrusts to us under the sign of continuity or, on the contrary, as a reconstruction of the past in the present, leads to a misunderstanding of its essential character. What is expressed in the tradition is not an unmodiable and intangible core which, from afar, gives form to the present. Nor is it the game of innite recompositions according to the exigencies of actuality. The action proper to the tradition is not to determine the conformity of different attitudes to a code of conduct, but rather it is the investing of every new decision with the exigency on whose behalf it claims to speak. In this sense, tradition and contestation are one and the same. Forgetting this means to open the door to those who, ready to run it, to administer it, to make it an instrument of control, enclose tradition within conservatism. To wrench the tradition from the conformism that wants to seize it means, on the contrary, to prevent what freezes it in a normative system which will decide on the usages of the past. It is in this sense that Benjamin, in Thesis VI, recognizes in the threat of the tradition the very fact of it becoming tradition: The danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it. For both, it is one and the same thing: the danger of becoming a tool of the ruling classes (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). A double menace always weighs on tradition: the rst comes from the monolithism in which it can freeze; the second from the opportunism in which it can dissolve and lose its instance of convening. If, in fact, tradition is that modality of relation with the past that accepts the contestation which derives from it, then to be within the tradition does not mean to be guardians of a truth or a normative knowledge which in the present nds a moment of its historical deployment; it rather means to feel questioned by it in its own mode of being and to be called to answer for it at any instant.

9 BOREDOM AND DISTRACTION: THE MOODS OF MODERNITY


ANDREW BENJAMIN

OPENING History, once freed from the hold of dates, involves bodily presence. The presence of those bodies is positioned within a nexus of operations. If that nexus can be named then it is the locus of moods. Moods are lived out; equally, however, they are lived through. Implicit in the writings of Walter Benjamin is a conception of historical subjectivity presented in terms of moods. The project here is the formulation of that implicit presence. This necessitates not just the recovery of this direction of thought, but the attempt to plot possible interconnections of historical time and the complexity of lived experience. What is essential is that their occurrence be understood as integral to the formulation of modernity. Subjectivity cannot simply be assumed. Its modern conguration is essential. History, in Benjamins writings, is not a distant concern. While a late work, On the Concept of History is a short text a set of theses through which Benjamin began to give systematic expression to the nal development of a philosophy of history. The theses or notes contain certain allusions to subjectivity. And yet, subjectivity is not incorporated as a condition of history. Precluding a concern with subjectivity would seem to leave out an important element through which experience and hence the subjects being in the world takes place. This condition does not pertain to the psychic dimension of subjectivity. The organization of experience experience as organized takes place in terms of moods. Boredom and distraction, to cite but two, are not conditions of a subject. On the contrary, they are conditions of the world. And yet, they are neither arbitrary conditions, nor are they historically random. Moods, it will be contended, are inextricably bound up with the modern. This occurs both in terms of what would count as a description of the modern and equally in terms of what will be described as modernitys self-theorization. It should be added immediately that any one instance of this self-theorization is not assumed to be true; indeed this

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could not be the case given fundamental distinctions as to how terms such as boredom are conceived.1 Rather, part of what marks out the modern is the presence of this self-theorization, a process bound up with the inevitability of a form of conict. Conict can be dened, at the outset, as designating differing and incompatible constructions of the present constructions enjoining specic tasks that occur at the same point in chronological time.2 This is the context within which a conception of mood needs to be located. Highlighting the centrality of moods has to be seen as a way of thinking through a relationship between bodily presence and the operation of historical time. (An operation thought beyond any conation, let alone identication, of historical time and chronology.) To the extent that boredom functions as a mode determining experience, there will be an important distinction between the factual boredom of a given individual and the world that continues to present itself as boring. In the second instance boredom will have a greater scope precisely because it is not subject-dependent. (This form of boredom is not more authentic. Rather it identies a different locus of intervention and thus enjoins a different politics.) However, there is the subjects boredom. There is the subjects distraction; distracted by the world, though distracted nonetheless. If there is a critique of experience that takes as its object an overcoming of the hold of Kants Transcendental Aesthetic as the organization of experiences possibility, then, it will be conjectured that it takes place not just through the addition of moods but in relation to the complexity of subjectivity that the interconnection of moods and historical time creates.3 The transcendental aesthetic need not refuse the hold of history per se, what it refuses is a conception of history in which the detail of the now of its happening demands specic attention. Moreover, it will be the identication of that now that allows for the advent of inventions and innovations enjoining their own philosophical and political response. Interruption and innovation demand more than simple incorporation. They allow for forms of transformation. This is an argument advanced by Benjamin in relation to the interruption within the presence and the practice of art brought about by the emergence of reproducibility. (Clearly reproducibility, while central to Benjamins position, can be read as a transformative gure. In other words, reproducibility need not be literalized since more is at work. Not only therefore can it be retained as a mark of interruption; in this context it will also be the case that interruption as a potentiality need not be identied with reproduction tout court.) Positioning the importance of moods necessitates noting the way the techniques of arts production are connected to the relationship between the advent of the new and the recognition thus experience of the demands made by it. The new therefore is not just a different image, let alone another image. Benjamin argues this point in the following terms:

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It has always been one of the primary tasks of art to create a demand whose full hour of satisfaction has not yet come. The history of every art form has critical periods in which the particular form strains after effects, which can be easily achieved only with a changed technical standard that is to say, in a new art form. (SW 4: 266/GS 1.2: 5001) What has to be read within this formulation is a state of affairs that is more complex than rst appears. Complexity arises precisely because the recognition of a demand is a position that can always be created retrospectively by the advent of a new art form. (Development is neither deterministic nor teleological.) The presence of the new the identication of the new as the new can be grounded in the twofold movement of locating limits and then dening their having been overcome. There is an inbuilt fragility to this position since technological reproduction reproducibility, if only in this context, being the mark of the new cannot preclude attempts to explicate its presence within concepts and categories that are inappropriate. (Fragility will re-emerge as an important motif.) However, what counts as appropriate is not dened by the positing of an essential quality to art, but rather is present in terms of the particularity of the art form itself. After all, Benjamins formulation pertained to a new form einer neuen Kunstform and not a new content. Particularity is as much concerned with the medium as it is with the accompanying effect that forms will have on perception. They will make up part of a general conception of the what and how of perception. An example here is photography. The photograph breaks the link between art and what Benjamin calls a works cult value. Two points need to be made concerning this break. This rst is that it occurs because of the nature of the photograph as opposed to a work whose particularity is located within ritual and thus as part of cult. On the other hand, precisely because what is important is not the photographic content per se, but the condition of its production and the implications of those conditions, it will always be possible that a given content will have a greater afnity to cult value than to its break with that value. The presence of the face in a portrait, for example, will bring into play considerations that are already incorporated in the oscillation between a set of eternal values, the essentially human, the soul, etc., and the rearticulation of those values within the ethics and politics of humanism. While the photograph of the face will allow for such a possibility, the technique resulting in the photograph of the face holds out against it. The presence of these two possibilities, a presence whose ambivalence will be a constitutive part of the work even though only ever played out on the level of content marks the need for a form of intervention. The site of intervention is this ambivalence the cause of politics.4 In addition, though this is the argument to be developed, ambivalence will come to dene not just art work but mood itself. The ontology of art work will be dening the conguration of the moods of modernity.

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(Hence art will only ever enjoin politics to the extent that both content understood as a predetermined image structured by a concern with meaning and instrumentality are displaced in the name of technique.)5 Rather than assume this position, a specic location in Benjamins work will provide a point of departure. The moods of distraction and boredom will be central. Working through these organizing moods will demand a consideration of Convolute D of Benjamins The Arcades Project (a Convolute whose title is Boredom, Eternal Return). A prelude is, of course, necessary. It will be provided by Benjamins famous engagement with architecture in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility. That engagement is presented in terms of distraction (Zerstreuung ). The argument to be developed is that distraction is an organizing mood of modernity. Benjamins concern is to situate the emergence of distraction within the context of arts reception. However, were it to be situated, in addition, in relation to the emergence of art, remembering that Benjamin limits his analysis to reception, then a further argument would be necessary. What would need to be underlined is that distraction, as a mode of reception, arises because of the unavoidable link between art and secularization. Art arises because the necessary inscription of objects within ritual has been checked by developments within art itself. These developments are themselves part of the process of secularization.6 With the abeyance of ritual, differing subject positions arise. In this context therefore the link between art and the secular entails the ineliminability of distraction as a mode of reception. Distraction involves fragility. It is never absolute. The subject is drawn across positions. Edges fray. Distraction is a form of ambivalence, one that presages another possibility. (Distraction and ambivalence are signs of the secular.)

DISTRACTION I am distracted, unable to concentrate, hence adrift. Not noticed, a haze perhaps eine Nebelwelt (D1, 1) overtakes me. Of course, it is a haze through which I see. As the haze settles perhaps the brouillard des villes (D1, 4) its presence as a felt condition has vanished. In the grip of boredom, inured to the situation in which I come to nd myself, even my boredom the imposition, its imposing presence leaves me unmoved. What little interest there is. The subject, the fetish of a residual humanism, matters little. What matters precisely because it matters for the subject is the there is. Hence what little interest there is. How then does this there is provide a way into the mood and thus into the subjects distraction, my being distracted? The question therefore is what happens to the my within the opening up of distraction in its encounter with the there is? Within the movement, I return to myself. Once my being as me, my being me,

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emerge as questions, then there will be the possibility of their rearticulation within a different framework. Rather than the my having centrality and thus dening distraction, the concern will be with the relationship between what is presented in terms of the mass as opposed to a form of singularity. How this distinction, individual/mass a distinction rather than a straightforward opposition is to be understood is one of the questions that have to be addressed. Addressing it will indicate in what way a conception of the interplay of moods and subjectivity can be given a distinctly modern orientation rather than being simply assumed. That orientation will arise from having located the relationship between moods and subjectivity beyond the hold of the opposition dened in terms of the individual as opposed to the mass. I will take another quality. The state of my being be me will have acquired a different location. With The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility distraction has to be situated within the framework of a specic argument arising in the context of a general engagement with arts technical structure. Distraction is a result of a fundamental shift in those structures. Strategically, the term is deployed as part of Benjamins critique of Duhamels Scnes de la vie future.7 The strategy of that critique is the attempt to reposition distraction; winning the term back for a different critical project. What Benjamin refuses to accept is Duhamels argument that the masses seek distraction, as opposed to the singular spectator as the one on whom art makes a demand. This commonplace is insufcient. The inadequacy is not simply philosophical. Its occurrence is linked to the demands made by the medium of lm. This medium does not become an end in itself rather it generates other concepts and categories through which arts work is to be understood. In Benjamins analysis the distinction between distraction and contemplation is central. He repositions the terms in the following way: a man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it . . . In contrast the distracted mass [die zerstreute Masse] absorbs the work of art (SW 4: 267/GS 1.2: 504). The example used to capture the force of this distinction is architecture. Architecture, he argues, has always offered the prototype of an art work that is received in a state of distraction and through the collective [das Kollektivum] (SW 4: 268/GS 1.2: 504). The unpacking of this position demands careful attention since, among other things, it works to reposition the components of the opposition individual/mass. A preliminary point needs to be noted prior to proceeding. As was intimated above, what is at play here is the question of what happens to the relationship between the individual and the mass once there is a shift, not just in the production of art work, but with the structure that is then produced, even though art, both in terms of practice as well as its history, is the continuity of its taking place. The mere presence of continuity, which concedes no more than the possibility of art having a history, does not entail that art has an essential quality. Indeed, art cannot be essentialized

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since what takes place is the practice and history of discontinuities the continuity of the discontinuous which are present both formally and technically. This presence will have differential effects both on subjectivity and relatedly on conditions of reception. What arises from the centrality attributed to architecture is the possibility, for Benjamin, of distinguishing between two modes of arts reception. The rst is the tactile and the second the optical. The rst is linked to usage (Gebrach). What is important is that within the opposition between the tactile and the optical, the position that would be taken up by contemplation, and thus individual attention, no longer gures. The individual as opposed to the mass does not have a position. A transformation has occurred. Indeed, if there is to be a conception of the individual, then it will have to be reworked after having taken up this new position. In other words, if the individual is to emerge, it will only do so in relation to this reworked conception of the mass. This conception is presented by Benjamin in the opening lines of section XV of the essay the masses are a matrix adding that it is in regard to this matrix that all habitual behaviour [alles gewohnte Verhalten] towards works of art is today emerging newborn (SW 4: 267/GS 1.2: 503). The question of the habitual (the customary) is central. Art is given again reborn because of a reconguration of the relationship between subject and object. There is a shift in the comportment towards the art object; because its occurrence is internal to art, such a move has to be understood as concerning arts mode of formal presentation. The object of art comes to be repositioned. (Thereby underlining the proposition that objects only ever have discontinuities as histories.) Therefore, the disclosure of art does not open beyond itself, precisely because the unity that bears the name art is already the site of divergent activities and histories. Questions of reception and production will always need to have been refracted through this setting. The mode of reception demarcated by the tactile, a mode that will also predominate in relation to the optical and which denes reception in terms of perception (Wahrnehmung ) is structured by habit. That architecture whose concern is with dwelling Wohnen should be dened in relation to habit Gewohnheit is an important opening move and yet on its own is not sufcient. What matters is the subject of habit and, as will be noted, habits implicit temporal structure. Learning to live comes through habit. Within the terms given by this setting the mass becomes the site of distraction. The mass is distracted. The lm positions the mass as mass. And yet, the lm brings with it a real possibility. Benjamin writes that the lm makes the cult value recede into the background not only because it encourages an evaluating attitude in the audience, but also because, at the movies, the evaluating attitude requires no attention (Aufmerksamkeit) (SW 4: 269/GS 1.2: 505). It is, of course, attention that, for Benjamin, is the term that denes art as a relation between an individual and the singular work. The

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evaluating attitude is a concern neither of the individual nor of the mass understood as no more than an abstraction grounded in the individual. The use of this term therefore announces a distancing of the opposition between the individual and the mass. Moreover, what is distanced in addition is the all or nothing response to the operation of arts work. The distancing means that a type of ambivalence has been introduced. While the lm, as with architecture, is received in a state of distraction, lm as a medium lm in terms of what Benjamin identies earlier in the essay in regards to its technical structure, not simply in regards to its content brings with it the capacity to reposition the hold of distraction. This does not occur on the level of the individual as opposed to the mass, nor the mass in opposition to the individual. (The mistake made by Duhamel was not just the retention of the opposition mass/individual as an either/or, but the failure to recognize that the technique of reproducibility meant that the terms themselves had to be rethought.) The adoption of what is described as an evaluating attitude by the mass occurs because of the works operation. Distraction endures as both subject and object. The state of distraction can become an object without this leading to a position of pure overcoming. The audience is an examiner (ein Examinator), even though a distracted one. What this points to is not a critique of ideology as though truth were simply counterposed to the ideological. Rather, what is in play is the implicit recognition that countering the hold of distraction is to work with what it was that engendered the determining role of habit. (The examples of lm and architecture are the most appropriate in this instance since they indicate ways in which mood and modernity are interconnected.) Undoing habit means deploying what made its recognition possible in the rst place. Namely, that habit is lived out within a specic temporal framework. Continuity brings with it the possibility that clings perhaps on the underside to ambivalence. There is an important temporality to this structure, one that is also at work in the implications found in the description of the masses as a matrix. In regards to this conception of temporality what arises is a positioning dened as much by partiality partial occurrences, the state of being not quite there, etc. as it is by the necessity for forms of activity. The truth of the hold exerted by moods is found neither in the mood having been completely overcome, nor in the refusal of activity. Activity, not voluntarism, needs to be understood as the type of deliberative calculation identied by Benjamin as the evaluating attitude. When Benjamin nishes the essay with the evocation of criticality and distraction, the suggestion should be read as the claim that one arises in the context of the other. Arising, not because of distance, nor from absolute differentiation a differentiation that would have to be thought within the posited divide between truth and ideology that his explicit project has already distanced but arising in the context of what is occasioned by particular art works. Film has an ambivalence.

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However, its technical structure enables that movement in which a type of partiality occurs, a seeing that is neither simple contemplation nor complete absorption; the latter being that absorption in which either the subject or the object would have vanished. The move is from the individual to the mass. The seeing in question is as much a seeing in time, as it is a seeing through time in the sense of a seeing without end. Occurring concurrently is a restructuring of time that stems the hold of eternal recurrence which for Benjamin is the temporality of mythic doom by the introduction of what he identies elsewhere as the now of recognizability. However, two questions arise. Who sees? What is the quality of this now and for whom? These questions mark the intersection of moods and time. The question of the identity of the mass needs to be taken further since the mass is invariably thought of as in opposition to the individual. Even the recognition that the mass is not reducible to the sum total of the individuals who comprise it a lesson presented with exacting concision in Fritz Langs lm Fury leaves the opposition in play, even if enigmatically.8 Once the mass is understood as a matrix thus a network it becomes possible to locate what will henceforth be described as the mass individual ,9 not the individual that is always the same, nor a conception of mass as a site of an all encompassing sameness the mass as the site of Heideggers das Man (a positioning of the mass still in terms of a structure of authenticity). What emerges in their place is a conception of the mass individual as that which is both dispersed across, though also articulated within, this matrix.10 Presence involves a network. Equally, central to the construction of the mass individual is the structure of ambivalence. The co-presence of distraction and criticality are central to that construction. What becomes important therefore is the extent to which the mass individual becomes a site of conicting forces. Positioning is neither absolute nor complete. As will be noted, Benjamins account of the construction of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in terms of the move from play to habit is integral to an account of why ambivalence is constitutive. Only through ambivalence does a cessation of what can be described as always-the-same become a possibility. Ambivalence is marked by a potentiality within which interruption will have conditions of possibility that resist the hold of eternal return. An additional point needs to be made. Formulations such as mass individual and the mass is a matrix are not just registers. Both are inextricably woven within a conception of history in which culture and barbarism are intertwined. If history is the history of victors, this accounts for why undoing the hold of historicism is, in part, overcoming empathy with the victor. The subjectivity of the mass individual does not stand opposed to the mass. The site of the mass, as already a locus of differential relations of complex and incompatible determinations all balancing the distinct ways in which power operates, means that the mass individual is neither the one nor the many. As an abstraction, therefore, the mass individual is the many

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in one. What then is the mood of (for) the mass individual? Answering this question will, in the end, necessitate returning to the relationship between the there is and the my. In the move from my boredom to boredoms there is quality, a different question emerges: Who is bored? This is the question addressed to the mass individual.

BOREDOM Convolute D of Benjamins the Arcades Project die Langeweile, ewige Wiederkehr (Boredom and Eternal Return) does not have an intentional structure. This must be necessarily the case. Nonetheless, the move from the thematic of boredom to Nietzsche takes place via the intermediacy of Blanqui. In regards to the latter, Benjamin cites specic passages from his LEternit par les asters, a work that Benjamin will deem to be Nietzschean. Deeming it as such was not based on a clear study of Nietzsche in any straightforward sense, but rather from what he develops, using as its basis a citation from Karl Lwiths 1935 study of Nietzsche. A quotation in which the central section of Die frhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science) concerning eternal recurrence is, indeed, repeated. The whole project therefore is not just selective in terms of the tendentious nature of the quotation, but its selectivity would be compounded if the proper names were allowed to dominate. The Convolute is about the mood of boredom and the reality of boredoms already present structural location within certain conceptions of historical time. Again, mood meets time. The centrality of that connection provides the way in and moreover allows the proper names to be positioned beyond the hold or the accuracy of either citation or interpretation. Viewed in this light, the interpretive question then has to concern the Convolutes actual project. Even though the elements of the Convolute would in the end need to be detailed a move in which the identication of boredom is caught between the weather, the sameness of grey, somnambulism, etc. the philosophical dimension of boredom is presented with its greatest acuity in the following: We are bored when we dont know what we are waiting for [worauf wir warten]. That we do know or think we know is nearly always the expression of our superciality or inattention. Boredom is the threshold [die Schwelle] of great deeds. Now it would be important to know: What is the dialectical antithesis to boredom? (D2, 7) The force of this nal question resides in part in the answer not being found in any attempt to identify the content of what we are waiting for. This reinforces the centrality of Benjamins formalism in the sense that

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what matters is the structure of an awaiting rather than lling in that structure with specic images of the future. The project is not to give the future an image or to reduce it to an image. As such, what must be taken up is boredom as a threshold. A threshold is of course as much a line or division as it is the site allowing for equivocation hence it functions as the locus of ambivalence, par excellence. What this means is that the crossing of a threshold a crossing in which futurity is introduced as made possible by the presents potentiality has to be thought beyond a conception of the future that is already pictured. An already present picture would mean that the future had already been given in advance by its conation with a pre-existing and thus already identiable image. (There is an important connection here between the possibility of politics the political as the winning of the future and a type of iconoclasm.)11 The Convolute opens with an evocation of weather as that which blankets the all leading to a form of sameness. Equally, dust settles on the rooms and is attracted even by the brightest and most intricate of clothes. Dust is the stier of perspective. Perhaps, dusts potential lies in its capacity to absorb blood. As such, and despite the continuity of its always being the same, dust can absorb the passage of time, part of which is historys continual encounter with barbarism. As with dust so with grey. Countering the grey a countering presaged by an encounter with grey as a site of potentiality is not to juxtapose it with colour, hence Benjamin citing with evident approval de Chirico Only here is it possible to paint. The streets have such gradations of grey (D1a, 7). With this formulation with the grey, its depth, even depth within the subtle solche Skalen von Grau there is the rst intimation of the threshold. The relationship between grey and the threshold will emerge as central. As is often the case with the Arcades Project it is not just Benjamins actual writings that are fundamental, equal emphasis should also be given to the nature as well as to the content of his quotations. He cites a long passage from Rodenbergs book on Paris. The passage concerns a visit with a millionaire (Benjamins term). Entering the house, despite the glitter understood as the play of surfaces, Schein without beauty Rodenberg notes that Something like suppressed boredom lay in the air [Etwas wie heimliche Langeweile lag in der Luft]. In the room were a series of brightly coloured parrots. They, for Rodenberg, all seemed to suffer from homesickness [alle scheinen an Heimweh zu kranken] (D2, 3). While a lot could be made of the repetitive force of terms involving heim, what is of signicance in the passage lies elsewhere. Namely, that in order to come to an understanding of boredom as a mood it is essential to recognize that it is not undone by the introduction of colour. While the parrots were at a distance, holding to a type of separation, boredom still prevailed. It should be remembered that this is not Benjamin writing but Rodenberg. However, the extract from Rodenbergs text works precisely because it captures the problem of

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boredom in terms of what was identied earlier as the there is quality of moods. Once there is boredom, then it is not countered by that which seems to stand against its phenomenal presence, hence Benjamins interest in the dandy, the one who despite colour and due to the insistent presence of a form of singularity compounds boredom. The dandy is, of course, only the individual within a structured opposition between mass and individual. The dandy is not the mass individual. Donning a new garb history as the play of no more than surfaces becomes a conception of the new in which its conation with novelty denes its presence. To utilize another quotation deployed by Benjamin, Monotony feeds on the new [La monotonie se nourrit de neuf ] (D5, 6). Once, therefore, the question of the new emerges it can be linked to the threshold. What matters is that the threshold not be explained in terms of the new. What could be more boring? And yet, the constancy of the new is hardly news. Hence there needs to be another understanding of the temporality of moods. A given mood is not countered by its juxtaposition with its phenomenal opposite. Nor, moreover, is it undone by the mere assertion of the new. (The question of the new and the posited overcoming of boredom through novelty makes it clear why the Convolute has to deal in the end with the problem of eternal return.) Asserting the new and the positing of boredoms having been overcome has to dene both the new and boredom in relation to the individual. However, it is essential to be precise, the individual in question is the one given within the opposition individual/mass. What this does is to dene boredom as the province of the individual. At the same time, therefore, it elides any possible concern with boredoms there is quality. Once that quality is denied, then a different politics opens up; rather than the mass individual and thus a commitment to a form of mass action, the political would be dened by the individuals centrality and orchestrated in terms of the happiness or the well-being of the individual. (The political distinction is between a conception of the political linked to individual needs and aspirations a version of liberalism and one dened by the ever-present possibility of mass action.)12 Benjamin provides a way into this formulation of the problem of time the temporality of moods in terms of what he describes as the temporality of awaiting. What is the time of awaiting? Benjamins response to this question necessitates that this awaiting be distinguished from an awaiting in which the image of the future determines both what is to occur as well as its having occurred. What cannot be expected even though it is too often expected is victory to come through continuity. This recalls the passage cited earlier in which Benjamin dismisses as a form of binary opposition boredom linked to not knowing what is awaited as one pole, and the superciality or lack of attention inherent in the claim that we can give a form to that which is awaited as the other. (The latter point is, despite moments of real equivocation, an inherent part of Benjamins critique of a

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version of utopian thinking.) Awaiting transforms time. Benjamin writes that the one who waits takes in time and renders it upon in altered form [in vernderter Gestalt] that of expectation (D3, 4). Expectation and the one awaiting die Erwartung and der Wartende become gures. Equally, this holds open the possibility of another formulation of moods. It may be therefore though this is still a conjecture that what counters boredom as a mood is not just action but the possibility of a counter-mood: a mood not just as a disposition, but as that which organizes experience. Awaiting and expectation as necessitating the transformation of time a transformation in which the future becomes a condition of the present, rather than the present being a series of empty moments awaiting a future, would mean that there is another mood. This possibility does more than tie moods and time together. They become linked to a possibility and thus to a form of potentiality. Potentiality inheres in one of the most striking presentations of the threshold condition. This takes place when boredom is described as a warm grey fabric that has, on its other side lustrous and colourful silk. For Benjamin we sleep wrapped in this blanket. The sleeper appears bored. On awakening the sleeper wishes to communicate the dream and yet all that is narrated is this boredom. Overcoming boredom is the narrating of the dream. Doing so, however, necessitates at one stroke (mit einem Griff ) turning the lining of time to the other side (nach auen zu kehren). This other side times other side, a side revealed or turned out in an instant by an action, is the narrating of the dream as the overcoming of boredom. What is signicant here is twofold. In the rst instance this possibility is already present in the fabric holding boredom in play. In other words, it is present as a potentiality. That is why in the following entry in the Convolute boredom becomes the external surface [die Au benseite] of unconscious events (D2a, 2). Crossing the threshold therefore will involve more than simple movement. Secondly, the fabric one side of which is grey, the other lustrous, two sides holding a threshold in place, a place whose articulation is given as that across which something would occur when one side is turned to another provides a way into understanding what a dialectical antithesis to boredom would involve. For Benjamin, the dialectical needs to be explicated as a juxtaposition of elements rather than their synthesis. Opposition needs to be shown. It becomes a form of narration whose conditions of possibility are themselves already possible. The possibility lies in the construction of boredom itself. Rather than existing as a discrete entity, it exists as bound up with its opposite. The overcoming of boredom is not the move to the coloured underside. Indeed, it is not even a matter of the simple juxtaposition of grey and colour, as though all that was involved amounted to choice. Benjamins formulations should not be taken as literal. Rather, narrating the dream that would be the movement across the threshold the movement on from boredom

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needs to be thought in relation to the structure of temporality marked out by awaiting. Moreover, it is a sense of awaiting that depends upon the potential actuality of interruption. Boredom is an awaiting without an object. This cannot be countered by the presentation of images of the future. Boredom works as a threshold precisely because the move away from boredom is carried by it as a potentiality. The site of potentiality is the present. However, it is not a conception of the present that is reducible to the moment thought within the passage of chronological time. Rather, the present moment is the event happening as the now of recognizability. The coat turning with a rapidity within which both the grey and the colour in an instance the instance as standstill become the opening where great deeds will occur. The grey and the lustrous are brought into play. Their juxtaposition will have become an opening. An opening that appears within the repetition of habit, though equally it appears within repetition as habit. (Occurring within these settings and not as them.) Once again what appears is an occurrence, which, in having to be thought in terms of an interruption, eschewing the hold of both novelty on the one hand and on the other the repetition of a given content that cannot be represented within the temporality of eternal return, takes on the form of a caesura.13 Repetition has to be understood in relation to a founding interruption; the interruption that founds. As will be seen this is the opening up of habit. In writing about childrens toys Benjamin produces one of his most important reections on habit. While the position arises from within the context of a discussion of play a context whose importance will be decisive two other aspects, those providing the very basis of his actual argument, are fundamental. The rst is that for Benjamin it is through the rhythms of play that we rst gain possession of ourselves. We gain is prior to those other stages such as love in which there is an entry into the life and often alien rhythm of another human being (SW 2: 120/GS 3.1: 131). Not only is there a conception of subjectivity announced in this formulation; of equal signicance is the related additional aspect that both subjectivity as a construction and then its enactment in the realm of others is articulated in terms of repetition. Play, for Benjamin, is presided over by the law of repetition. Within play there is a necessity for the same thing to be done over again. Both for the child and then for the adult (the adults version will contain important differences, however) repetition through, and as, play allows for what frightens (or has frightened) to be incorporated and therefore mastered. Equally, the reiteration of the disturbing enables it to be lived with. With its repetition what had initially frightened becomes parody. In Benjamins argument, the adult articulates this position in terms of storytelling while the child repeats the event in all its details. An adult relieves his heart from its terrors and doubles happiness by turning it into a story. A child creates the entire event anew and starts again right from

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the beginning (SW 2: 120/GS 3.1: 131). In both instances there is a type of transformation. What is fundamental is its nature. The essence (Wesen) of play resides in its being the transformation of a shattering experience in to habit [der erschtterndsten Erfahrung in Gewohnheit]. Play allows an originating event to be accommodated. Living with it, becomes the registration of play within habit and thus within dwelling. (This is the link between Gewohnheit and Wohnen .) Habit, now as the living out of a certain structure of activity, contains within it an element that cannot be mastered even by the demand that habit has to be lived out continually. It harbours that transformative moment that is its own construction. Habit contains therefore not the capacity to revert to play but the fundamental doubling that brings two incompatible elements (unassimilable both as an occurrence and as image) into a type of constellation; a constellation containing both the experience that shatters and its transformation. This complexity has to be run back through the construction of subjectivity; construction as a process of selfpossession. What will emerge is that in terms of their formal presence one will mirror the other. Gained in this act of self-possession is a doubled site. Play is the continual encounter with a particular conception of the founding of subjectivity. Founding involves a dislocation that locates. The re-presentation thus reiteration of this positioning occurs as habit. The possession that we have of ourselves prior to any encounter with the other is of a site that is not simply doubled but constructed within and as ambivalence. What enters into relations with the other, therefore, is this doubled entity who can love and therefore be surprised because that transformative potential is there from the start. However, precisely because it is given by a founding ambiguity, even love will not transform absolutely. (Loves end is, after all, an insistent possibility.) Nonetheless, love is only possible because of an original ambivalence. However, this original condition is not to be understood as epistemological. Ambivalence is not relativism. Even though within the precise structures of Benjamins own formulation it may not have been presented in these terms, ambivalence needs to be understood as an ontological condition. As such, it is another description of what has already been identied as the many in one. In other words, the mass individual is the locus of ambivalence; the potentiality of the masses lies therein. The realization of that potential, however, should not be interpreted as a move from an ideological condition a state of self-deception towards truth. Benjamin brings these elements together in the following formulation: The sort of distraction that is provided by art represents a covert measure of the extent to which it has become possible to perform new tasks of apperception. Since, moreover, individuals are tempted to evade such tasks, art will tackle the most difcult and important tasks where it is able to mobilize the masses. (SW 4: 2689/GS 1.2: 505)

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Mobilization, the clear instance of which is in lm, occurs as a mobilization within distraction. Central to the passage therefore is the conception of the mass it envisages. Individuals are not transformed into the mass. Rather, the site of transformation is the mass individual. Ambivalence becomes production. For this very reason ambivalence brings with it an inevitable fragility. There is an instability. Art that mobilizes the masses is not a conception of art that transforms the life of an individual. The art in question creates the mass. It demands the mass and makes demands of it. The mass individual is the subject of modernity whose potential for collective action and thus acts of solidarity is grounded in the structure of ambivalence. Integral to that structure is the awaiting linked to boredom. Accompanying both is the potentiality for interruption. In general terms, interruption comes about. An interruption that will be an occasioning. Precisely because interruption has to be thought beyond the hold of the temporality of fashion the positing of the completely new there will always be fragility. Fragility, however, marks as much the inevitability of contestation as it does its possible recuperation. Subjectivity and historical time mirror each other. The structure in question, however, does not pertain to the individual as such but to the mass individual. This conception of the subject takes on boredom as a condition. But in taking it on, it brings with it, because it recapitulates it, the very set-up that is itself given by boredoms there is quality. Boredoms being overcome understood as a potentiality rather than the countering of a set of dead images with apparently new and enlivening ones becomes the moment in which the straining after effects encounter their possibility. In other words, the dialectical antithesis to boredom is experimentation; experimentation both as mood and as act. However, there cannot be any naivety concerning experimentation. It occurs at the time of the commodity. Moreover, its occurrence cannot be disassociated from the temporality of commodity production, though equally with a complacency in which continuity both as a political process and as a form of production has been naturalized. Experimentation has to be thought in relation to its inherent fragility. Once again it is that very fragility that demands the afrmation of experimentation an afrmation in the face of the inescapable possibility for its recuperation. That afrmation is the project of criticism. Equally, it is the project of politics. If images of the future are forbidden, the imaging of the future involves the continual encounter in the present an encounter that works equally to construct the present with what there is. Subjectivitys incorporation in to the there is gives to the subject a capacity for action. It is however not the action of a hero, but the cunning of the mass individual.

10 WALTER BENJAMINS INTERIOR HISTORY


CHARLES RICE

Against the armature of glass and iron, upholstery offers resistance with its textiles (I3, 1). In this single line, embedded within the voluminous text of Walter Benjamins Arcades Project , arcade and domestic interior come together. This coming together is, however, arranged around a point of resistance. Arcades offer a structural armature and a hardness of material nish that upholstery and textiles resist in their stufng and covering. Arcades gure the wedded advance of technology and commerce, the emblem of the modernizing city; upholstery and textiles gure the domestic interior as a site of refuge from the city and its new, alienating forms of experience. Yet this resistance heightens their mutual entanglement. Benjamin writes of arcades themselves as kinds of interiors in the city, spaces that reorganize relations between inside and outside: Arcades are houses or passages having no outside like the dream (L1a, 1). And: The arcades, which originally were designed to serve commercial ends, become dwelling places in Fourier (AP, p. 17). This chapter will think Benjamins historical work on the nineteenth century through the concept of the interior, considering it as part of the historical terrain he worked over, and as a gure for an organization of this terrain, an organization which produced the Arcades Project , a document which has largely been seen as incomplete, a provisional organization for a complete conception of a materialist history of Paris, capital of the nineteenth century. In producing what might be called a history of discontinuity, Benjamin recognized a productive instability in the concept of the interior, and in its associated concepts such as dwelling and domesticity: The difculty in reecting on dwelling: on the one hand, there is something age-old perhaps eternal to be recognized here, the image of that abode of the human being in the maternal womb; on the other hand, this motif of primal history notwithstanding, we must understand dwelling in its most extreme form as a condition of nineteenth-century existence. (I4, 4)

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At one level, the interiors resistance to its supporting armature is regressive. The sense that dwelling is an eternal and immutable experience denies how the emergences and discontinuities within historical time affect experience. At another level, the counterpart to this regressive, dream-like immersion in the interior is the opportunity that it offers for an awakening to the reality of present conditions. Conceptually, the interior offers the space to organize revolutionary thinking: a space where collected fragments of the nineteenth century could be sifted and interpreted like objects of an archaic past. Such an archaeological interrogation of history stands in contrast to a nineteenthcentury coupling of historical progress and eternal values, the dangers of which were made startlingly clear in interwar Europe, the time and place of Benjamins thinking. The clash of the eternal and the historically new, and the lightning ash of knowledge that this could produce, was Benjamins preoccupation (N1, 1). In reading the Arcades Project through the interior, we shall see the interplay between regressive and revolutionary forces, between the new and the outmoded, and we shall engage with this terrain through a concept and a cultural form that is entangled with historical interpretation in complex ways.

1 THE SHORT HISTORICAL LIFE OF THE BOURGEOIS DOMESTIC INTERIOR Benjamins difculty in reecting on dwelling is the difculty in capturing the eternal conception of dwelling as a precise historical condition of the nineteenth century. This is where the arcades become indispensible in thinking about the interior. While arcades embody technological, commercial and spatial developments of the nineteenth century developments which, precisely framed in terms of technological progress, become radically old from the perspective of the twentieth century dwelling appears to stand outside of time, unfolding eternally and naturally within the interior. Yet we might also think of the resistance offered by the interiors upholstery and textiles as a necessary response to the emergence of the arcades, and the effects of the modernizing city that they imply. In other words, we can think of the domestic interior in a bourgeois context as having a short historical life, or, more properly, a natural lifespan equal to that of the arcades. The interior is born, matures and dies out within the space of a century. As such, Benjamins account of the bourgeois domestic interior given in his two exposs (of 1935 and 1939) for the intended publication Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century, are focused on drawing out the interiors emergence and liquidation within the span of that century. The expos of 1939 is structured in three main parts, each of which is summarized below under the text that begins each part: Under the reign of Louis Philippe, the private individual makes his entry into history. For the private individual,

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places of dwelling are for the rst time opposed to places of work. The former come to constitute the interior. Its complement is the ofce (AP, p. 19). The interiors emergence is identied with a new sort of division in the urban and social fabric of nineteenth-century Paris. For the bourgeoisie, dwelling becomes divided from work, and in this division the conditions for the emergence of the domestic interior are made possible. This interior is a space of immaterial, illusory experience produced from insistently material effects. These effects are produced through the collection, consisting of objects whose commodity character has been divested through their presence in the interior. The particular affect of the interior emerges out of a double play between the material nature of the collection and the expansive illusion that the collection supports in bringing the distant in space and time close to hand. The interior is not just the universe of the private individual; it is also his tui (AP, p. 20). This ability to dream away with objects is only possible to the extent that the interior is a completely enclosed environment. Benjamin writes of the interior encasing the inhabitant along with the inhabitants objects. The surfaces of this encasing register the impression of both inhabitant and objects alike. These traces of occupation, of a life, are registered as a compensation for the alienation which is at the core of a contemporary urban experience. Yet private life is also produced as a life that can be detected and followed up through the traces that form it. Here Benjamin locates the birth of the detective novel, a genre of the private par excellence. The other side of this liberation into the private is the mortication produced by the interior as encasing. Following the traces registered in the interior leads to something akin to the uncovering of a dead body.1 The liquidation of the interior took place during the last years of the nineteenth century, in the work of Jugendstil, but it had been coming for a long time (AP, p. 20). The interior confuses distinctions between the animate and the inanimate, the living and the dead. The Jugendstil artist/architect begins to assume the role of total designer, taking up the tectonic elements of new constructional forms, and naturalizing them with a distinctly animated and vegetal stylistic line. The individuality expressed within the interior shifts from being that of the inhabitant, mediated through collected objects, and becomes that of the architect-turned-artist, whose artistic vision constricts the inhabitant. This liquidation of the interior presents itself as the last moment of a bourgeois private life made possible there. In just two pages of text, we have a crystallization of the short historical life of the bourgeois domestic interior. But, as Benjamin himself recognized, it is a short historical life that has engendered a sense of timelessness. In his seminal Illustrated History of Interior Decoration , Mario Praz has associated this timelessness with the idea of a progressively developing history of the

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interior. Introducing this idea, he cites Benjamins expos in detail, emphasizing how it illuminates the relationship between the interior, its decoration and the character of an inhabitant. Yet this relationship loses its historical specicity and becomes generalized. In witnessing the destruction of houses just after the Second World War, their interiors laid open with some still furnished corner, dangling above the rubble, surrounded by ruin, Praz muses: The houses will rise again, and men will furnish houses as long as there is breath in them. Just as our primitive ancestor built a shapeless chair with hastily chopped branches, so the last man will save from the rubble a stool or a tree stump on which to rest from his labours; and if his spirit is freed a while from his woes, he will linger another moment and decorate his room.2 Praz does not grasp how Benjamins account of the liquidation of the interior, which Praz translates as its consummation,3 carries a force relative to the political context of interwar Europe. For Benjamin, the liquidation of the interior presages a cultural necessity to overcome the sort of thinking that would essentialize the experience of dwelling in the interior, that would make it something timeless and essential to identity. In the essay Experience and Poverty Benjamin remarks: If you enter a bourgeois room of the 1880s, for all the cosiness it radiates, the strongest impression you receive may well be, Youve got no business here. And in fact you have no business in that room, for there is no spot on which the owner has not left his mark the ornaments on the mantelpiece, the antimacassars on the armchairs, the transparencies in the windows, the screen in front of the re. A neat phrase by Brecht helps us out here: Erase the traces! is the refrain in the rst poem of his Lesebuch fr Stdtebewohner [Reader for City-Dwellers] . . . This has now been achieved by Scheerbart, with his glass, and the Bauhaus, with its steel. They have created rooms in which it is hard to leave traces. It follows from the foregoing, Scheerbart declared a good twenty years ago, that we can surely talk about a culture of glass. The new glass-milieu will transform humanity utterly. And now it remains only to be wished that the new glass-culture will not encounter too many enemies. (SW 2: 734) Benjamin writes of the need to overcome experience (Erfahrung ), and the connections to tradition that it implies, by overcoming the way in which the interior resists the revolutionary aspects of an architecture of glass. This overcoming was a political necessity, a necessity in not re-establishing a connection to tradition and timeless values from the rubble of its destruction but instead in accepting destruction, and the poverty of experience which

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it produces, as a way of moving beyond a culture organized upon such an appeal to tradition. It is Prazs traditional historical work that produces a sleep of historical consciousness that would be, in Benjamins terms, politically dangerous. In taking on this problematic relation between the eternal and the historically specic, Benjamin opens the possibility for thinking critically about the interiors relation to history. Rather than the interior being the exclusive object of its own history, where the tendency towards the timeless and the eternal is amplied,4 the specic conditions of the bourgeois domestic interiors historical emergence provide a way of structuring a thinking that recognizes the critical value of the discontinuous and the fragmentary.

2 THE INTERIOR OF THOUGHT As an historical object, the interior can be considered within a discontinuous, fragmentary sense of historical time. It is a cultural form which emerges historically, and its proper conditions of existence are short-lived; however, we can also consider how the interior participates in the very structuring of this conception of historical time as fragmentary and discontinuous. Moving on to another sort of account of the interior contained within the Arcades Project , Convolute I, entitled The Interior, The Trace, we shall see how its interiorized structuring carries the force of Benjamins thinking on historical time.5 Initially, the Convolutes of the Arcades Project can be considered the polar opposites of the exposs. Where the exposs are pithy, the Convolutes come across as unstructured; the line of thought travelling between the commentaries and quotations that they contain is often obscure. At one level this has to do with the fact that the Convolutes were the notes to an historical narrative on the nineteenth century that was never nished, a narrative for which the exposs offer a synopsis. Yet much of Benjamins thinking has been explored through the convolute material, which has been treated in a way that casts his thinking in terms of what the Arcades Project could or should have been in complete form. Rolf Tiedemann presents the incompletion of the Arcades Project via an architectural analogy: The fragments of the Passagen-Werk can be compared to the materials used in building a house, the outline of which has just been marked in the ground or whose foundations are just being dug. He describes the exposs as: Outlines of the plan . . . The ve or six sections of each expos should have corresponded to the same number of chapters in the book, or, to continue the analogy, to the ve or six oors of the projected house. Next to the foundations we nd neatly piled excerpts, which would have been used

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to construct the walls; Benjamins own thoughts would have provided the mortar to hold the building together.6 The metaphor is architectural, one of structural coherence from which an image of completion can be projected. Yet in incomplete form, Tiedemann remarks upon the oppressive weight of the excerpts. As editor of the original German edition of the Arcades Project , he mentions the temptation to publish only Benjamins comments. But the necessity of including the excerpts, which are largely quotations from nineteenth-century sources and which make up the bulk of the convolute material, comes with the possibility of seeing the Arcades Project as a complete edice, one which the reader should construct through his or her own reading of it. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, the editors and translators of the English version, invoke a more structurally complex metaphor in describing its ordering. The Arcades Project is the blueprint of an unimaginably massive and labyrinthine architecture a dream city, in effect.7 They comment that this might describe the project as research rather than the nished writingup or application of research. But they also note that the convolute material was itself subject to revisions, itself being treated as a manuscript. Eiland and McLaughlin ask: Why revise for a notebook? They describe the combining of quoted fragments and Benjamins own commentaries as a deliberate montaging: [Such a] transcendence of the traditional book form would go together, in this case, with the blasting apart of pragmatic historicism grounded, as this always is, on the premise of a continuous and homogeneous temporality. Citation and commentary might then be perceived as intersecting at a thousand different angles, setting up vibrations across the epochs of recent history, so as to effect the cracking open of natural teleology.8 Susan Buck-Morss also confronts the reality of the compositional form of the Arcades Project , writing of this nonexistent text.9 Yet for Buck-Morss, such a nonexistent text can still be described as having an overall philosophical conception, bringing together an earlier, theological stage in Benjamins intellectual development, and a second Marxist phase. This conception she describes as a dialectics of seeing.10 To aid in making manifest an overall sense of order in the project, Buck-Morss develops several organizational diagrams or displays that aim to give several forms of overview for the project. She explains that there is no narrative continuity in the project, but there is a conceptual coherence. Her own analysis of the project aims to show its coherent and persistent philosophical design.11 Metaphors and diagrams of structure and organization drive these analyses. Yet we might return again to Benjamins aphorism which opened this chapter: Against the armature of glass and iron, upholstery offers

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resistance with its textiles. Against the stability of an architectural ordering, a form of surfacing and lling which privileges a complex, non-hierarchical weave (emphasized through a shuttling, a back-and-forth motion) resists, offering a different possibility for thought, yet one which is entangled with the structuring provided by architecture. In contrast to the act of building, and following up Benjamins own thinking on the formation of the interior, the act of upholstering denotes the preparing of an interior to receive objects, where the soft, upholstered materials of that space receive the impression of those objects. Benjamins own commentary can be thought of as the moulding of this soft surface around the collected quotations, the taking of their impression, their being enfolded softly rather than xed rigidly with mortar, and, as such, allowing their positioning to be provisional in both time and space. This supple sense of the upholstered surface links to the idiosyncratic subjectivity of the collector, rather than the idealizing subjectivity of the master-builder. After all, as Benjamin notes in the expos of 1939, architectures attempt to control the interior through Jugendstils totalizing art leads to the literal downfall of the artist/architect. Ibsens master-builder Solness plunges from the height of his tower (AP, p. 20). This brings us closer to the interiors opening up of a specic sort of ordering. Pierre Missacs understanding of the Arcades Project approaches this idea when he writes of an internal composition in some of Benjamins writings: Although Benjamin does not provide any illumination on the subject, what seems to result is a deepening of the composition, an interiorization of the dialectic (in the object dealt with, not in the writing subject), which also indicates an advance in Benjamins thinking and a concealing of his intentions.12 Missac then calls to mind a fragment from Benjamins One-Way Street entitled Interior Decoration: The tractatus is an Arabic form. Its exterior is undifferentiated and unobtrusive, like the faades of Arabian buildings, whose articulation begins only in the courtyard. So, too, the articulated structure of the tractatus is invisible from the outside, revealing itself only from within. If it is formed by chapters, they have not verbal headings but numbers. The surface of its deliberations is not enlivened with pictures, but covered with unbroken, proliferating arabesques. In the ornamental density of this presentation, the distinction between thematic and excursive expositions is abolished. (SW 1: 462) Taking the interior as a mode of organization for Benjamins thinking is not the same as taking the house or the city as its metaphor. What

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Benjamin recognizes at the level of the organization of his thinking is the interiors conditions of historical emergence. While this emergence is marked with the division in the city between a public and a private life, it is also marked by a division within architecture, that between an inside space and an interior that covers and resists the architecture of this inside space through upholstery. In other words, the domestic interior emerges as not simply the inside space of domestic architecture. There is also a new linguistic emergence at stake from the beginning of the nineteenth century. For the rst time, the interior comes to mean in English: The inside of a building or room, esp. in reference to the artistic effect; also, a picture or representation of the inside of a building or room. Also, in a theatre, a set consisting of the inside of a building or room.13 A sense of the interior being doubled between the imagistic and the spatial in this linguistic emergence goes hand-in-hand with an idea of the interior in publication. Important folios of interiors, including Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaines Receuil de dcorations intrieurs of 1801, and Thomas Hopes Household Furniture and Interior Decoration of 1807, contextualize the newly emergent domestic interior as a specic site of decorative endeavour. These publications are emblematic of attempts by architects to claim inuence over the interior, yet through the nineteenth century the interior develops as a site of intense contestation between architects and newly emergent professionals known as interior decorators.14 Ultimately it is the victory of the Jugendstil architect/artist that liquidates the interior, or, more specically, that liquidates the conceptual and actual separability of the interior from architecture. The antagonism between architecture and the interior is where Benjamin begins his convoluted account of the interior. The bourgeois domestic interior may have a short historical life, but it is never simply nished.

THE CONVOLUTIONS OF THE INTERIOR

To the extent that we can say there is a beginning to Convolute I, The Interior, the Trace, it is one where furniture, which is movable, begins to take on aspects of architectures immovability. Architecture and furniture enter into battle: You see beds and armoires bristling with battlements (I1, 1). Architecture itself becomes interiorized. The interior becomes bigger than architecture, enfolding it in a kind of dream space where scale shifts. Considering furniture as the movable as opposed to architecture as the immovable allows Benjamin a more immediate access to the dreamworld of the nineteenth century. Immediately after the quotations on architectures relation to furniture through fortication, Benjamin offers this comment: The importance of movable property, as compared with immovable property. Here our task is slightly easier. Easier to blaze a way to the heart

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of things abolished or superseded, in order to decipher the contours of the banal as picture puzzle (I1, 3). Benjamin next moves to the idea of the interior furnished in dreams (I1, 6), as an explanation of the stylistic mixing and differentiation in bourgeois interiors, where the faraway and exotic are brought together in an instantaneous and total effect. More comments and quotations are devoted to the qualities of exotic, dreamlike interiors, until the idea of furniture as fortication surfaces again, this time with a more pointed comment about spatial arrangements of furniture that mark out a defensible space in the interior. Benjamin quotes architectural critic Adolf Behne on the diagonal placement of carpets and furniture: The deeper explanation for all this is, again, the unconscious retention of a posture of struggle and defense . . . Just as the knight, suspecting an attack, positions himself crosswise to guard both left and right, so the peace-loving burgher, several centuries later, orders his art objects in such a way that each one, if only by standing out from all the rest, has a wall and moat surrounding it. (I2, 3) This defensive posture in the interior leads on to the idea that interiors provide the costumes of moods, the interior itself a stimulus to intoxication and dream (I2, 6). Benjamin then recalls his second experiment with hashish. Comments and quotations on the purity of an interior vision, masquerade, the interior features of the city, the emergence of genre painting and the fumeuse as an extinct piece of furniture, culminate in a citation from Theodor Adorno on the relation between environment and the inwardness of thought in Kierkegaard. This passage leads Benjamin to more considered notes that can be seen to underpin the exposs comments on the interior, these comments having to do with the difculty in reecting on dwelling (I4, 4) the reference to dwelling that was mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. At this point the theme of the trace emerges more strongly: Plush the material in which traces are left especially easily (I5, 2). He includes material on how particular people are positioned within interiors, and then an idea, in a kind of interiorization of the city, of a Multiplication of traces through the modern administrative apparatus (I6a, 4). While this might be a radically reduced iteration through Convolute I, it shows as much how Benjamins thinking moves in the interior as it does the interiors historical contours. The interior offers a space of immersion for his thinking, and, in turn, the trajectories of his thinking can be traced out, in the sense of a detection of his thinking. To postulate that such traces belong to a diagram or structure of thinking is to impose a system of thought indeed, systematic thought over an idiosyncratic gathering together of fragments. Rather, the convolute registers as a plane of immanence, a surface

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gathering but also being formed and deformed through the impressions made by the collected quotations: the plane of immanence is ceaselessly being woven, like a gigantic shuttle.15

THE INTERIOR AS IMAGE

But the question still remained for Benjamin: how is the force of these impressions to be divined? This question might be approached by thinking through the relation between the Convolutes and the exposs. The exposs can be seen as a way of exteriorizing his thinking, of letting it be imaged within a world of intellectual formalities; yet the counterpart to this exteriorization is the deepening interiorization at work: an interiorization which, as Missac suggests, conceals intentions.16 This double-play between the Convolutes and exposs mimics the interiors historical emergence as both a spatial and representational condition. In this doubled condition, an image is not simply transparent to a space. So too with the exposs and Convolutes; yet we might think of the trajectory of Benjamins thinking being traced out between them. In this traced line, a dialectical image is formed, allowing the fragments wrested from their temporal and associational embeddedness to deliver the force of an argument to a present context of reception. Here is Benjamin on the dialectical image: What distinguishes images from the essences of phenomenology is their historical index . . . These images are to be thought of entirely apart from the categories of the human sciences, from so-called habitus, from style, and the like. For the historical index of the images not only says that they belong to a particular time; it says, above all, that they attain legibility only at a particular time. And indeed, this acceding to legibility constitutes a specic critical point in the movement at their interior. (N3, 1) The dialectical image, formed through the trace between Convolutes and exposs, is the trace between the nineteenth century as archaic past and Benjamins temporal present. It carries a force that produces an awakening to the problems of the present. Specically for the interior as a cultural form, this awakening had to do with its abandonment as a space of retreat and immersion. It is in the crystallization of a concept of modern dwelling as rootless, open and on the move that the bourgeois domestic interior is delivered of its regressive resistance, being delivered instead into a different kind of resistance, one of revolutionary thinking, where the radical potential for dwelling of a glass architecture is illuminated. The force of Benjamins interiorized thinking breaks the interior apart. This breaking apart, only possible through an immersion within the interior, renders the eternal sense of dwelling radically historical. But this

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radical historicity renders the broken fragments archaic. An image of the interior the interior as image arises with most clarity at the moment of its historical passing. The intention concealed within the interior was the critical exposition of its own historical demise.

11 WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY?


GEVORK HARTOONIAN

1 OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND. IS THAT SO? In a letter written in February 1929, Walter Benjamin acknowledged the reception of Sigfried Giedions book Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferro-Concrete published a year before, and admired Giedions intellectual capacity in uncovering the tradition by observing the present.1 Two things strike us in this short phrase: Firstly, the word uncover endows the historian with skills of a person who rescues what is beneath the dirt if not the time passed as is the case with an archaeologist.2 Secondly, for Benjamin, vision is central to the historians search for that which should be rescued. But what is this vision equipped with? Is it the historians intellect, the breadth of knowledge and information accumulated through observation and collection of facts and gures? Or is it a world-view, the philosophy of history, as Benjamin believed to be the case? Following Benjamins discourse on history, this essay presents autonomy as a strategic position to underline the importance of the disciplinary history of architecture for historiography. Rethinking the idea of autonomy is necessary because in the present situation design is informed by motives prevalent in all cultural production activities, leaving no room for a creative engagement with the culture of building, that which is architectural in architecture. The extraphenomenal, which is nurtured by the physicality of building, is indeed the content of architectures autonomy. This entails the argument for a doubling which is informed, rstly, by themes developed through the work of architects, critics, and historians. Secondly, such an argument demands a reinterpretation of the thematic of the culture of building through the techniques that prevailed in any particular historical period. The conjunction between technique and autonomy should not be taken as discursive by denition; rather, it involves investigating the strategies by which the architectural project problematizes the linear continuum of history. This observation necessitates understanding autonomy beyond the

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modernist theories of architecture that interpreted the disciplinary history of architecture either in the light of the zeitgeist , or the tropes developed through art history. The early historiography of modern architecture is, indeed, primarily informed by the spatial potentialities of technology and the aesthetic of abstract painting.

2 THE GHOST OF HISTORY My wing is ready for ight, I would like to turn back. If I stayed everliving time, I would have little luck. Gerhard Scholems poem stimulated Walter Benjamins insightful reading of a Paul Klee painting entitled Angelus Novus. This is how Benjamin pictured the angel of history: eyes wide open, and wings spread, the angels face is turned to the past where we (my italics) perceive a chain of events, the angel sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet. Benjamin continues: The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise. The storm propels the angel forward, into the future to which the angels back is turned. According to Benjamin, this storm is what we call progress (SW 4: 392).3 What Benjamins reading of the Angelus Novus involves can be described in the following words: Once the storm of progress is associated with the myth of paradise, the task of the historian turns to deconstruction of the chain of events, and uncovering the catastrophe. A distinction should be made between natural catastrophe, such as ood and earthquake, and the historical catastrophe. The temporality entailed in history necessitates distinguishing the ruins of the past from the wreckage that is left by the storm of progress. The ruin is not just the effect of time; rather, it involves the decay of material and of course a sense of aesthetic appreciation that is bound with that sense of transitoriness that is essential to modernity.4 There is nothing new in saying that material decays: in modernity, things get outmoded even before the material is rotten. In modernity, the specicity of time is experienced in the absence of a unity that would set the subtext for durability and meanings assigned or expected from every action including the act of design and production of architecture. In the Renaissance, for example, or even in the rst decades of the last century, architecture played a crucial role in housing and gathering communities that were connected to the various institutions of the society. In contrast, the architects good intentions today cannot escape the forces of commodication of values and techniques that want to turn every edice into a spectacular ornament. In

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this situation, any relation to the past is subject to temporality, as the storm of progress moves from one catastrophic situation to another. According to Franoise Choay, the historic monument has a different relationship to living memory and to the passage of time. On the one hand, she continues: It is simply constituted as an object of knowledge and integrated into a linear conception of time: in this case its cognitive value relegates it irrevocably to the past, or . . . to the history of art in particular; on the other hand, as a work of art it can address itself to our artistic sensibility, to our artistic will.5 If Choay is correct in claiming that the dawn of this new century witnesses the decay of our competence to build, then, how should architecture articulate the architectonic of that witnessing? Choays idea of the decay of competence to build alludes to the disappearance of that totality which prevailed in premodern era. The artistic representation of that totality was indeed the content of what architects and builders would create under the name of place. But does that decay also banish the vision of competence to build?6 The place is experienced through technique. But techniques are not just an assembly of tools: besides doing what they are invented for, techniques set up a particular movement and rhythm the temporality of which coordinates the bodys action and its relation to a place.7 Those who lived through the modern times had access to technologies that launched the rst attack on the spirit of the place, the experience of which was based on natural time. The present experience of time, framed by the advent of electronic networking, enjoys a different temporality. Modern industrial techniques and machines were operating at such a capacity that Karl Marx characterized them as tools extending the performance of the organic potentialities of the body. Electronic technologies, if one relies on Jean-Franois Lyotards account in The Postmodern Condition , are changing the balance between the natural, the body and the built-form. Computer technologies have changed our communication system. They have also shaken the situation where one could have space for self-contemplation. Privacy, the microspace, is invaded, if not taken over by the global ow of information and goods. We eat, wear, watch and even dream about things that have the least relation to our immediate place. Involuntary memory of a bygone place is the only thing left to the present generation, and the next generation of architects might have even less chance to imagine and contemplate a memory that would evoke any aspects of the competence to build. This discussion entails two assumptions; rstly, that progress is registered in an understanding of time that orchestrates ones experience of the natural time. Progress progresses, but its ow does not suggest that history unfolds according to a pre-planned linear path. Secondly, the juxtaposition between

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the natural and the ruins of modernity the piled wreckage of the past is essential for understanding that in the landscape of modernity everything is already history. According to Harry Harootunian, all production immediately falls into ruin, thereafter to be set in stone without revealing what it had once signied, since the inscriptions are illegible or written in the dead language. And he concludes: beneath the historical present, however, lie the spectres, the phantoms, waiting to reappear and upset it.8 What does this statement, which addresses something central to Benjamins vision of history, entail for architecture? The question necessitates two considerations: First, to differentiate history from historiography, and second, to underline the specicity of architectures relation to history. The difference between history and historiography is obvious, but needs to be reiterated mainly because of Benjamins unique intellectual cause. The title of Werckmeisters essay, mentioned in note 3, anticipates the authors detailed account of Benjamins various rewritings of what nally would be formulated as the angel of history. The transguration of the revolutionary into the historian, the subtitle of Werckmeisters essay, summarizes the tale of Benjamins intellectual life, which was closely connected to the broader praxis of the Left in 1930s. In the available four versions of Benjamins text the reader notes a modication at work which not only demonstrates Benjamins disappointment with the fate of revolution in those days, but also unfolds the process of distillation of the concept of angel from all religious connotations except one: that the angel, like a superman, represents the image of a gifted revolutionary gure who could read more into the rubble of history than anybody else. In giving up the idea of progress as the ultimate engine of political revolution, Benjamin turned the revolutionary and constructive aspects of Marxs understanding of history into the act of historiography. While historicism is content with establishing a causal connection between various moments in history, and perpetuates the eternal image of the past, materialistic historiography, according to Benjamin, is based on a constructive principle. Thinking involves not only the movement of thoughts, but their arrest as well (SW 4: 396). What is involved in arresting the thought? If historicism endorses the ow of time, then, one way to halt this continuum would be to arrest the time.9 When the time is out of joint, as Shakespeare puts it in Hamlet , then the present is saturated by the propelling wreckage of the past. In this standstill situation the present merges with the past, but the distinction between the old and the new does not disappear. The redemptive power of the past rather shines out of the surface of the new. The historian should capture the gaze of that power. Such was the situation in the Russia of 1920s, a historical period the transformation of which was of great interest to Benjamin. In his journey to Moscow, he witnessed how his concept of history was under construction. The Russian constructivists considered themselves constructors and not

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artists. Emptied of the vision of historicism, their work merged with history, and architecture was conceived not only as a constructive form, tecktonica , but an agent of historical reconstruction. Rodchenko, according to Hubertus Gassner, called the constructivists objects comrades.10 These architects and artists not only thought of their work in a temporality in which technology was not conceived as a means to an end, or as a tool to overpower nature. Rather, following the Marx of the 1884 manuscript, constructivists attempted, as Susan Buck-Morss reminds us, to liquidate the distinction between artist and worker, not by the subservience of aesthetic pleasure to industrial instrumentality, but by the interpretation of activities, which provided images suggestive of a reconciliation with nature, wherein sensual (aesthetic) pleasure was understood as the goal, transcending mere physical need.11 This observation warrants the following question: Was not the work of constructivists unleashing the fear Giedion noticed resting beneath the historicists masking of construction? According to Giedion, construction in the nineteenth century plays the role of the subconscious. Outwardly, construction still boasts the old pathos; underneath, concealed behind facades, the basis of our present existence is taking place.12 While Giedion was making rather radical remarks in connection to Le Corbusiers early architecture, Russian constructivists, instead, were weaving the anticipatory potentialities of technology into the collective practice, and thus grafting the collective experience of those revolutionary moments into the linguistic potentialities of architecture. The experience of the Russian constructivists is one instance which highlights the implication of Benjamins vision of history for architecture. This is an important one because, while constructivist architecture dissociated itself from the dominant cultural values of the prerevolutionary statehood, it was not until the mid 1930s that their work became subject to the politics of a dictatorial state.13 This observation necessitates the following distinction; although the culture of building (architectures interiority) runs through many historical periods, its thematic remains autonomous from the politics of any state except when the state apparatus attempts to control the language of architecture; or when an architect, or a group of architects, chooses to inict the autonomy of architecture with extradisciplinary values. Are there other moments to discuss architectures specic relation to history? If Werckmeisters reading of the motives involved in Benjamins rewriting of the thesis of history is correct, then, transguration connotes Benjamins turn from the realism of revolutionary praxis to historiography (theory) of that practice. An argument could be made that even if this turn were central to Benjamins thesis of history, any discussion of architectural history entails a reversal of that turn, signifying the move from historiography as a theoretical thesis into the writing of the actuality of architectures project. The shift is implied in Benjamins essay on the work

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of art. According to him, buildings have accompanied human existence since primeval times. Many art forms have come into being and passed away . . . Architecture has never had fallow periods. Its history is longer than that of any other art, and its effect ought to be recognized in any attempt to account for the relationship of the masses to the work of art (SW 4: 268). What is the implication of Benjamins statement for architectural history? In the rst place, the anthropological dimension of Benjamins remark needs to be addressed. That architecture is inconceivable apart from the everyday life of the masses does not necessarily suggest that architecture mirrors the social and technological development of its context. Architecture enjoys a degree of autonomy, which paradoxically assures its bond to various layers of the social environment. Architecture progresses by readjusting the conventions intrinsic to the art of building, that is, architectures disciplinary history. James Ackerman is correct in discussing architecture as a convention equal to what we expect of language: once its elements are established it maintains an astonishing constancy through time.14 This duration, buildings companionship with masses, however, is fragile; otherwise the wreckage of the past would have no meaning. The loss of aura, discussed by Benjamin, raises an opposing view to the dominant form of humanism whose discourse has been central to many architectural historians, including Ackerman, who sees humanism as the only way of making a positive sense out of progress.15 Benjamins anthropological materialism, instead, draws its conclusions from a bodily collectivity that is traceable in the sphere of images, and the bodily self-consciousness stimulated by technological development.16 The historical intertextuality, if not the confrontation, between modernity and the idealist conventions of humanism underlines the import of psychoanalysis17 (unconsciousness) for the anthropological side of Benjamins belief that architecture has never been idle. That Benjamins discourse was a critique of the romantic yearning for a unied state of art, that his aspiration for technology was not aligned with the instrumental logic and the total afrmation of technology, does that implicate his concept of the loss of aura with a psychological dimension. Similar to the dream world construed by Freud, the wreckage of progress relates to history without having any actual presence. Again, this distinction underlines the difference between historical ruins and architectures relation to history. The physical presence of the ruin stimulates a romantic relation to the past, sustaining a totalized image of a bygone time. The work of architecture, instead, maintains a complex relation with history; this complexity could become reductive and simplistic when architecture is forced to simulate historical forms, as was the case with the 1970s postmodern historicism. Benjamins reections on architecture in the work of art essay entail a radical understanding of architectures relation to history.18 As the storm of progress blows, architecture maintains its companionship with the masses through Verwindung, which is discussed by Gianni Vattimo. Accepting

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Benjamins characterization of the loss of aura, this Italian thinker conceives the attainability of a tectonic dialogue between conventions and the excess offered by technical development, through radicalization of the process of the secularization of values.19 And according to Beatrice Hanssen, for Benjamin secularisation announced the fall away from religious, historical time into an inauthentic, excessive preoccupation with space and spatialization a predicament for which, once again, the natural sciences were to be held partly responsible.20 This suggests that architecture does not represent an ossied image of the past. History, rather, is presented through the inevitable doubling that takes place between the intrinsic laws of the art of building and the actuality of the present experienced in both technical and aesthetic realms. What this means is that, what must be maintained, the laws of the art of building, are construed at the present as the present.21 Not only architecture takes place in time, but there is also the time that involves construing the act of construction. While the former sense of time forces architecture to internalize the latest available techniques, the latter is experienced in the drive for technication of architecture and confrontation of this process with the essentiality of the tectonic for the linguistic autonomy of architecture. Once this doubling is established, what needs to be added is the recognition of two moments when the ghost of history has haunted architecture.22 Architectures departure from the classical wisdom in the eighteenth century, and later with the discovery and invention of industrial material and techniques in the mid-nineteenth century, both these historical moments had critical repercussions on contemporary architecture.23 In the rst moment, architecture enjoyed a temporary state of autonomy, one paradoxical result of which was its deeper entanglement with the institutions of capitalism discussed by Manfredo Tafuri. In the second moment, the ontological bond between the body, landscape, and the craft of architecture was shaken, and the initial steps were taken towards the disappearance of the competence to build. The latter development, whose impact on architecture is not yet nalized, set the pretext for Kenneth Framptons discourse on critical history. The degree to which these two contemporary historians are relevant to the present situation opens a discussion that cannot take place here.24 What needs to be said is that these two historical ruptures are the theoretical underpinning of the import of historical unconsciousness for architectural historiography even today.25 Once this is established, the discourse of the autonomy of architecture should be understood at two levels: rst in reference to architectures confrontation with techniques developed outside of architectures disciplinary history; and second, in the extent to which the autonomy of architecture is considered as a phenomenon differentiating architectural historiography from other histories. The matrix of these two discourses sustains the praxis that upholds autonomy as a strategic position for the present situation of architectural practice.

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To say that the historians vision is overcast by the apparition of an architects work necessitates a discussion that, in the rst place, involves the task of the historian, and in the second, demands specifying the subject matter of architectural history. The point is not to picture the architect as a gifted seer, but to underline the importance of the work itself. How the project addresses the interiority of architecture, and in doing so interjects a critical horizon into the historians discourse? The autonomy of architectures interiority has always been understood in reference to architectures dialogue with institutions, among which the most inuential are land, capital and technology. These three factors are essential for differentiating architecture from other artistic activities. Paradoxically, it can be claimed that the very realization of architectures project is bound to the investment of capital, land and technology. Architecture cannot be constructive and transform the built environment effectively without these factors. This is not to deny the fact that utopian projects could also inform the historical development of architecture. To avoid general theorization of the task of the historian, the subject should be discussed in conjunction to the ways architecture differs from visual arts, painting and sculpture in particular. Hence the importance of asking an old question: what is architectural in architecture? And, how is architectures particularity approached in the historians text? That the discipline of architectural history is a young one and was born out of the bone of art history says nothing new. What is important in reiterating this old story, however, involves an argument to address architectural history in reference to the formative themes of architectures disciplinary history; a subject dismissed by art history in most cases. Before the mechanical reproduction of art, the symbolic content of the artwork was detrimental in differentiating artistic creativities from each other. In the Renaissance, for example, the homology between arts was discussed in reference to simulacra the symbolic association made between everyday life and the divine world of Christianity. Although the symbolic content, the aura of the artwork discussed by Benjamin, disappeared when modern technologies were infused into the process of production, nevertheless the artisanal dimension of architecture was little changed. This is one reason why, towards the end of the work of art essay, Benjamin discusses architecture in terms of habit and the tactile, rather than the optical. Even transformation taking place in the optical realm is considered effective when it is changed into habit. That which bonds architecture in premodern societies with painting and sculpture is indeed the works symbolic content and not the technique specic to each artistic activity. Still, after the birth of art history in the nineteenth century, the perceived homologies between different artistic productions was formulated in terms of style, understood

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either as a subjective choice or expression of the will of the time. In neither period did the technique specic to each artistic production process remain identical. Both painters and architects were obliged to actualize their ideas, even the ones evoked by simulacra, with the mtier of painting or building respectively. That the mediums of the work for painters is surface and paint, and those of architects the tectonic articulation of material and technique are obvious and need no further discussion in this place. What must be added is how the proponents of contemporary art history have approached these issues. In 1888 Heinrich Wlfin,26 the father of contemporary art history, introduced the term painterly to discuss baroque art and architecture. To him the concept of the painterly was qualied to make a distinction between Renaissance and baroque art. For reasons that are outside our consideration here, Wlfin argued that the art of building in baroque abandoned its characteristic nature and looked for effects that belonged to another art, and thus it became painterly. His discourse set criteria for periodization. The interrelationship between different arts, he exhorted, was theological, though he argued that those homologies are motivated by the technique of one or another art. For him architecture was neither painterly nor sculptural, but essentially the art of shaping space. However, the sense of painterly spread, in his observation, over all three arts is suggestive of the stylistic characterization of a period. At the same time, he failed to outline the specicity of the work and ended in over-generalization. Benjamin identies Wlfins failure in a dualism formulated in the following words: a at, universalising history of the art of all cultures and times, on the one hand, and an academic aesthetic, on the other hand without, however, being able to overcome it entirely (SW 2: 666). The problems with Wlfins argument are two: rst, he casts his own interpretative tool, painterly, as a phenomenon shared by the artists and architects of the period under consideration. He mixes the time invested in the work with those of the historian. Second, his analysis remains formalistic, even though his line of argumentation charges the idea of painterly with a sense of aura. What is missing in Wlfins all-encompassing whole is the essentiality of the work and how its material content is tied closely to historical circumstances. In his remarks on Wlfins methodology, Benjamins argument is suggestive of a historical vision, which, in the rst place, underlines the signicance of the work. But not every work: only those whose life is most deeply embedded in their material content, which over the course of their historical duration these material contents present themselves to the researcher all the more clearly the more they have disappeared from the world (SW 2: 669). In the second place, which concerns the appropriation of the work, Benjamin emphasizes architectures particularity apprehended as an objective entity whose structures effect the imaginative being of the viewer. At both levels, the image is crucial in Benjamins remarks on the

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ways the work presents itself to the historian. This prompts a discussion that concerns the essentiality of the tectonic for architecture but also the poetics (image-laden quality) of construction: a subject that triggered debate between Alois Riegl and Semperians.27 Riegl, an Austrian art historian, challenged the idea of autonomy implied in Wlfins remarks on the formal properties of art, and underlined the beholders role in the internal unity of painting and its necessity for the evolution of art from the haptic (volumetric) to the optic (spatial).28 Riegl was also interested in the autonomous nature of the work of art. He was less concerned for the subjective process of creation, or a materialistic interest in matter-of-factness. Kunstwollen , artistic volition, was for Riegl a gestalt of continuous ow of thought that would make a reciprocal dialogue with sociotechnological transformations.29 Riegls importance, however, lay in his argument that stylistic changes are driven by the perceptual world. When Benjamin made his famous statement that, just as the entire mode of existence of human collective changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception (SW 4: 255), the major historical example he provided was from the late Roman art industry whose birth, according to Riegl, coincided with a sense of perception different from the classical one. Obviously Benjamin had read Riegls Late Roman Art Industry ; nevertheless, he criticized Riegl for not discussing the social sources of the alleged new perception (SW 2: 255). What was intriguing to Benjamin was the contemporaneity that would catch up with Riegls writing a decade later through expressionism. This opens an opportunity to make a similar claim: Riegl was not just reformulating Wlfins ideas; it was rather the contemporaneity of Sempers position on history and style that haunted Riegls discourse. Semper and Riegl agreed on one point: that techniques, skills and forms developed in the applied and decorative arts are important for major artistic production beyond territorial constraint. Their difference, however, points to the art historians concern for surface and image, and the tectonic for Semper. This is how Alina Payne articulates the ways these two important gures of the late nineteenth century read fabrication and surface: For Riegl the carpet was not an example of fabrication, of manipulation by the hand, tied into an anthropological explication of the development of shelter-making as it had been for Semper. Instead, he looked at the carpet as a decorative, painting-like surface, displaying a will-to-form that reached all artistic production and manifested itself in the predilection for a particular range of decorative motifs.30 The difference is obvious: abstraction in Riegls position unfolds a new horizon in discussing the work of painting. Abstraction gures itself, in the rst place, in the virtual space sought by the painter (Rembrandt in his Dutch Portrait paintings). The painted image embodies both the space

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of the beholder and that of the canvas. Thus according to Benjamin Riegl exemplies the masterly command of the transition from the individual object to the cultural and intellectual [ geistig ] function (SW 2: 668). In the second place, abstraction is recognized as a cognitive tool to periodize history. In contemplating the developmental process of art from the haptic to the optical, Riegl failed to recognize the import of modern institutions for any production activity. His main focus was directed towards a discussion of architecture that is not a self-reecting object, but includes the spectator. Semper, instead, chides the thing character of the artefact whose aesthetic is not seen as an autonomous entity perceived by the beholder; rather it is revealed through the embellishment of material and purpose (ur-form). The surface of the carpet has no life of its own; it is woven into the technique of fabrication, even if the latter is not visible as is the case with the carpet, or implied as understood in Sempers formulation of the relationship between the art-form and the core-form. Furthermore, contrary to Riegl, Sempers theorization of architecture does not end in a closed system; once the particularity of architecture is recognized in the tectonic, the autonomy of architecture is located in the matrix of the disciplinary history of architecture and techniques developing outside of that history, but in close ties with historical transformation. The discussion presented here does not attempt to pit Semper against Riegl. The aim is to show how the architects understanding of the disciplinary history of architecture differs from those which have prevailed in art history. Also mention should be made to the specicity of the suggested openness in Sempers theory: he not only theorized architecture beyond the historicity of the nineteenth-century debates on style but, more importantly, his discourse on the tectonic places architecture squarely in relation to modernization. That architecture should rethink its own history based on the prevailed techniques of making does, paradoxically, subject architecture to the nihilism of modernity. This is one reason why the tectonic has become of interest to most contemporary historians who attempt to formulate the thematic of critical practice. Paradoxically, those who want to theorize at present architecture along with the spectacle generated by computer technologies appropriate Sempers ideas too.31 The suggested openness and closure is not exclusive to Semper: many modernists who wanted to avoid making a one-to-one correspondence between the spirit of time and architecture also sought to rethink architectures interiority according to the demands of time.32 This much is clear from Charles Garnier, the architect of the Opera House in Paris, who discusses architecture not only within history but also in its engagement in the construction of history. In his words, architects who build monuments must consider themselves to be the writers of future history; they must indicate in their works the characteristics of the time in which they create; nally they must, through duty and through the love of the truth, inscribe

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in their buildings those indisputable signs of the period of construction.33 This observation takes notice of the importance of the disciplinary history of architecture for architectural historiography. Firstly, how is the topicality of a particular theme at a given historical junction understood by architects; and secondly, how is architecture the object of knowledge awaiting to be unbounded by the historian. This argument necessitates a discussion that concerns the idea of time and its role in mapping the task of the architectural historian. In two instances, Benjamins text on history is suggestive of images that prompt a standstill understanding of time. The rst instance is marked by the angels reception of the wind of progress: a move that pushes the angel into the future to which his back is turned. The angel looks at and contemplates that which is left behind by the storm. The angels body and direction of his gaze indeed block the movement of the time-forward; the time of contemplation is not presented in its apartness from the past, but the past is infused, or recognized, in the now of the present. The second moment is noticed in the image when Benjamin makes an analogy between the ways fashion evokes the costumes of the past with a tigers leap into the past (SW 4: 395). Again the continuity of time is interrupted by the collision of the expected natural forward-looking movement of the tiger with the latters jump into the past. What these images mean is not to establish the standpoint of the angel as the standpoint of critique, but the reverse. It is a part of the critique of the concept of progress.34 Here Peter Osborne makes a critical distinction between the gure of angel and that of a historian. While the historical avant-garde has demonstrated special concern for the new, that which is located behind the back of the angel (the future), the historian attempts to save the historical specicity, opening a different horizon of activity by the critique of progress. And Andrew Benjamin argues that criticism should not concern itself with the factuality of history, but with the temporality that such facts display and within which such a facts are able to be displayed. History cannot be thought other than as a philosophy of time.35 Both images presented in Benjamins text ask the historian to explode the continuum of history.36 A task, which could only be fullled through the dialectical image, a construction whose principle is the act of montage.37 Thus the task of the historian is to dismantle the work and to demonstrate how architectures interiority was seen in a particular time. The task also necessitates the challenge of the works claim for standing up to the demands of the time of its construction. Adhering to the ethics of truth to material and construction, Garnier could suggest that an architect should face the demand of the time; but the historian should instead question the architects very claim for the works ability to arrest the spirit of its time, and the unity that the work claims to hold. According to Benjamin, the products of arts and science owe their existence not merely to the efforts

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of the great geniuses who created them, but also, in one degree or another, to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries. And he continues: There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism (SW 3: 267). One implication of Benjamins statement can be formulated in the following words: by dismantling the work, the historian ends in the construction of a montage of stories, each unfolding the contradictions involved in the process of the design and construction of the work. How architecture relates to institutions, for instance? As a document, the work should be read, as Benjamins remarks on history suggests, against the network of intentions that create the condition for the works production. Only in this way, Carlo Ginzburg reminds us, will it be possible to take into account, against the tendency of the relativists to ignore the one or the other, power relationships as well as what is irreducible to them.38 Secondly, attention should be given to how the work translates material and technique into tectonic guration. The tectonic as theorized by Semper allows deconstruction of all kinds of unities and continuities essential for the humanist discourse on architecture. By distancing his theory of architecture from the theological aspects of Riegls ideas implied in Kunstwollen , the tectonic formulates what is intrinsic to the art of building (architectures interiority) with factors extraneous to architecture. What the tectonic means to architecture could be associated with the impact of the mechanical reproduction of the artwork and the loss of aura. This suggests a passage from poesis to techne,39 an opening that necessitates a critical dialogue between architecture and modernity. Another implication of Benjamins observation concerns the durability of the work: that architecture survives its time through the culture of building rather the intentions of the architect, or because of the physical strength of building. In leaving the architects intentions behind, it remains to establish another aspect of the task-awaiting historian: what is the particularity of the work, a building that invites criticism? And, given the disjunction between autonomy and historicity, is it not, then, the particularity of a work that opens itself up as historical? To make an opening to these questions, a distinction should be made between the work of a connoisseur and that of the historian. The formers task is limited to recognizing the presence of the hand of the genius in the work and issues relevant to style. Before the rise of art history, most discussions concerning architectural history aimed at characterizing the particularity of the work in association with a style-determined period, and/or the artists skills in demonstrating the essentiality of mimesis for the work.40 The historian instead cuts through the work and produces knowledge. And yet, the knowledge one receives from architecture would not become constructive if it does not stand as historical. If historical does not concern style, then what does it stand for? In the rst place, historical concerns the question of modernity in its many manifestations, including criticism as a negative court of judgement,41 but

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more importantly, in regard to Benjamins articulation of the loss of aura. His argument, on the one hand, suggests the end of symbolism which has prevailed in Renaissance art and architecture. Reproduction, according to Beatrice Hanssen, destroys the shrine to the arcane secret it was believed to hold, but also it sundered arts links to the divine place (topos) on which the temple or shrine were formerly built.42 On the other, Benjamins discourse on technology is consequential for any discussion concerning the destiny of architecture in modernity. What it is essential to point out here is that since the modernization of production activity, the techniques inherent to architecture were inicted by technologies developed outside of the culture of building. Furthermore, the knowledge of architectural praxis which was handed down from one architect to another, as the mtier of building, and the fact that in premodern societies a particular building could not have been nished in the life-span of a single architect, frame a historical situation that could not continue (for many reasons that should not be discussed here) in modernity. The importance of tectonics is obvious again, but it needs to be qualied not in association with the architect but with the work of the historian. The distinction made by Benjamin between the history of art work and art criticism from human history opens a discussion concerning the specicity of architectural historiography.43 Wlfin argued that all paintings owe more to other paintings than they owe to direct observation.44 This statement suggests that the knowledge that unfolds in critique should address the ways a given work of architecture relates to architectures interiority. The parallelism drawn between critique and the thematic of architectures interiority qualies the historian with historical knowledge of architecture in the rst place. What critique further unfolds is the historians knowledge of the problematic of the time of his/her world, and projection of that knowledge into the body of work under examination. Only in this way is critique saved from claiming the absolute truth, and thus the possibility of opening itself to criticism. The degree with which the work of the historian addresses the dialogical relationship between truth and criticism underscores a process that rst makes what is to be known into that as which it is known (SW 1: 148). That which is known is the disciplinary history of architecture. And that which has to be known is how, through the critical reading of a chosen work of architecture, the thematic of the culture of building is seen in different light. The light is already in the work itself and the task of historian is to displace it out of its context and present it as historical. What does the argument presented in this essay entail for architectural historiography? Firstly, the work of an architect should be seen as a document in its own right, but also as a project re-presenting its historicality; the architects metanarratives, but also the body of work, that is, the culture of building whose themes and strategies differentiate architectural praxis from other artistic activities. This last point is essential for a semi-autonomous

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understanding of architecture, but it also underlines any critical reinterpretation of contemporary architecture. Secondly, the idea of project should be understood as a failure in the architects attempt to present a totalized picture of diverse stories involved in the works realization. This demands inicting the historicality of the work with the problematic of the present architectural praxis, that is, the technication of architecture,45 and the level of abstraction involved in the process of design as architects utilize telecommunication technologies. Finally, the future that a project assigns to itself should be regarded as the architectonic realization of a past whose traces can be recovered by the eeting moments of the present. In this reconstruction architecture loses its autonomy and becomes a fragment in the constellation of a broader knowledge, the constructive principle of which is montage.46 Architecture is indeed recognized as architecture by opening itself into the world. In doing so architecture saves its own claim on history taking a critical role in the construction of the conditions of life.

12 MESSIANIC EPISTEMOLOGY: THESIS XV


ROBERT GIBBS

The representation of time too easily divides into the opposition of lines and circles. One seems to be either looking down the line from the height of progress (modernity) or up the line, back from the decline of civilization (ancient) or else one is stuck on the wheel of time, fated to repeat what has gone before. Historians oblige us by compiling chronicles and chronologies of events or occasionally painting a grand canvas of rises and falls. Time moves on inexorably, either off to the horizon or in an endless spinning of the eternal return of the same. We do not live time in some special nonrepresentational way, where the owing-off of the moment is given in pure immediacy. Rather, we live time through our representations of it, in the newspaper, on the television, according to the clock, following the prompting of the palm-pilot. Time is not simply a ow or a river for us, but is rather broken into chunks, hours, minutes, days, weeks of holidays, quarters of a game, seconds downloading images, years watching our children grow. It is not one event after another, but it is measurable and publicly standardized and, while punctuated, there is a memory of a past and an expectation of the future that hangs on our clock and calendar. The messianic, however, is a name for a not-yet, a future that exceeds the present, that interrupts it and our own expectations for a future. If we were able to draw time as a line or as a circle, the messianic would break it apart. It is not the end of the line, a distant, far-off moment, thousands of years hence, but rather, an interruption now, or almost now. In the next moment. Today. . . There is likely no theme more over-exposed and over-theorized in Benjamins work than the messianic. In this volume alone, there will be several serious discussions of it, and the bibliography on that topic would run to dozens if not scores of important essays by scholars, by critics, by philosophers.1 This discussion will not serve as a literature review, but will offer a specic angle of enquiry. For a few years I have explored a group of twentieth-century Jewish thinkers who developed a parallel interpretation of the messianic: Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber,

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Gershom Scholem, Ernst Bloch, as well as Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. Scholars do not lavish the same fascination on the messianic in their works as they do on the messianic in Benjamins. One could ask: What is the attraction to this theme as found in Benjamin, a Jewish thinker who rarely reects on Jewish texts and traditions? Does Benjamin represent a formal messianic (Derridas messianicity) or a lapsed-Jewish messianic? Have we written to excess on this topic due to a fascination with the residue of abandoned and defunct Jewish tradition? My task, however, is not primarily a metadiscussion of the Benjamin scholarship, but rather to look at the way that the messianic transforms the division of time into lines and circles. Thus, you might have expected me to write about Thesis B: For the Jews, however, the future was nonetheless not turned to homogeneous nor empty time. Because in it every second was the narrow gate through which the Messiah could enter, or perhaps Thesis II: Because like every generation before us, we have been endowed with a weak messianic power, to which the past has a claim. Instead, I will focus on Thesis XV, and not on the whole of it. I am concerned to think through what a calendar does (as a circle), and more importantly, how that circle as calendar has been transformed in our time. Moreover, I believe that a layering of circles upon circles, or circles within circles, begins to disrupt the narrativity of the circle itself. That superpositioning of circles or that impositioning of circles will allow us to see a specic relation to Benjamins own interpretation of the standstill and the dialectical image. [i] The consciousness of exploding the continuum of history is characteristic of the revolutionary classes in the moment of their action. The great revolution introduced a new calendar. [ii] The day, with which a calendar begins, functions as a historical time-lapse camera. And it is basically the same day that always returns in the form of festival days, the days of remembrance [Eingedenkens]. [iii] The calendar, therefore, does not count time like clocks. They are the monuments of a historical consciousness, and for a hundred years in Europe not even the slightest trace of them appears. (Thesis XV, GS 1.2: 7012/SW 4: 395) Calendars are a mode of historiography. They count time, but in the return of an event, year after year, they build our awareness of the past, representing time and making of a given year a circle from a linear narrative. Calendars are the circles. To change a society we would have to change the calendar, to change the representation of the past as lived in a cycling in our present. The full interpretation of this calendar will follow in section two, but for now I wish to take a step to the side to see how Rosenzweig interpreted calendars in his The Star of Redemption, a work that was familiar to and respected by Benjamin. Others have explored the relation between the two thinkers, but I will focus instead on the way that Rosenzweig thinks calendars work, and relate this to Thesis XV.2

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There are three kinds of calendars, according to Rosenzweig, and each offers a way of living time in a cycle. The three are, as is typical for Rosenzweig: Jewish, Christian and Pagan. The one that requires the most explanation is the Jewish calendar, but not because it is lunar and so has a complicated intercalation formula. No, its demand is that we think about time not merely linearly, but more importantly, not merely circularly. Rosenzweig develops an account of eternity that requires eternity not to be a ight from time, but an insertion of eternality into temporality. Our lived time must itself become changed, and become in that sense messianic. We live time socially and experience time with the breaks and units that society imposes. In the evening we seek shelter and eat; at sunrise we rise. Of course, the seasons also provide a certain kind of regularity, but the most basic units in our lives arise from the regular repetitions of socially constructed bits of time: the hour, the week and the year as marked on our calendars. Constructions that are not merely time-lines, that measure the passing away of time, but allow for the circling back of time. The revolution in time by which the messianic enters, for Rosenzweig, is the bending of time into a circle that allows the past moment to come again. The contrast begins, for Rosenzweig, with the hour, and proceeds from the hour to the week, and thence to the year. The new we seek must be a nunc stans, not a vanishing moment thus, but a standing one. Such a standing now is called, in contrast to the moment, an hour [Stunde]. Because it is standing, the hour can already contain within itself the multiplicity of old and new, the fullness of moments. Its end can discharge back into its beginning, because it has a middle indeed many middle moments between its beginning and its end. With beginning, middle, and end it can become that which the mere sequence of individual and ever new moments never can, a recoiling circle. In itself it can now be full of moments and yet ever equal to itself again. When an hour is up, there begins not only a new hour, much as a new moment relieves the old one. Rather, there begins again an hour. This re-commencement, however, would not be possible for the hour if it were merely a sequence of moments such as it indeed is in its middle. It is possible only because the hour has beginning and end. Only the striking of the bells establishes the hour, not the ticking of the pendulum. For the hour is a wholly human institution. (3223/290)3 For Rosenzweig, the hour allows for a specic form of repetition: where it is not simply the same thing over and over again, but when the unit is born from a holding together of beginning, middle and end. They are held together through the time of the hour. The diachrony of the moments allows

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for a new one to replace the old one, in the precise sense of repeating. Not the incessant ow of one thing after another (tick-tock), but the chiming signals the ow that is contained within a narrative of the hour. What comes after an hour? Another one with another narrative. But what comes after the instant? Some other instant with no repetition, no recurrence. Rosenzweig does not replace the random ow of events with a synoptic vision of the whole. Rather, in moving into the next hour, we are cast back on the beginning to live through it again. When we hear the chime, we think, it is starting again. Time has passed, but it is a new hour. In an even bolder manner, the week structures our experience of time because on the seventh day we stop our work. Here the end bears a specic mark of reection, of completion. Rosenzweig accepts Hermann Cohens reading that emphasizes the social justice dimension of the Sabbath (depending on reading the Deuteronomy version of the commandment). Thus the week with its day of rest is the proper sign of human freedom. Scripture thus explains the sign by its purpose and not its basis. The week is the true hour of all the times of the common human life, posited for people alone, set free from the orbit of the earth and thus altogether law for the earth and the changing times of its service . . . But how then does the power to force eternity to accept the invitation reside in prayer? . . . Because time which is prepared for the visit of eternity is not the individuals time, not mine, yours or his secret time: it is everyones time. Day, week, year belong to everyone in common, are grounded in the worlds orbit of the earth which patiently bears them all and in the law of labor on earth which is common to all. The clocks chiming of the hour is for every ear. (3245/291) Here two further claims are bound up with the recycling circle: the social dimension of lived time and the invocation of eternity. They are not haphazardly linked, however. For Rosenzweig the key to interpreting eternity is to see it as a social reality, a world to come, a way for individuals and the community to be bound together in institutions and practices. The universality of the lived time of a calendar, particularly when the Sabbath requires all to rest; not just the masters, but also the servants; not just the men, but also the women; not just the citizens, but also the resident aliens. This public rhythm of the week embraces all and so marks the sense of eternity in time. Only at the end of days is everything common, Rosenzweig comments on this page, and so the common time now is an image, a pre-experience, of the messianic time. So far, we would have, then, a circle that repeats, and a moment of interruption that allows us to see the repetition, to experience it only through the distended experience of living in time. Not so much a circle, then, as a kind of gear, or counter. But in the Jewish tradition there is also a calendar

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for the year, and that calendar is built out of the weeks. The building up of the year depends on reading a different portion of the Torah scroll (the rst ve books of the Bible) each week. Those portions are read in sequence. Rosenzweig explains how the sequence of sabbatical readings makes a year: In which the spiritual year is grounded, the recurrence in its recurrence, of the Sabbath. In the cycle of weekly portions, which in the course of one year, run through the whole of the Torah, the spiritual year is paced out, and the paces of this course are the Sabbaths. By and large, every Sabbath is like every other, but the change in the portions of Scripture distinguishes each from each, and this lets us know that there is not a last portion, but that they are only individual parts of a higher order, of the year. For in the year the individual parts rst again fuse into a whole. The Sabbath bestows existence [Dasein] on the year. This existence must be recreated week by week. The spiritual year must always completely begin in the weekly portions of the running week. It knows, so to speak, only what is found in this weeks portion, but it will become a year rst through that, so that each week is only a eeting moment. It is rst in the course of Sabbaths that the year rounds to a garland. The very regularity in the course of the Sabbaths, the very fact that, aside from the weekly portions, one Sabbath is just like the other makes them the cornerstones of the year. (344/310) Here is the production of a year. The next week is the same as last week when viewed as a week. One nishes and it begins again. But a year is a longer story than a week, and the Jewish year is told with a sequence of holidays, and even more basically with a course of Sabbaths, each one a piece of the Torah scroll. Of course, one year is the same as the last, too, because we read the relevant portions one after the other. The eternity is the repetition of the Torah, but now the Torah as read in synagogue. It takes Jews today one year to read the Torah. The narrative is built on the portions of Torah read, week by week, that make a year of the scroll. And at the end of the year, the scroll must be re-rolled. The rolling and re-rolling of the Torah is the image of this circle of Jewish reading. Thus rolling the scroll is the time that is the performance of eternity. It always begins again, even when it has just nished. The year is the diagetic time, just long enough to tell the story of the Torah. The time it takes to read through the scroll is the measure of the year. But what of the text read? The portions do not lead up to the present time. This is not a New York Times bestseller that explains how the USA got into Iraq. The story told is the history of the world up to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and then up through the birth of the nation (drawn forth through the waters), the giving of the law, the wandering in the desert and preparation for entering into the promised land. Although the story is the

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story of the Jews, the current readers are not the characters in it. It is set, even in its textual development, as a history of what happened long ago. The story told does not connect with the time of its telling. Indeed, the story told does not lead continuously into the time of the editing of the Torah, or to the time of its rst public reading under Ezra. Surely this account of the history of the world up through the birth of the Israelite nation works as a kind of history because it is unwilling to collapse the distance between its listeners/readers and the events being told. But it is not merely that we now perceive a gap between us moderns and this ancient text: the text itself is built on a gap of time. A gap that is not bridged by the story. Rosenzweig managed to read Jewish holidays as following that sequence creationrevelationredemption, showing that the cycling in our calendar has within it a cycle of a history of past events, events held in their pastness. This cycle is experienced as weeks of portions of an earlier story itself rolled up in a scroll. The way to experience eternity is not by a collapse of this historical gap. Rather, each year the exodus from Egypt repeats, and each year it seems to be not about us, the readers; (it has its internal connection to the plagues and the revelation at Sinai), and yet we readers participate in eternity by listening to it each year. That it takes a year to read the scroll, gives it a certain kind of narrativity, that each station on the cycle of our year has its own story, law, genealogy, etc., has its own bit of Torah, that seems more perplexing. The waters part year after year on the same week (of the lunar calendar). Does it mean the same thing to its readers, year after year? No, of course not. But Jews do not substitute some other event (for instance, the death of Julius Caesar). Always the same text at the same season, whatever is happening to the readers. Whatever has happened since last year. (Because what has happened is the congregation has read to the end of Deuteronomy, rerolled the scroll.) The weekly portion is the template of Jewish time, even though there is no connection from past to present. But perhaps we have not quite grasped the Torahs own temporality. For the events that happen there are not governed by necessity but by freedom, and told by a specic kind of discontinuity. Hardly a chronicle, the Torahs sequence follows enigmatic construction principles. The beginning, middle and end are themselves neither a haphazard sequence nor a straight narrative line. What we do see, however, is that people speak and they act, and they are surprised by events. Perhaps they are even more surprised than we, because we have read the story just last year. But if our sequence of reading is xed, our own lives are not governed by a necessity. The Hegelian historiography that Rosenzweig rebelled against was one of world-historical necessity. When Rosenzweig says the Jews are eternal, or rather have eternal life implanted within them, he is saying, at least, that they do not participate in the dialectics and the necessities of world-history. For many people, this has meant that Rosenzweig thinks that Jews and

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Judaism have no history of any sort. But I think I can begin to show how we might release Rosenzweig from this prison. Jews experience their eternality, the eternal life, by reading each year the same portion, a portion which always has its own discontinuities within it and its sense of contingency. That reading alerts us to see our present moment as also one that is not fated or governed by the sway of worldhistory. Whether we are in Babylon or Spain, under emperors, kings, or even President Bush, we persist in seeing our own time as bound to a template that resists a reduction to necessity. Messianic hope arises from a Torah portion promising change and justice and it does not stop short of criticizing the practices and ideas of its narrated time. Indeed, one can consult biblical historians who recognize the concerns of the redactors, and see the Torah text itself criticizing the prevalent ideas and practices at the time of its editing or its rst public reading. The Torah portion messianically breaks the spell of our present moment, and so makes us free due to the discontinuity between our own moment and the moment of which we read. This is a calendar of a specic sort because of its mapping onto the Torah reading. The Torahs own modes of discontinuity and demands for justice, and dreams of peace, interrupt its story, but our reading of it places a series of discontinuities into our experience of the year. The year is a set of circles. At the innermost one is the Torahs text. It follows the patterns of its written scroll, but what it tells of is fraught with interruptions and even messianic shards. At the outside is the time of our year, marked out by the portions of the scroll. The outer circle is the time of reading, not continuous, but set apart to mark the change of the weeks that as units are alike. The relation of the inner and outer circles is one of mutual disruption, but performed by the community. However, there are two other forms of calendar, and it is in confronting these that we may nd insight into the specicity of this Jewish calendar. Every society has its holidays. Rosenzweig acknowledges these as follows: Here is the place for all of the historical commemorative days [Gedenktage], in which humanity is conscious of its course through time. Such anniversaries change with the changing centuries, are different from place to place and from government to government; but as long as each one is celebrated, it is lled with human joy in the living worldly present and the hope for a still better, still richer, in short a growing life in the future. For us, the few remembrance days of our peoples history we have, because they are past, have become permanently xed. (410/368) These are holidays that are in principle changeable, and indeed, changing. The Jewish calendar, though built on the rolling of the scroll, also has its set of holidays, holidays which do not change. Victorias birthday, however, was not destined to be celebrated after the end of her reign. Pearl Harbor

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Day is quickly fading from importance as Martin Luther King Jr Day rises on the scene. But the need to commemorate is linked here to the future, to allow past events to enhance our present hope. What is past connects us to our nation, to our peoples, fashioning a certain resistance to the owing off of time. But the sequence does not follow a single text, is not marked off by the sequence within the Torah scroll. And when the Jews add events, they become utterly xed, and so do not breathe with the sense of adding and dropping of holidays that show the way that secular communities live in the owing of time, even that their communities are destined to ow along and disappear. The retention of the memory is clearly linked to an identifying process. It is not the simple task of the positivist historian, but it is a more unambiguous sense of joining ones fate in order to become stronger in the future. The third calendar, however, makes everything messier. For Rosenzweig has a strong interpretation of the need for both Judaism and Christianity. Judaism stays within its own circle, a re burning at the centre of the star, and Christianity goes forth as rays of light. This mission of Christianity is to convert the world to the truth of Gods will, to bring the other nations into a community of redemption. This mission requires Rosenzweig to articulate both the truth and the limitations of the pagan world. For Rosenzweig, Christianity is always on the way, always converting pagan aspects of the nations, but never consummated. Thus the world is not really split between pagans, Christians and Jews, but only between Jews and the others. The others are at once pagan and Christian, for becoming Christian is the history of the world. But the conversion transpires in three dimensions (borrowing heavily from Schelling). A Petrine church converts the body and the polity; a Pauline church converts the soul and the mind; and the Johannine church converts the culture. The third church is the most recent, dating to the late eighteenth century, and includes Goethe, Schelling and Hegel as church fathers. So to be Christian in the age of this last church is to live in a culture that in its very secularity has become Christian (cf. Libert, Egalit, Fraternit which Rosenzweig derives from the Johanine church). The rediscovery of the Eastern church and the emancipation of the Jews are hallmarks of this church. Love of the neighbour and the hurrying of the kingdom of God are the tasks which have now moved outside the church, into the streets and the squares, where culture is formed. In a challenging way, this church does not build or dwell in church buildings, but disseminates throughout the community, recruiting institutions and practices to the task of redemption. The church in its expansion takes its laws from the peoples it approaches, and so in this vast secularization, it Christianizes by recasting institutions that were content to ght the owing on of time (as pagan temporality does) into institutions that bend time into the cycle of eternity. In order to do that Christian calendars must be more than the circles of the Jewish reading of scripture. They cannot close within themselves, but

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must open to the pagan national calendars. And so they do according to Rosenzweig in a remarkable passage which plots the Christian calendar as the three-dimensional circle, the conic section in motion, the spiral. Now the Church takes hold here and joins the celebration. It grows into the people and its history, in that it accompanies its days of remembrance with its blessing. This is a piece of its mission to the nations that it is pursuing, by throwing its transguring light on the branches of the national life, it carries out a piece of its work on the way of redemption, which is never anything else but as the sowing of eternity into the living. (41011/369) So Rosenzweig recognizes that the church must baptize the national holidays of the second calendar. It elevates the temporal markers of the past into part of an eternal cycle that is, it lets them gain a place in the cycle of the holidays, a cycle that marks out Christian time as that time that leads from Creation through revelation in Christ to redemption, which is awaited as a universal community of redeemed institutions. That cycle appropriates the wars and regencies and armistices of national life, integrating them into a cycle that stands beyond the rise and fall of states. Where it is constituted by national boundaries, it establishes penitential and prayer days annually or for the great occasions of the peoples life. Festivals of thanksgiving, celebrations of declarations of war and of armistices it must join in everywhere. But it also has its own history; thus the Lutheran Church celebrates its Feast of the Reformation, and the Roman proclaims yearly its unabated opposition to the heretics in the festival of Corpus Christi. (Ibid.) The church as an institution asserts its own calendar along with the national calendar. That is, not the central points of the Christian calendar (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, as well as the year of Sundays), but the holidays of the specic church itself. The Protestant churches celebrate their founding, their new beginning. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the loyalty to its tradition and its theology of the body of Christ. Indeed for Rosenzweig, elsewhere, the procession of Corpus Christi becomes emblematic of the expanding of the church outside the church into the city as the procession comes forth from the church. But here we have the intercalating of both church holidays and national holidays because the basic structure of the circle of Christian holidays requires this addition. The national and church events are now preserved as commemorated in the yearly cycles. And the Roman Church most of all has not renounced directly the interweaving into its own life of a sequence of feasts of the church year. It does

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this generally with the festivals, which in the course of the life of Mary mirror the existence of the church itself. And it does this specically even more in the saints days, which in its limitless capacity to change, adapt and grow, makes possible a completely intimate bond between it and the local, the class, and the personal interests of the world, and so it inserts this temporal and worldly always again into the eternal circle, which even in these festivals that change with time and place, the eternal way of redemption through place and time has already for a long time no longer remained a circle, rather it has opened itself into a spiral. (Ibid.) And Rosenzweig notes that the paradigm is the Roman Catholic Church (the Petrine church), which so emphatically interweaves local events, whose calendar is almost overloaded with saints days. Here we see the temporal expression of the mission of Christianity: its way takes the pagan seriously, takes it up into itself and does not merely assimilate it, but more importantly changes itself. While the Jewish calendar can only integrate a new event by xing it, and so preserves the notion of a cycling but immutable eternity, the Christian calendar is expanded and transformed as the outward motion of the eternal way one encounters new events. Thus the Christian calendar becomes a spiral, expanding outward each year. It takes in more of time and allows its messianic futurity to shine on it. Such a spiralling out is neither a line, nor a circle. It is also neither the dialectic moved by necessity, nor the bittersweet remembrance of all that must eventually fade away. Rather, the Christian calendar allows for remembrance and change. It is not constructed, like the Jewish calendar, around the tension of the inner and the outer. And, perhaps more interestingly, lacking a xed inner circle, the spiral does not disrupt itself as radically as the two circles of Jewish reading. Or does it? We have so little further discussion by Rosenzweig of the spiral itself that we are left with the general sensation of outward motion. The new constitution or victory in battle reciprocally coordinates with the traditional Christian holidays. They are dated by the Christian calendar (itself a transformation of the Roman): 4 July, or 14 July, or 1 May or, as we all know, 9/11. These days are dated by the Christian calendar (even in Israel and Brooklyn where the Jewish calendar is also in place). We remember them in the renewing context of Christian time. Renewal requires a tension between the old and the new, and so the next old one, the next pagan institution or pagan nation, to be confronted by the Christian Western culture, is marked as not-yet Christian. But the identity of the past is key to negotiating not only that future, but the instability of the present: for it too is both not-yet Christian and Christian. When the events enter the calendar, they are marked as one step further out on the spiral (as being added from the last time around), as being intrinsically becoming and not achieved. And so the unwinding of the spiral reveals the same lack of necessity that we found in the circles within circles. A similar sense of the demand of the messianic to pull it further out, but to whatever comes next.

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Let me draw to a close this account of Rosenzweigs calendars. A calendar repeats and, in so far as it organizes itself, it structures our experience of our own time through the remembrance of previous events. A pagan calendar is bound exclusively to the events of ones nation or people, and recalls the key events in the season in which they occurred, building identity across temporal gaps. The Jewish calendar breaks the simple linearity (wound around a wheel), into a complex machine of wheels within wheels. By generating the present time through the reading of a scroll, Jewish time stands apart from the events of present time and even of the recent past. It stakes its sense of temporality on the complex narrativity of the Torah itself. The discontinuities and challenges of the Torahs text become a model for experiencing present time, a model not of necessity, but of a messianic call and interruption. The Christian calendar, on the other hand, opens up into a spiral, intercalating the pagan/national/church events into the fundamental cycle of Christian holidays. The historical is integrated and alters the Christian year, but the identity of the Christian is plotted against the prior non-Christian aspect, and so split in two at each moment. The messianic in the Jewish calendar is the interruptions and the call to justice; in the Christian calendar, it is the call to expand the spiral and the sense that each year we have moved around again but also further out.

BENJAMINS THESIS XV

If we now return to our text, Thesis XV, we are faced with a series of key questions for interpreting Benjamins work. [i] The consciousness of exploding the continuum of history is characteristic of the revolutionary classes in the moment of their action. The great revolution introduced a new calendar. [ii] The day, with which a calendar begins, functions as a historical time-lapse camera. And it is basically the same day that always returns in the form of festival days, the days of remembrance [Eingedenkens]. [iii] The calendar, therefore, does not count time like clocks. They are the monuments of a historical consciousness, and for a hundred years in Europe not even the slightest trace of them appears. (GS 1.2: 7012/SW 4: 395) We begin, easily enough, with the revolutionary sentiment. We can see that a revolution would require a new calendar, not merely the insertion of a new holiday in the old calendar. For the change of calendar is a change in historical consciousness, and altering an old calendar will preserve the sense of history from the old regime. Not a matter of simply putting in a new holiday of emancipation, a revolutionary change of calendar is a refashioning not only of the present institutions but rather a refashioning of

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history. In the context of national calendars (the pagan ones of Rosenzweig), the past as remembered, as recalled from year to year, must be altered in the moment of revolution. Although, one does sense a shadow of Marxs 18th Brumaire, in this gesture. But what I have labelled the second section, [ii] The day, with which a calendar begins, functions as an historical time-lapse camera. And it is basically the same day that always returns in the form of festival days, the days of remembrance [Eingedenkens], requires quite a different reading. The sense of repetition here is much more focused. Festivals bring the same day back again, and again. That is, the day remembered becomes the present moment. Calendars are a special time-machine. Indeed, from the basic structure of repetition we can move back one sentence to the time-lapse camera. For there is a rst day in each calendar: New Years Day. Thus we have two cycles to confront: First, the cycle of the year we are living. It is tracked along a set of holidays, and begins on New Years Day. But there is a second cycle, which begins with the event of founding a calendar. Thus for a Christian calendar, Christmas is the beginning of the liturgical year (advent leads up to it). For a Jewish calendar, there is New Years Day as a day of remembrance and a day of judgement! When we desire to break the hold of the past upon us, we call the day of the revolution day one of month one. And the history begins from that point and follows its path, which is plotted around the year we are living. Near the beginning of the Jewish Year is a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah), and it is the day that the end of the scroll is read, the scroll is re-rolled to the beginning, and the beginning is read again In the beginning, God created. . . The whole year unrolls as an account of the early history of the Israelites. The time of those events is hurried up to last only one year, and the year that we read it in follows their story. The time-lapse kind of history requires the diagetic time that we have in the Jewish calendar (lasting one year), but it also holds history in consciousness through that diagesis. What is interesting to Benjamin is that national calendars do that, too. They start at the appropriate moment and tell the tale of the history of nation throughout the time (time-lapse) of a year. Thus they speed up the events of a year, but they do not reduce it to mere snapshots or collage. The past has a beginning-middleand-end that is mapped onto our experience of a year. But a day stands out in the calendar, and so for Benjamin the time-lapse recoils back to the notion of the repetition of a specic day. Moreover, it is the strong sense of remembrance (Eingedenken) that appears here. We are not merely recalling the past, representing it, but rather returning to it, or holding ourselves in that moment. The complexity of remembrance is caught in an early fragment from the Passagen-Werk where there is a battle against the presumption of every epoch, culture, movement, etc., that holds itself as the most modern and at a crisis in history. Remembrance is a way of holding the past in tension with

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our present. Benjamin cites the uprising of the anecdote, because it does not depend on empathy with the tale told, but allows us to see the reality of the event in our time. He continues: The true method for making things present is to place them in our space (and not us in theirs). That is why only anecdotes have the power to move us. The things, so placed before us, endure no mediating construction from major connections This is also the sight of major past things Chartres Cathedral, the temple of Paestum in truth they are received in our space (no empathy for their builder or priests). We are not transposed in them; they step into our life. The same technique of nearness is to be observed, calendrically, against epochs. (I, 2) Anecdotes make the characters come into our world. And so the great monuments must be entered in our world, and not seen as a time-machine that takes us back to theirs. They retain their life when we go and see them. But the calendar also functions this way in relation to epochs. That is, the past is not some hoary ancient event, but becomes part of our celebrations and accounting of time. The distant epochs are lived again. Christmas is not an event two thousand years ago, but rather happens each year with the birth of new babies in the dark of midwinter. What he calls Eingedenken in Thesis XV here is vergegenwrtigen a making-present. The calendar draws the past near: [iii] The calendar, therefore, does not count time like clocks. They are the monuments of an historical consciousness, and for a hundred years in Europe not even the slightest trace of them appears. The calendar is not like a clock, for Benjamin, but we can readily see that it is very much like a clock for Rosenzweig. The next hour is a repetition of this hour, and the hour, as we saw, is not the tick-tock of the clock. The clock, it seems to me, for Benjamin is the inability of time to cycle, but only to move in an empty way forwards. Precisely because the calendar brings the past forward, brings it near, it produces our past, that is the past that is alive for us. Calendars are monumental: public, xed and commemorative. This notion of historical consciousness is at some distance from the historians and, of course, that has been our concern. In an essay on Baudelaire from 1939, Benjamin wrote: Correspondences are the data of remembrance [Eingedenkens]. These are not historical but rather the data of prehistory. What makes festival days grand and meaningful is the encounter with an earlier life (GS 1.2: 638/SW 4: 3334). We will return to correspondences (a term of Baudelaires), but here we see a notion of festival days that connects not to historical events, but to prehistorical ones, events that have a hold on us not because of their historical connection to us, but because they form our categories of temporal existence. Like the visit to ancient sites, they are a way for a past that exceeds the continuum of historical memory to intrude into our time.

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And calendars are also punctuated, in the way that Rosenzweig noted. Benjamin later comments: Chronology, which subordinates duration to uniformity, still cannot forgo letting heterogeneous exceptional fragments occur within it. To have united the recognition of a quality with the measure of a quantity is the work of the calendar, which leaves the space for remembrance as it were with the holidays. (GS 1.2: 642/SW 4: 336) Even the practice of marking off time as uniform, in the clock and calendar, leaves extraneous bits. The heart of the calendar are the empty spaces, the holidays. There quantity and quality merge, by breaking up, in a regular way, the monotony of the standard units. The calendar is public, orderly, but somehow heterogeneous. Rosenzweigs clocks chiming, weekly Sabbaths and seasonal festivals all serve Benjamin by opening a space where the historical continuum is broken open in a break in the temporal continuum. But, says, Benjamin, they are no longer to be found in Europe (Thesis XV). Here is the key conict with the Rosenzweigian account: for Rosenzweig held that the calendars are still doing their thing. That people live their own time through the calendar. Surely we still have calendars! But Benjamins point is more severe: the past does not live in the calendar anymore. The modern culture has dispensed with the religious dimension of the calendar particularly. That recent past, for Benjamin, is the time of the industrial and consumerist transformation of Europe. Rosenzweig may have an accurate picture of how the Jewish liturgical calendar is supposed to function, and by extension other calendars, too, but the culture of Europe has abandoned that manner of experiencing time and remembering history. Benjamin here appears as the critic not of Rosenzweigs theory of calendars and memory, but of the world which has moved away, beyond, below such means of remembering. Perhaps we can, with the help of Rosenzweigs three calendars, see just what is now lost. That is, the Jewish eternal calendar might still suit the small set of traditional Jews, who are eager to live outside of world-political time. But it is hard to live through the 1930s and not conclude that that calendar has become defunct, even for the religious Jews, and of course, Benjamins world is lled with liberal and post-liberal Jews, for whom the religious calendar holds no promise. Judgement Day is no longer New Years Day for his world. The key question is whether the enlarging spiral of Christianity as it opens out to the secular world functions with its calendar. Does the spread of Western culture bring about the progress on the way to the messianic, or, on the contrary, has the spiral lost its bearings and become the spread of one more pagan tale of war and conquest? While Rosenzweig offers true insight into the development of modern culture, as a Jew looking at the secular-

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ization of Christianity, Benjamin offers quite another prospect. In an early essay on Naples, he considers a kind of dissolution of the separation of week and Sabbath: This music is a remnant of the last and a prelude to the subsequent holiday. Irresistibly the festival permeates every work day. Porosity is the law of this life, inexhaustibly to be discovered anew. A grain of Sunday is hidden in every week day and how much week day is in this Sunday! (GS 4.1: 311/SW 1: 417) Benjamin nds a special kind of secularization, where the Christian goes over into the pagan and the pagan inltrates the Christian. This has, quite obviously, a similarity to Rosenzweigs account of the spiral, but for Benjamin the weekly calendar cannot hold out against the modern reality of Naples. While the holy is diffused into the profane, the Sunday also is released from its purity. Life pulses across the lines of a calendar, and in general the festival becomes not merely the telos of each day (live for the weekend), but actually dissolved into the everyday. The saints days of Rosenzweigs calendar are marshalled by Benjamin to exhaust the weeks structure. For Benjamin the calendar that spiralled out has all-but disintegrated. Hence the punch-line in the thesis: for a hundred years in Europe not even the slightest trace of them appears. The Theses are written after more than a decade of research into the emergence of the modern as a process of developing consumerism, advertising, mass production and mass marketing, all explored in the context of the Passagen of Paris. It would be absurd to draw up a one-line description of the passage from Christian culture to consumer culture and the radical loss of remembrance and calendar, but it is far from obvious that it can be compared with Rosenzweigs sense of an expanding spiral. The expanse of capitalism, the colonization of desire, the impossibility of just social relations these all lead Benjamin toward a profound desire for a messianic interruption. But if we step aside from the profound critique that Benjamin would offer to Rosenzweigs spiralling Christianity, we might still see how the calendar casts an important shadow for Benjamin. I do not wish to overemphasize here the relation to Rosenzweig. Benjamin did read and admire The Star of Redemption , but Rosenzweig was not the only theorist of calendars. What we look for in the calendar, however, is something beyond the mere circle. The messianic quality is how the eternal inserts itself into time, not arresting temporality but punctuating it and allowing us to live messianically. That the calendar might have served that function for the Jews is not Benjamins concern. Rather, he struggles with a mode of remembering that can allow that messianic punctuality in an unredeemed present. It is not surprising, then, that it is in relation to Baudelaire, and particularly the poem Correspondances, that Benjamin writes about the calendar,

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and also about the failure of the calendar. The quotation above claimed: Correspondences are the data of remembrance [Eingedenkens]. These are not historical but rather the data of prehistory. What makes festival days grand and meaningful is the encounter with an earlier life (GS 1.2: 638/SW 4: 3334). Baudelaires correspondences are between archaic monuments, temples, hieroglyphs, etc., not simultaneous links. They are not quite history, but rather the recollection of juxtapositions from the archaic past to the present. In Baudelaire, moreover, they remain suspended. Benjamin notices that the correspondences also fail, that the modern world corrodes the possibility for a linking to the prehistory. But Baudelaires writing evokes the no longer accessible correspondence. If Rosenzweigs calendar can envision the disruption of two historical sequences, the interruption of the messianic then and now, then Baudelaire offers Benjamin a way of marking the jumps from then to now that do not quite connect, that have been corroded by the emergence of modern society. But Baudelaire still strives to capture the correspondence in art, even the failed correspondence. Benjamins historical work produces a new possibility for a remembering, drawing on Baudelaire as well as Rosenzweig. The acts of remembrance can be carried further in the work of the historian a work that is not the task of an isolated consciousness, but of a socially located interpreter. While Rosenzweig had hoped to resuscitate the Jewish community in Germany at the end of the First World War, Benjamin despairs of that community and indeed of the modern society while living in Paris on the eve of the Second World War. What is more important for us, however, is how the structuring of interruption that Rosenzweig discovered can become a way, even a task, for the historian. Benjamin collected a set of theoretical reections in a folder entitled Theory of Knowledge, Theory of Progress. These reections are roughly contemporaneous with the Theses, and while they are also among the most commented-upon texts in his writings, we can attend to the specic relation to the calendar, and specically to the circles within circles of the Jewish calendar. If we imagine those circles scattered, so that each circle has disintegrated, neither one held together by the practice of the other, we can begin to see how the dialectical images might be conceived. The historical index of the images says not only that they belong to a determinate time, it says, above all, that they rst become legible in a determinate time. And indeed this to be legible is reached in a determinate critical point in the motion into its interior. Every present is determined through these images, those that are synchronic with it: every now is the now of a determinate knowability. In it the truth is loaded with time to the point of exploding. (This explosion, is nothing other than the death of the intention, which coincides therefore with the birth of genuine historical time, the time of truth.) (N3, 1)

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The primary insight is that there is a moment of our present at which a specic interpretation or reading of a previous event becomes possible. Just as there is a week in the year when the exodus from Egypt is read, there is a moment of crisis or decision in which earlier events yield new interpretations and new possibilities. The present then offers a specic set of possible readings, possibilities that exceed any account of intentionality in the original events, artworks, institutions, etc. The now is constituted in relation to new versions of the past. But the key, for Benjamin, is that the two do not collapse. It is not that what is past throws its light on what is present, or that what is present throws its light on what is past, rather the image is that in which the past and the present meet in a lightning ash in a constellation. In other words: image is the dialectic at a standstill. While the relation of the present to the past is a purely temporal one, the relation of the gone to the now is a dialectical one: its nature is not temporal but imaged. Only dialectical images are genuinely historical, that means, not archaic images. (N2a, 3) The two remain apart, and do not illuminate each other (they do not consummate a correspondence). Rather, they collide in an image, a specic conjunction of the past and the present. Stripped out of the cycles of liturgical calendars, we still have a moment of arrest in the present (and in the past). The two moments interrupt each other. This rhythm is structured so that the past and present are related without becoming identied. It is not that the present is assimilated to the past, a mythic repetition of what has already happened where the past throws its light on what is present . For the pasts light would only show in the present what the past had already contained, and so the present moment would be subsumed. But similarly, the present does not merely nd itself transported into the past, where the present throws its light on what is past. At each now there is a new reading of a past image, but what is read is not identical or necessarily easily assimilated into the present. Like a calendrical moment, the past and present meet, but now only in a ash, without the hours beginning, middle and end. The juxtaposition is not, as in Rosenzweig, a gure (Gestalt), but rather a constellation, a set of discrete stars. The ash prevents any dialectic that has its own necessary motor, its own ongoing, progressive zigzag through suffering and reconciliation. To interrupt the dialectic is to catch dialectic at a standstill a relation of past and present that borrows no dynamic inherent connectivity. Which is not to say that it is merely a positing of two points in time. From the present to the past is temporal : looking back measures a time that is elapsed, a gap from here to there. But the past is related to the present through its legibility in the now. The gone is not merely directed toward a future which now occurs, but is rather itself bound up with the now of reading in so far as the past is past. Thus the past appears through

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the image, through a dialectical relation with the present; while the present looks back in a simply temporal way. History has become these dialectical images, in contrast to the archaic images. The latter would be the images that do not measure the distance that time marks, but merely repeat a non-temporal myth obliterating time, change and the discontinuity that governs the signifying of the past. But the historian engages, then, in a specic kind of remnant of the calendar. And while Rosenzweig could nd eternity entering time and, indeed, the messianic interrupting in a social practice, for Benjamin modernity has debased the calendar, leaving the historian the task of framing the dialectical images, of engaging in the danger of a reading doubling of then and now. Here arises that weak messianic force of Thesis II. In contrast to a strong force, which could force the future with a social movement or revolution, the historian struggles to redeem the past, and in redeeming the past to unstick the present from its seemingly necessary future. Our nal question, however, then turns to the relation of the messianic as a theological category and its reactivation as a historiographic practice. The fascination for the scholars of Benjamin has lain in the question of how theological his work is. The texts are familiar the ink blotter, the midget, the promise in Thesis B of the straight gate and, if not overworked, at least well-explored. Benjamin is emphatic about being theological. But he surely is not pious, nor engaged in Rosenzweigs renaissance. If we put him in the context of Buber, Scholem and Rosenzweig, he shares a passion about theology and the exigencies of the messianic. But of all four of those, his work holds a special fascination for us: in our moment of reading. I suggest that the ghost, the spectre of theology has a great appeal for us. For many of us, religious renaissance is beyond our range. Such a holiday calendar has become impossible. It is like an artefact of a vanished civilization. Except that the calendars still lurk behind our deformed working calendar. The act of remembrance that binds our events with those of the past, dialectically and with the needed standstill, is lacking in our calendar. But we yearn for it, with Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Day), and with 9/11 we want to be able to remember in that messianic way, where the press forward of time is arrested by a breakup of history in the past. The triumph of chronology of the line leads us to desire a simple circle. And in such a moment the practice of the circle within the circle (and the spiral), serves as a critique of lines and simple circles. Benjamin remembers those holiday circles in the midst of framing his own dialectics of points. They offer a dialectic of past and present that opens the future more radically than the simple circles of fate and the liberal myth of progress. They charge the present with some gap from the past, exploding the continuum of history and, if they are no longer potent, re-examining them alerts Benjamin and his readers to a messianic dialectical relation with the past. The messianic charge from the spinning of the circles is now dispersed into the dialectical images.

13 NON-MESSIANIC POLITICAL THEOLOGY IN BENJAMINS ON THE CONCEPT OF HISTORY


HOWARD CAYGILL

The theses that comprise On the Concept of History describe a constellation made up of the crossing of persistent themes in Benjamins thought with contemporary political events. His reections on the collapse of the European Left in the face of fascism as well as the HitlerStalin pact are modulated through a persistent fascination with, and enquiry into, political theology. His thoughts on social democracy and communism are thus shaped by a deeper meditation upon the possible relationship between historical materialism and theology. However, the character of this relationship in the On Concept of History is usually framed in terms of the question of the present and immediate future of revolutionary action, framed as the choice between catastrophe and the messianic end of history. However, another understanding of the future is also possible, one that complicates this choice by means of locating political theology in a cosmo-politics dedicated to the liberation not only of humanity, but also of the whole of creation. The rst thesis establishes a complicated scenario regarding the relationship between historical materialism and theology. Thesis I is about the famous chess-playing automaton who could respond to every move of a chess-player with a counter-move and always win. The puppet with the hookah made the moves on a table under which, concealed by mirrors, sat a hunchbacked dwarf who controlled the puppet. There are many enigmatic features to this scenario Benjamin had already played with the theme of the hidden dwarf who controlled illusion in Rastellis Story (SW 3: 96) but the terms of the analogy that he goes on to draw are fairly clear. He imagines a philosophical counterpart to this apparatus in which the puppet is historical materialism and the dwarf theology which today, as we know, is small and ugly and has to be kept out of sight. Together, historical materialism and theology can win all the time, political theology thus providing a winning combination. The nature of the political theology or combination of historical materialism and theology intimated in philosophical counterpart to the

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chess-playing automaton is usually sought in the discussion of the messianic in Thesis XVIII with which the On Concept of History ends. The evocations of messianic time, and the notion of a messianic break between present and future in Thesis XVIII are prepared in Theses XVXVII which reect on breaks and the revolutionary. The last ve theses certainly provide an astonishing vision of revolutionary political theology, but it is one whose power emerges from a contrast with the political theology explored in Theses VIIIXIII. These theses are more diagnostic, analysing the catastrophe confronting the angel of history and the limits of the social democratic response to it. Theses VIIIXIII begin by evoking the understanding of the tradition of the oppressed that the Ausnahmezustand (state of emergency) is not the exception but the rule and end with a critique of social democracy. Social democracy is criticized not only for its concept of progress against which is poised the philosophy of history as a revolutionary, messianic break but also for its political and economic conformism. The attempt to achieve democratic reform of the state apparatus that characterized social democratic political action during the Weimar Republic is dismissed by Benjamin as contributing to the eventual success of fascism, but underlying both the concept of progress and the practice of reformism was a more fundamental limitation regarding the concept of work and through it of the relationship to nature. Of this relationship and its concomitant faith in the development of technology Benjamin notes, in Thesis XI, that the old Protestant ethic [protestantische Werkmorale] celebrated its resurrection among German workers in secularized form. It is striking that the critical discussion of social democracy in the middle theses of the Concept of History is framed by references to two central concepts of non-Marxist political theology Carl Schmitts state of emergency and Max Webers Protestant ethic. Max Webers The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) may indeed be said to have provoked, or at least provided a locus for the reinvention of political theology in the early twentieth century.1 It was important not only for provoking the alternative formulation of political theology developed by Schmitt, but also in fundamentally changing Benjamins own views on the political theology of capitalism. The importance of Webers thesis for the development of Benjamins thought and his analysis of capitalism in the On Concept of History is evident from an analysis of his 1921 fragment Capitalism as Religion (SW 1: 28891). Capitalism as Religion is remarkable in many ways, not least for its provocative radicalization of Max Webers Protestant ethic thesis. The fragment is pivotal in the development of Benjamins thought, closing a period of reection on social and political theory that began in 1916 and opening up avenues of enquiry that were to occupy him up to, and including, On the Concept of History. The analysis of Reformation culture

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in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928) and the theory of the technological body in One Way Street (1928) as well as the analyses of the fetish commodity in the Arcades Project (192840) were all responses to questions provoked by this fragment, and thus indirectly by the political theology of Weber. It marks an important turn in the development of Benjamins political theology whose consequences still inform the On Concept of History. Capitalism as Religion closed a phase of social, political and religious reection that was rooted in Benjamins principled opposition to the First World War and his exile in Switzerland. Benjamins focus on issues of political theology, notably the critique of theocracy, was indebted to a diverse range of inuences ranging from the new thinking represented by a group of writers working in the philosophy and sociology of religion comprising Florens Christian Rang, Eugen Rosenstock and Franz Rosenzweig to the Catholic Dadaism of Hugo Ball, the neo-Marxism of Ernst Bloch and above all the utopian science ction of Paul Scheerbart. While only fragments from this period have survived the major work, Die wahre Politiker, inspired by the ideas of Scheerbart being lost it is nevertheless possible to trace an outline of the main concerns of Benjamins political theology from what remains. This will provide the context for understanding his interpretation of Webers The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and also the reason for its shattering impact on his thought. The overall direction of Benjamins early political theology is evident in a series of ve numbered reections from 191920, the rst, World and Time, giving the editors title to the entire collection. The rst reection on revelation and its relationship to the end of history introduces the overall problem of the place of the divine in the secular or temporal sphere. The exploration of this problem begins with a critique of the political theology of Catholicism. Benjamin criticizes Catholicism for its ecclesiastical organization or the (false, secular) theocracy (SW 1: 226). The establishment of the church is described as the process of the development of anarchy since authentic divine power can manifest itself other than destructively only in the world to come (the world of fullment) (SW 1: 226). Here Benjamin adopts the position of the adversaries of the church criticized by Augustine in the City of God , the foundational text of ecclesiology. Benjamin radicalizes his opposition by applying his critique of theocracy to any form of legally regulated social organization. The implications of this step become evident in the Critique of Violence (published, like the original 1905 essay by Weber in the Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik in 1921) where divine violence is held to be destructive of all law. In this text Benjamin focuses on the destructive, revolutionary aspect of divine violence, whereas in World and Time he pays more attention to the slow self-destruction of theocracy. Benjamin claims that where divine power enters the world it breathes destruction whether in its revolutionary or its

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organized forms since in this world nothing constant and no organisation can be based on divine power, let alone domination as its supreme principle (SW 1: 226). While the basis of this claim is nowhere explicitly defended at length by Benjamin, it is evidently a forceful if underdeveloped critique of any attempt to give a transcendental legitimacy to an organizational form, whether it be church or political party. Benjamin follows the rejection of Catholic political theology with his own denition of politics as the fullment of an unimproved humanity (SW 1:226). The premise of his politics is the same as that of the church whose sacraments are directed to the fullment of sinful or unimproved humanity but the consequences Benjamin draws are radically opposed. He lls out his denition of politics with a reection on the Mosaic laws. For him, the Ten Commandments are not theocratic profane legislation decreed by religion but rather legislation governing the realm of the body in the broadest sense . . . they determine the location and method of direct divine intervention (SW 1: 226). It is on the border of this intervention that Benjamin locates the zone of politics, of the profane, of a bodily realm that is without law in a religious sense (SW 1: 226). The distinction between the divine and the profane legislations of the body the latter being political but without law presents severe problems to Benjamin, both within World and Time itself, but more intensely after reading Weber, whose thesis precisely breaks down the distinction between the religious and the secular governance of the body. The fourth of the series of reections in World and Time begins to unravel the distinction between a divine immediacy and the zone of politics. First of all, in its present state, the social is a manifestation of spectral and demonic powers (SW 1: 227), that is, the zone of politics already stands in a relation to the divine. This is exemplied in the Critique of Violence by the institution of the police as a nowhere tangible, all-pervasive, ghostly presence in the life of civilized states ruling in the interstices between sovereign and executive power. This position might be consistent with Benjamins critique of theocracy whose object is precisely such illegitimate mediations of the divine in the secular or profane realm. Yet the problem of how to detect, criticize or overcome this theocratic tendency is avoided. Benjamin instead insists on the immediacy of revelation: The divine manifests itself in only in revolutionary force. Only in the community [Gemeinschaft], nowhere in social organisations does the divine manifest itself either with force or without (SW 1: 227). Such a criterion for the separation of divine and profane is not itself immune to theocratic abuse for every theocracy legitimates its organization by the claim of divine manifestation to the community it serves/dominates. This holds not only for ecclesiastical but also for political theocracies, as when, in the Critique of Violence, Benjamin identies the divine community with the anarchistic proletarian general strike in which the proletariat is the

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self-present Gemeinschaft capable of giving the divine immediate expression. There is nothing in his argument that would prevent it being appropriated by a Leninist party (according to his theory a theocracy) that would create the working-class community (proletarian class-consciousness) capable of the general strike. It is then not surprising that in World and Time Benjamin straightaway qualies the appeal to immediate community by transferring the manifestations of the divine from the sphere of political action to those of perception and the word: Such manifestations are to be sought not in the sphere of the social but in perception oriented toward revelation and, rst and last, in language, sacred language above all (SW 1: 227). Here certain forms of religious and literary expression are preferred to political action as direct manifestations of the divine, but this qualication only provokes further problems. All theocracies will claim theoretical legitimation of their claims over the community on the basis of privileged knowledge or capacity of expression. By locating revelation in perception and the word, Benjamin opens the possibility of a theoretical, religious and aesthetic avant-garde, whose prescriptions, if applied to social action, could only lapse back into theocratic legislations. He accordingly concludes the reections with problems for further reection: The question of manifestation is central (SW 1: 227) in other words, the question of whether revelation can ever be immediate, or whether it is always already mediated and organized. The last word of World and Time is the claim that there is no essential distinction between religion and religious denomination, but the later concept is narrow and in most cases peripheral (SW 1: 227). With this Benjamin masks the essentially Protestant inclination of his critique of theocracy and its debt to the new thinking. The severe qualication of the claims of the church over the individual believer and the separation of church and state in Protestant ecclesiology pointed (in theory) to the critique of theocracy mounted by Benjamin. His interpretation of the Ten Commandments is Protestant in distinguishing between an area of direct divine governance of the body and a separate zone of politics that is the site for politics as the fullment of an improved humanity (SW 1: 226). However, this understanding of the separation of the divine and the secular was to be severely challenged by Webers thesis which shows the attenuation, if not collapse, of any theoretical transcendence through the routine practice of Protestantism. Benjamin approached the reading of Webers Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism from the standpoint of his critique of theocracy, but found that Webers thesis challenged the very grounds of his critique, and thus the social and political theory that he was in the process of developing. Benjamin read Webers text in the context of the 191920 edition of Collected Essays on the Sociology of Religion and was thus aware of the broader implications of the thesis and of Webers organizing concept of the economic ethic. The specic analysis of the economic ethic of capitalism

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led Weber to analyse the relationship between the spirit of capitalism and Calvinist Protestantism in terms of Goethes concept of elective afnity (Wahlverwandschaft). Weber analysed the elective afnity between Protestantism and capitalism in terms of the partial translation/mutation of a rigorous religious doctrine into everyday economic behaviour. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (especially in the remarkable footnotes) Weber described how the rigorously transcendent doctrine of predestination was translated into the secular concept of the vocation. The anxieties provoked in the early generation of Protestants by the inscrutability of the divine will in its choice of the elect and its relation to earthly business and social concerns led the Calvinist spiritual advisers to elaborate as series of casuistic responses that, Weber showed, crystallized into an economic ethic. In Benjamins terms, what was at stake was the adaptation of the divine to the earthly social and realm, or the systematic breakdown of the limits between the zones of the divine and the political. From Benjamins viewpoint, what was even more striking about Webers thesis was that the adaptation of divine to the secular was not accomplished by means of a theocratic organization such as state or church, but by means of a decentralized economic ethic tangible only in its effects. The opening sentence of Benjamins response to Weber recapitulates one of Webers theses: that the economic ethic of capitalism serves essentially to allay the same anxieties, torments and disturbances to which the so-called religions offered answers (SW 1: 288). However, prompted by the Protestant ethic Benjamin drew an even more radical conclusion from this than Webers own cautious claims for an elective afnity between Protestantism and capitalism. For Benjamin, capitalism is not merely, as Weber believes, a formation conditioned by religion, but an . . . essentially religious phenomenon (SW 1: 289). In effect, Benjamin proposes to transform Webers elective afnity into an identity Protestantism and capitalism are not mutually related, but are identical. Such an interpretation of Goethes concept as a veiled identity was developed by Benjamin in his essay Goethes Elective Afnities (see SW 1: 346 and 35051), written at the same time as Capitalism as Religion. While Weber, in the concluding lines of his essay, regarded capitalism as having cast off its religious origins and to have relegated its elective afnity with religion to its past, Benjamin believed it to have itself become a religion. More is at stake in Benjamins difference with Weber than the interpretation of one of Goethes aesthetic concepts. By unifying capitalism and religion Benjamin is acknowledging the dissolution of the separation of the divine and the secular. This dissolution, moreover, is more serious even than the theocratic organization of the divine represented by Catholicism, since with capitalism as religion the divine invades not only the zone of the political but also the realm of the body. The implication is that one of the organizing distinctions of Benjamins political thought has broken

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down before the realization that capitalism a form of social and political organization is religion and that, consequently, it fulls the denition of theocracy. The secularization thesis is here inverted: it is is not that the secular takes over the space vacated by the religious, but that the religious becomes identied with the secular. Benjamin surveys the implications of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for his social and political theory through two routes: a critique of Webers account of the genesis of capitalism and a description of the structural characteristics of capitalism as religion. The basic claim is that the Christianity of the Reformation period did not favour the growth of capitalism; instead it transformed itself into capitalism (SW 1: 290). This is of course opposed to Weber, who saw the elective afnity between capitalism and Protestantism as one of a number of factors for the development of modern capitalism. Additional important factors for Weber included the bureaucratization of political administration, the rise of standing armies and military discipline and changes in broader economic organization. Benjamin, however, insists that Capitalism has developed as a parasite of Christianity . . . until it reached the point where Christianitys history is essentially that of its parasite that is to say, of capitalism (SW 1: 289). The questions raised in these genetic claims and their reduction of elective afnity to identity are claried by Benjamins structural view of capitalist religion. Benjamin claims that there are three aspects of the religious structure of capitalism (although he adds a fourth, a secret codicil): it is (1) a cult that (2) makes total claims on its members through (3) creating guilt and not atonement (SW 1: 288). In the rst place, Benjamin claims that capitalism is a religious practice, or cult rather than a church: capitalism has no specic body of dogma, no theology (SW 1: 288). It is not a theocracy in the sense of the Catholic Church that distributes salvation according to a theologically legitimated system of sacraments. Nevertheless, capitalism is perhaps the most extreme [cultic religion] that ever existed (SW 1: 288) in that its claims are total: things have meaning only in their relationship to the cult (SW 1: 288), or, in the language of historical materialism, exchange value dominates use value. Another aspect of the total character of the cult is that it has no weekdays, for there is no day that is not a feast day . . . each day commands the utter fealty of each worshipper (SW 1: 288). Benjamin sustains this ruthless inversion of Webers secularization thesis by his third structural claim, that capitalism is a religion that creates guilt/debt (Schuld). Benjamin devotes most attention to the third claim, pushing Webers view of the iron cage of modern bureaucratic capitalism to its limit through reections on Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. Central to his argument is the expansive character of capitalism, here interpreted not only on a global but even on a cosmic scale. Benjamin understands capitalism as not

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only creating guilt/debt through its reduction of all value to money or the measure of exchange value, but also as universalizing guilt/debt to implicate even God in universal despair: Capitalism is entirely without precedent, in that it is a religion which offers not the reform of existence but its complete destruction. It is the expansion of despair, until despair itself becomes a religious state of the world in the hope that this will lead to salvation (SW 1: 289). At this point, God is not dead but has been incorporated into human existence or has become totally immanent: for Benjamin this moment marks the end of the epoch of the human and the beginning of the superhuman. Benjamins observation that Nietzsches superman is the rst to recognize the religion of capitalism and to bring it to fullment (SW 1: 289) offers an important clue to his understanding of the cultic nature of capitalism as religion. For Nietzsche, the superman is the one capable of willing the eternal return rather than suffer it as the greatest weight. Consequently, it can be assumed that the cultic ritual of capitalism for Benjamin is repetition. The suffering of this repetition (as in Webers prediction of the millennial future of the iron cage) as a burden is contrasted with its afrmation that effects a transformation, creating something new in an afrmed repetition. Thus Benjamin can claim that Nietzsches superman is both the afrmation and destruction of capitalism as religion. On the one hand, the paradigm of capitalist religious thought is magnicently formulated in Nietzsches philosophy, while on the other the idea of the superman transposes the apocalyptic leap not into conversion, atonement, purication and penance, but into an apparently steady, though in the nal analysis explosive and discontinuous intensication (SW 1: 289). Benjamin sees a similar outcome in Marx, namely that a capitalism that is afrmed as capitalism already becomes something else: Marx is a similar case: the capitalism that refuses to change course becomes socialism by means of the simple and compound interest that are functions of Schuld (SW 1: 289). So with Freud, the intensication of repetition qualitatively transforms inherited guilt/debt. Benjamins readings of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud in terms of their alleged views on the self-overcoming of capitalism rest on a logic dependent on the fourth appropriately concealed feature of capitalism as religion. This concerns the demonic character of capitalism the fact that the secret of its destruction is hidden. Benjamin claims that capitalisms God is hidden from it and may be addressed only when his guilt is at its zenith the secret of the divinity of capitalism lies in its immaturity (SW 1: 129). Capitalism extends its measure of value to the point where the universe has been taken over by that despair that is actually its secret hope (SW 1: 289). When there is only repetition then the afrmation of it creates a novelty and thus breaks the immanence of repetition. It is at this zenith of immanence that divinity can be afrmed and become again transcendent. For Benjamin this may consist

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in the Nietzschean superman afrming eternal return, or the proletariat realizing itself as the subjectobject of history at its stage of maximum reication (to use the language of Georg Lukcs contemporary History and Class Consciousness). The catastrophic or nihilistic logic described by Benjamin marked a desperate response to his interpretation and intensication of Webers Protestant ethic thesis. In the face of such total theocratic immanence, intensication might appear to provide the only avenue of transcendence. It is a reading that is far from faithful to Weber, although it brings out some interesting implications of the Protestant ethic thesis. But it was an interpretation largely governed by the early development of Benjamins social and political thought. His early critique of theocracy related the divine to organizational structures such as church or state and not to broader social and economic organization. Webers Protestant ethic, however, forced Benjamin to entertain the prospect of a broader social and economic diffusion of theocratic structures. Benjamin took literally Webers citation of Sebastian Brandts ironic comment on Luther who in leaving the monastery left us all monks. Capitalism, far from being an agent of secularization, might itself be a mutated form of religion, and if so, then the possibilities for revolutionary action were narrow or only conceivable in catastrophic or nihilistic terms. The sense of reaching an impasse in Capitalism as Religion is supported by Benjamin interrupting his explicit work on social and political theory and turning to other interests. But the thesis of capitalism as religion was not abandoned, nor the possibility for a non-theocratic politics, nor the active nihilism of revolution as catastrophe. The Origin of German Tragic Drama takes up again the theme of the political theology of the CounterReformation and Protestantism, examining it in terms of the mourning play (Trauerspiel). Benjamin reads forgotten Protestant mourning plays, in the same way that Weber read Protestant moral casuistry, as evidence of the tormented negotiation of the removal of God from the world. However, by identifying the organizing principle of the mourning play as repetition and the stylistic mode as allegorical, Benjamin was able to nd an exit from despair in the intensied repetition of repetition that deprives meaninglessness itself of meaning. The allegorical nihilism that strips transcendence of any signicance and makes all meaning immanent to itself breaks down when its immanence or transitoriness is not signied or allegorically presented, so much as its own signicance as allegory (OT, p. 233). With this, the Protestant contemplation of the vanity of a world without God faithlessly leaps forward to the idea of resurrection (OT, p. 232). In the contemporaneous One Way Street Benjamin intimated another line of social and political argument that contrasted with the catastrophic revolution of the mourning play. Returning to an approach opened in World and Time but left unexplored, Benjamin sought a means of escape

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from Nietzschean active nihilism through considering the zone of politics that governed the body without religious law in terms of technology. In the concluding section, To the Planetarium, Benjamin describes the development of the superhuman not in terms of willing repetition but through the emergence of a new technological relation between nature and the human: Men as species completed their development thousands of years ago; but mankind as a species is just beginning his. In technology, a physis is being organised through which mankinds contact with the cosmos takes a new and different form from that which it had in nations and families. (SW 1: 487) The technological physis or zone of the political reorganized the relationship of humanity to the cosmos in a different way to the catastrophic nihilism of the bermensch. Instead of poising social and political action upon the single decision at the zenith of catastrophe, the technological body was in a state of continuous emergence. Yet the energies in terms of speed and power released by its development could become destructive if abused. Benjamin ends One Way Street with the transcendent energies released by technology ready to realize themselves in a new covenant between man and the cosmos or annihilate themselves in warfare. The sense of an imminent crisis requiring a decision that emerged from the reading of Weber is similar to that arrived at by Carl Schmitt in his Political Theology.2 The proximity between Benjamin and Schmitts thought, exemplied by the letter to Schmitt when Benjamin sent him a copy of The Origin of German Tragic Drama (You will quickly notice how much this book, in its exposition of the doctrine of sovereignty, owes to you) may also be traced to the debates around the Protestant ethic in the early 1920s. The rst three chapters of Schmitts Political Theology (there are four) Denition of Sovereignty The Problem of Sovereignty as the Problem of the Legal Form and of the Decision and Political Theology originally appeared as Sociology of the Concept of Sovereignty in a collection of essays in memory of Weber, Erinnerungsgabe fr Max Weber.3 Schmitt argues here and elsewhere, that the state completes the Reformation taking over from the church the power of absolute decision. Schmitts rigorous and implacable analysis of the transformation of church into absolute state as the outcome of the Reformation is not only a fundamental criticism of Webers thesis but also a strange complement to Benjamins argument in Capitalism as Religion. For Benjamin, religion was identied with capitalism, while for Schmitt the state is identied with capitalism. Benjamin would experiment with Schmitts thesis in The Origin of German Tragic Drama , but in the gure of the mad sovereign would show the identication of religion and state to lead not to decision but to madness. At the same time, however, in One Way Street , he was developing another

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account of political theology based on a technological cosmopolitics. His Arcades Project of the 1930s would develop further this project. In the Arcades Project Benjamin attempted to bring together the theocratic and technocratic strands of his political theology. The project tries to explain why the utopian social and political potential of technology intimated in the Parisian arcades of the early decades of the nineteenth century was not realized. His explanation evoked the theme of capitalism as religion, arguing that the fetish commodity harnessed the energies released by technology to the ends of commodity production. The themes of Capitalism as Religion are ubiquitous throughout the Arcades Project, as are its four structural principles. First of all, Parisian high capitalism is analysed in terms of the cult of the exchange of commodities. Second, the cult of exchange is characterized as total immanence, or the eternal return of the same, with the entire universe and the eternity of the future reduced to the status of exchange value (a condition exemplied for Benjamin by Grandevilles illustrations). Third, it is a system that creates guilt/debt, analysed in terms of Baudelaires allegorical melancholy, and nally it possesses a guilty secret that is its self-overcoming whether as self-destruction or as its transformation into socialism. The main conceptual difference between Capitalism as Religion and the Arcades Project consists in the role given to technology as a source of transcendence: a difference that removes the latter work from the sphere of political theology since transcendence is no longer thought in terms of divinity but in terms of energy. In the light of this analysis of the tensions within the development of Benjamins political theology it is possible to return to the On Concept of History. The future of political theology is not only restricted to a messianic interruption of previous history but also to an intensication of its previous development. The theological potentials in capitalism which after all for Benjamin is a political theology can be intensied or realized in noncapitalist directions. Thus in Thesis XI Benjamin can nd in Fouriers surprising sound fantasies of the power of technology and co-operative labour a complement to the corrupted conception of labour or Protestant ethic that had been embraced by social democracy. Perhaps these hints in the Theses of a future not governed by the choice between catastrophe and messianic interruption should be explored further. The Fourier comments, for example, point to a trail that leads back through the Arcades Project to Benjamins early political philosophy, his politics, inspired by Scheerbart. In Convolute W on Fourier he wrote: Fouriers conception of the propagation of the phalansteries through explosions may be compared to two articles of my politics: the idea of revolution as an innervation of the technical organs of the collective (analogy with the child who learns to grasp by trying to get hold of the moon) and the idea of the cracking open of natural teleology. (W7, 4)

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He develops the latter argument with a reference to Mickey Mouse in which we nd carried out, entirely in the spirit of Fouriers conceptions, the moral mobilisation of nature . . . Mickey Mouse shows how right Marx was to see in Fourier, above all else, a great humorist. The cracking open of natural teleology proceeds in accordance with the plan of humour (W8a, 5). In place of the Protestant ethic embraced by social democracy emerges a notion of technology that releases rather than contains energy. Perhaps the most extra-ordinary development of the cosmopolitical technological development of the political theology of the On Concept of History is a fragment on Scheerbart from 1940. With it Benjamin returns to the original inspiration of his political theology, a reading of Scheerbart in 1914 shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. He recognizes in Scheerbart almost the twin brother of Fourier both of whom are able to mock current humanity in the name of a faith in the humanity of the future (SW 4: 387). The emergence of this humanity is related to the development of a liberatory technology: an idea which as seen marks a development of political theology. Benjamin notes that this non-messianic possibility of a liberated future invoked by Scheerbart involved a humanity which had deployed its full range of technology and put it to human use. To achieve this state of affairs, Scheerbart believed that two conditions were essential: rst people should discard the base and primitive idea that the task was to exploit the forces of nature; second, they should be true to the conviction that technology, by liberating human beings, would fraternally liberate the whole of creation (SW 4:386). With the latter idea of a cosmic liberation achieved through technology the Benjamin of 1940 returns to the utopian insight of the Benjamin of 1916 who wrote On Language as Such and on the Language of Man. The presence of a non-messianic political theology in the On Concept of History does not replace the messianic, but situates it in a more complex conguration. The middle and the nal theses perhaps should be seen as posing an alternative within the alternative to catastrophe. Decision, in this case, would not be simply between the alternatives of a catastrophic or the messianic end of history, but between the end of history and its radical and immanent transformation.

Notes
CHAPTER 1
1 See, for example, Arthur Danto, The Transguration of Commonplace (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) and Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985). 2 [Greek] statues are now only stones from which the living soul has own, just as the hymns are words from which belief has gone. The tables of the gods provide no spiritual food and drink, and in his games and festivals man no longer recovers the joyful consciousness of his unity with the divine. G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit (1807), trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 455. No matter how excellent we nd the statues of the Greek gods . . . it is no help; we bow the knee no longer. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 1:103. 3 See R. Tiedemann, Studien zur Philosophie Walter Benjamins (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1973); P. Brger, Walter Benjamin: Contribution une thorie de la culturecontemporaine, Revue dEsthtique, new series 1 (1981): 27; R. Rochlitz, Walter Benjamin: Une Dialectique de limage, Critique 39 (1983): 287319. 4 See C. Perret, Walter Benjamin sans destin (Paris: La Diffrence, 1992), pp. 979. 5 For the moment, I refer to the studio because institutional exhibitions (galleries, museums) often have a tendency to reproduce while at the same time transforming of course the intimidating and dogmatic liturgy of the old rituals of display, the old monstrances (ostensions) of images. This fundamental aspect would need a specic analysis devoted to it. 6 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 35:114. See also G. Didi-Huberman, Imaginum picture . . . in totum exoleuit : Der Anfang der Kunstgeschichte und das Ende des Zeitalters des Bildes, Kunst ohne Geschichte? Ansichten zu Kunst und Kunstgeschichte heute, ed. A.-M. Bonner and G. Kopp-Schmidt (Munich: Beck, 1995), pp. 12736. 7 Subject of a work of art and fundamental principle are two meanings of the Greek word hypothesis. 8 E. Panofsky, Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art, in Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939), pp. 331. 9 See G. Didi-Huberman, Dun Ressentiment en mal desthtique (1993), in LArt contemporain en question (Paris: Galerie nationale de Jeu de Paume, 1994), pp. 6588; and its sequel, Post-scriptum: Du ressentiment la Kunstpolitik , Lignes 22 (1994): 2162. 10 Dante, Divine Comedy, Paradise 331.1035. Qual colui che forse di Croazia/viene a veder la Veronica nostra, / che per lantica fame non sen sazia. 11 See J. Lacan, Subversion du sujet et dialectique du desir dans linconscient freudian (1960), in Ecrits (Paris: Le Seuil, 1966), pp. 793827. 12 G. Bataille, Mthode de mditation (1947), Oeuvres completes (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 5:201 [my translation]. 13 On the notion of memory event, see M. Moscovici, Il est arriv quelque chose: Approches de l vnement psychique (Paris: Ramsay, 1989). 14 See G. Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie (Paris: PUF, 1962), p. 55: It is not the same

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that comes back, it is the coming back that is the same as what is becoming [my translation]. 15 [My translation]. See G. Didi-Huberman, Devant l image: Question pose aux ns dune histoire de lart (Paris: Minuit, 1990), pp. 65103. 16 We should note the convergence of this model with the meta-psychological model of a Freudian theory of memory as detailed by Pierre Fdida, especially in Pass anachronique et prsent rminiscent, LEcrit du temps 10 (1986): 2345. 17 See Susan Buck-Morss, The Origin of Negative Dialectics: T.W. Adorno, W. Benjamin, and the Frankfurt Institute (Hassocks: Harvester Press, 1977). On the use of the dialectic in Bataille and Eisenstein, see G. Didi-Huberman, La Ressemblance informe, ou le gai savoir visuel selon Georges Bataille (Paris: Macula, 1995), 201383. On the use of the dialectic in Mondrian, see Y.-A. Bois, LIconoclaste, in Piet Mondrian (Milan: Leonardo Arte, 1994), pp. 33843. 18 This formula is commented on in Perret, Walter Benjamin sans detin , pp. 11217. 19 It seems to me that konvolute N on the theory of knowledge and progress is the best methodological introduction possible to the very problem of art history. 20 I have attempted to develop certain aesthetic implications of this supposition in G. Didi-Huberman, Ce que nous voyans, ce qui nous regarde (Paris: Minuit, 1992), in particular. pp. 12552. 21 This is an essential point of method, which Panofsky formulated clearly in 1932 even though he sometimes forgot to apply it to his own interpretations. See E. Panofsky, Zum Problem der Beschreibung und Inhaltsdeutung von Werken der bildenden Kunst, Logos 21 (1932): 10319. And even if Drer had expressly declared, as other artists later attempted to do, what the ultimate plan of his work of art was, we would rapidly discover that that declaration bypassed the true essential meaning [wahren Wesenssinn] of the engraving and that the declaration, rather than offering us a denitive interpretation, would itself be greatly in need of such an interpretation. [my translation]. 22 Regarding Mondrian, for example, Jean-Claude Lebensztejn has recently proved to be unfair and almost naive in criticizing Bois interpretation because it drops the theosophical paradigm. Lebensztejn makes the criticism with as much vehemence as if Bois were speaking of Masaccios Trinity while spurning the Christian dogma that provided its iconographical programme. J.-C. Lebensztejn, review of the exhibition Piet Mondrian: 18721944 [La Haye, Washington, New York], Cahiers du Muse national dart moderne 52 (1995): 13940. Far from ignoring the role of Theosophy in Mondrians art, Bois says it plays the role of a detonator, and it is very probable that Mondrian would have remained a talented provincial landscape artist if he had not come into contact with it. Bois, LIconoclaste, p. 329 [my translation]. Lebensztejn pretends to ignore the obvious fact that the philosophical or religious commitment of a twentieth-century artist cannot be compared with an iconographical programme of the quattrocento. It is the very notion of programme that is in the question here a notion whose deconstruction abstract art has obviously completed, along with the deconstruction of the entire traditional iconographical approach. Nonetheless, without articulating it clearly, Lebensztejn is getting to the heart of the problem, which concerns the logical and temporal structure to be drawn from the relations in play ambiguous, critical relations between idealism and material engagement (plastic engagement as such), between the discourse of meanings laid claim to and the formal labour actually performed. It is probable that Bois has not yet completely articulated that structure in writing that it is the materiality of the painting itself that [in Mondrian] guarantees the efcacy of his struggle against matter (LIconoclaste, p. 330 [my translation]). Signicantly, it is at that moment in his analysis that Bois comes closest to the question of the dialectic. A remarkable analysis of this type of dialectical reversal has also been done for the case of Paul

Notes

229

23

24 25 26 27 28

29 30

31

Gaugin, in J. Clay, Gaugin, Nietzsche, Aurier: Notes sur le renversement matriel du symbolisme, in LEclatement de l impressionisme (Saint-Germain-en-Laye: Muse dpartmental du Pieur, 1982), pp. 1928. In Ad Reinhardt as well, the ecstatic, auratic and religious references are not lacking: Sacred space, separate, sacred against profane . . . Contemplative act, continuous absorbed attention, kind of sanctity . . . Transcendent, transpersonal, transgurative, transparent . . . Detached territory, pure region, timeless, absolute . . . Painting began by making sacred the things it decorated? Form xed by tradition, mandala, ritual, tanka, Xian, 4 evangelists . . . Gate, door image of opening, possibility of transcendence . . . Product of past. Religious aura. A. Reinhardt, Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings, ed. B. Rose [New York: Viking Press, 1975], pp. 1923). But, as we also know, these references belong to the same system as the deep-seated irreligiosity of what is an essentially ironic and critical artist. See J.-P. Criquei, De visu (le regard du critique), Cahiers de Muse national dart moderne 37 (1991): 8991. How then, to express the structural necessity of that apparent contradiction? Bois, it seems to me, almost succeeds by making the argument for the fragile relation contained, precisely, in the word almost (Y.-A. Bois, The Limit of Almost, in Ad Reinhardt [Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1991], pp. 1133). But in the almost what linguists call a derealizing modier, which tends solely to attenuate the information of the word to which it is applied (see O. Ducot, Les Modicateurs dralisants, Journal of Pragmatics 24 [1995]: 14565) the structural necessity fails to express itself as such: the terms of the relation remain unresolved, in a lesser and not critical state. Only the Benjaminian hypothesis of the dialectical image succeeds, I believe, in expressing that necessity, that true power of ambiguity. See Didi-Huberman, Ce que nous voyons, pp. 14952. C. Greenberg, Review of Exhibitions of Hedda Sterne and Adolph Gottlieb (1947), in The Collected Essays and Criticism , ed. J. OBrian (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 2: 189. Greenberg adds: But as long as this symbolism serves to stimulate ambitious and serious painting, differences of ideology may be left aside for the time being. The test is in the art, not in the program. B. Newman, Response to Celement Greenberg (1947), in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews , ed. J.P. ONeill (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 162. Subsequent quotations in this paragraph are from pp. 1624. T.B. Hess, Barnett Newman (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1971), pp. 1516. On this pictorial period in Newman, see J. Strick, Enacting Origins, in The Sublime is Now: The Early Work of Barnett Newman. Paintings and Drawings, 19441949 (New York: PaceWildenstein, 1994), pp. 731. On the importance of the origin motif in Newmans writings, see J.-C. Lebensztejn, Homme nouveau, art radical, Critique 48 (1991): 32935. Newman, The Plasmic Image (1945), in Selected Writings, pp. 13855, especially p. 139: The failure of abstract painting is due to the confusion that exists in the understanding of primitive art [as well as that] concerning the nature of abstraction. See also idem, The First Man Was an Artist (1947), in Selected Writings pp. 15660. See Newman, The New Sense of Fate (194748), in Selected Writings , pp. 1649. In these pages, the motifs of archaic art, tragedy, and the destruction of Hiroshima are all tied together. Newman, The Plasmic Image, pp. 13855; and, The Sublime is Now (1948), in Selected Writings , pp. 1713. On the aesthetics of the sublime and Newman, see Jean-Franois Lyotard, LInhumain: Causeries sur le temps (Paris: Galile, 1988), pp. 98118. See Hess, Barnett Newman ; B. Richardson, Barnett Newman: Drawing His Way into Painting, in Barnett Newman: The Complete Drawings, 19441969 (Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1979), p. 14.

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Newman, The Sublime is Now, p. 173. Newman, Ohio, 1949, in Selected Writings, pp. 1745. Ibid., p. 174. I take a certain liberty in using conceptual distinctions elaborated in some of my earlier studies. Newman, Ohio, 1949, p. 175. I have commented on this denition in Ce que nous voyons , pp. 10323. We should note the analogy between this kind of experience and those that will later be related by other American artists such as Tony Smith (see Didi-Huberman, Ce que nous voyons, pp. 6384) or, 20 years later, James Turrell in the Arizona desert. G. DidiHuberman, LHomme qui marchait dans la couleur, Artstudio 16 (1990): 617. Drawing (Onement I), ink on paper, 27.6 18.7 cm, Mr and Mrs B. H. Friedman, New York; Onement I, oil on canvas, 69.2 41.2 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Richardson, Barnett Newman: Drawing his Way into Painting, p. 17. On Newmans graphic production in general, see also A. Pacquement, Le Parcours des dessins, and B. Rose, Barnett Newman: Les Oeuvres sur papier, both in Barnett Newman: les dessins. 19441969 (Paris: Muse national dart moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, 1980), pp. 710 and pp. 1229. Rose, Barnett Newman, p. 26. See Hess, Barnett Newman , pp. 5585; H. Rosenburg, Barnett Newman (New York: Abrams, 1978), p. 48; and Strick, Enacting Origins, p. 8. I feel that my zip does not divide my paintings . . . it does not cut the format in half or whatever parts, but it does the exact opposite: it unites the thing. It creates a totality. Newman, Interview with Emile de Antonio (1970), in Selected Writings, p. 306. On that decision to make Onement I incomplete, see Hess, Barnett Newman , 556; and especially Y.-A. Bois, Perceiving Newman (1988), in Painting as Model (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), pp. 19092. See Didi-Huberman, Ce que nous voyons, pp. 10323. H. Damisch, Stratgies, 19501960 (1977), in Fentre jaune cadmium, ou les dessous de la peinture (Paris: Le Seuil, 1984), p. 166. And he adds, as if the effect of depth in painting could be reduced to a procedure, an arbitrary formula [my translation]. For his discussion of a specic optics, see p. 165. But recall that, for Newman, what counts is the scale, which has nothing to do with the objective dimensions of the work of art. See P. Schneider, Les Dialogues du Louvre (1969) (Paris: Adam Biro, 1991), pp. 131 and 149. The size is nothing: what matters is the scale. [Retrait: Both the removal of the adhesive strip and the mark or trace left once it has been removed. trans.] J. Clay, Pollock, Mondrian, Seurat: La profondeur plate, LAtelier de Jackson Pollock (Paris: Macula, 1978; 1994), pp. 1528. Let us recall here the decisive theoretical role played by the staff of the journal Macula , in 197679, regarding the questions of surface and depth. See especially C. Bonnefoi, A Propos de la destruction de lentit de surface, Macula 3.4 (1978): 1636; and, Sur lapparition de visible, Macula 5.6 (1979): 194228. Here I arrive, by other paths, at what Pierre Fdida, speaking of Paul Czanne, Giacometti and Andr du Boucher, magnicently called the indistinct breath of the image [my translation]. See P. Fdida, Le Site de l tranger: La situation psychanalytique (Paris: PUF, 1995), pp. 187220. We could, moreover, continue the excellent analyses of Bois on Mondrian (LIconoclaste, pp. 31377) by working with the hypothesis that Newmans characteristic stumping at the edges, his elaborations on the frame, and his interruptions in the zips may stem from that logic of air, or rather of the aura.

39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46

47

48 49

50

Notes
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See B. Newman, Frontiers of Space: Interview with Dorothy Gees Seckler (1962), in Selected Writing, p. 251: Instead of using outlines, instead of making shapes or setting off spaces, my drawing declares the space. Instead of working with the remnants of space, I work with the whole space. 52 Bois, Perceiving Newman, p. 195 and pp. 31011. 53 See Hess, Barnett Newman , pp. 556; Rosenberg, Barnett Newman , p. 61. Another interpretation even accomplishes the tour de force of reconciling the Jewish messianic yihud and the Christian kenosis in an allegorism of nongurativity. See D. Payot, Tout uniment, in LArt moderne et la question de sacr, ed. J.-J. Nills (Paris: Le Cerf, 1993), pp. 16389. 54 See Bois, Perceiving Newman, pp. 1936 and 203. 55 Newman, Frontiers of Space, p. 250. 56 Newman, The Plasmic Image, p. 145; and idem, The Sublime is Now, pp. 1715. 57 Newman, Interview with Lane Slate (1963), in Selected Writings, pp. 251 and xiii (in another version corrected by Newman himself). 58 In Lebensztejns very apt expression in Homme nouveau, art radical, p. 327 [my translation]. 59 On the notion of the subjectile , see J. Clay, Onguents, fards, pollens, in Bonjour Monsieur Manet (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1983), pp. 624; G. DidiHuberman, La Peinture incarne (Paris: Minuit, 1985), pp. 2562; and J. Derrida, Forcener le subjectile, Natonin Artaud: Dessins et portraits (Paris: Gallimard, 1986), pp. 55108. 60 Fundamental in this respect is the reection found in Newman, The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, 19581966 (1966), in Selected Writings, p. 189: It is as I work that the work itself begins to have an effect on me. Just as I affect the canvas, so does the canvas affect me. 61 In particular, this is the lesson of Gilles Deleuzes remarkable analysis of the work of Samuel Beckett. See G. Deleuze, LEpuis, afterword to S. Beckett, Quad et autres pices pour la tlvision , trans. E. Fournier (Paris: Minuit, 1992), pp. 55106. 62 The trace is the apparition of a proximity, however far away that which it left may be. The aura is the apparition of a distance, however close that which evokes it may be. With the trace, we grasp the thing; with the aura, the thing becomes our master (M16a, 4, my translation). 63 See Didi-Huberman, Devant l image, pp. 22447, and especially the vast survey by H. Belting, Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst (Munich: Beck, 1990) [Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art , trans. E. Jephcott (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994)].

CHAPTER 2
In pursuing these questions, this essay will take up the crucial importance of photography to Benjamins thought, an importance convincingly and extensively explored by Eduardo Cadava in Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997). Indeed, it is only as a consequence of Cadavas study that this essay can be written, and, it is as a contribution to Cadavas study that this reection on photographys relation to place within Benjamins writing is intended while opening the question of the consequences for history of the technical and the, at times, conicted role photography performs within that writing. 2 Only the eye, Benjamin argues, can keep up with speech, something the hand cannot do: since the eye perceives more quickly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was enormously accelerated (GS 1.2: 475/SW 4: 253). 1

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3 Unless otherwise noted all references are to the third version of The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility (GS 1.2: 471508/SW 4: 25183). In many cases, the translation of this and other works from this edition has been modied in order to provide a more accurate reection of Benjamins language. Where these modications occur, the German words or phrases have been inserted parenthetically into the translation. 4 In the collection of Atgets photographs Benjamin was familiar with, Lichtbilder (Paris and Leipzig: Henri Joquires, 1930), none of the explicit street scenes (where the focus of the image is on the street rather than a building or something along or in the street) exhibit human gures (see plates 5, 6, 9, 68 in this edition). However, this is not exclusively true for all of Atgets photographs of such scenes. In some, the ghostly presence of gures who left the frame before the end of the exposure can be seen, in others, there are gures who remain throughout the exposure. These exceptions do not necessarily contradict the observations Benjamin makes after seeing only the 1930 volume. Little is known of Atgets intentions in these photographs whether or not the presence of such gures is incidental to these intentions. 5 The verb treten recurs eight times and frequently, as here, to express when something appears for the rst time or else appears within something else (see GS 1.2: 481n8, 482, 491n20, 500, 502, 503, 507). 6 Charles Baudelaire, Salon de 1859, in Oeuvres compltes (Paris: Pliade, 1976), 2: 618. 7 On the denition of art as a movement from one pole to another see, Reproducibility, GS 1.2: 48283/SW 4: 257. 8 It is in this sense that Susan Blood, in an incisive reading of Baudelaire and Benjamin on photography, remarks: not only is the photograph an object upon which Benjamin may construct a history; photography also becomes the gure for that history (Baudelaire Against Photography, in Baudelaire and the Aesthetics of Bad Faith [Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997], p. 168). 9 Benjamin gives a sense of this when he speaks of the history of exhibition value: in principle the work of art has always been reproducible (GS 1.2: 474/SW 4: 252); and in a note on Raphaels Sistine Madonna Benjamin speaks of the primary exhibition value of Raphaels painting (GS 1.2: 483n11/SW 4: 274n15). The divide between cult and aura on the one hand, and the exhibitional on the other is not so absolute as to preclude the presence of exhibitionality already within the history of the auratic. This sense is reinforced when Benjamin speaks of the anticipation of one form within another: Just as the illustrated newspaper virtually lay hidden within lithography, so the sound lm was latent in photography (GS 1.2: 475/SW 4: 253). 10 See On the Concept of History, Thesis V: The true image of the past its by. The past can be held fast only as an image that ashes up at the moment of its recognizability, and is never seen again (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 390). The verb festhalten , used here to describe the holding of the true image of the past, is also used in Benjamins translation of Monglond. There it describes what the photographic plate does to the past. 11 Benjamin uses the technical word for developer here: Entwickler. 12 See Thesis VI: Articulating the past does not mean recognizing it the way it was (GS 1.2: 695/SW 4: 391). 13 Even historicism is subject to this condition. In Thesis XVI, Benjamin writes, Historicism offers the eternal image [Bild ] of the past (GS 1.2: 702/SW 4: 396). 14 On the interruptive force of this time, see Andrew Benjamin, Benjamins Modernity, in The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin, ed. David S. Ferris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 97-114; repr. in Andrew Benjamin, Style and Time: Essays on the Politics of Appearance (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2005), Ch. 1.

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22 23

24

This passage reoccurs, virtually unchanged except for the removal of quotation marks around Ausschreiten , the replacement of photography by camera, and the addition of two examples (picking up a cigarette lighter or a spoon; however, stepping remains the primary example) in the third version of The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility (GS 1.2: 500/SW 4: 266). This property of photography is also stated earlier in the third version (photography can bring out aspects of the original that are accessible only to the lens (which is adjustable and can easily change viewpoint) but not to the human eye; or it can use certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, to record images which escape natural optics altogether (GS 1.2: 476/SW 4: 254). On the relation of photography to psychoanalysis in Benjamin, which could only be treated here at the risk of repeating the problematic it brings to light as an example, see Cadava, Words of Light , pp. 98100. In the rst version of the Reproducibility essay (a version in which treten occurs less frequently than the third), there is one instance when Benjamin, describing the means by which an art becomes founded on a new practice, writes stepped: An die Stelle ihrer Fundierung aufs Ritual ist ihre Fundierung auf eine andere Praxis getreten: nmlich ihre Fundierung auf Politik (GS 1.2: 442). On this requirement, see GS 1.2: 473/SW 4: 2512. See N3, 1. That Benjamin makes a claim to the contrary is not just an effect of his translation of Monglond, but may also be discerned in one of the most frequently cited sentences of the Reproducibility essay: To an ever increasing degree, the work reproduced becomes the reproduction of a work designed for reproducibility. What is reproduced, the work, is already the reproduction of itself as a work designed to be reproduced. Herein lies its principle of reproducibility. The work is the image of a reproducibility that it reproduces itself in and through this image. Here, what would be the negative in the photographic sense the principle of reproducibility enables but also becomes what is reproduced as it is subsumed into the reproduced image or work. Such is the work of art heralded by the advent of photography for Benjamin. The closest Benjamin comes to invoking explicitly an inversion in On the Concept of History is when he speaks in Thesis VII of brushing history against the grain (GS 1.2: 697/SW 4: 392). Within the history inaugurated by this change in the artistic task, the hand will eventually be reduced to mere gesture but does not disappeare completely, it becomes a sign. On this development, Benjamin cites Valry: Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs with minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign (GS 1.2: 475/SW 4: 253). The ash is referred to three times in On the Concept of History (Theses V, VI, and VII); in Convolute N of the Arcades Project it recurs ve times (N1, 1; N2a, 3; N3, 1; N9, 7 [two instances]). Only once in both On the Concept of History and Convolute N of the Arcades Project does Benjamin speak of an overcoming or berwindung : The overcoming of the concept of progress and the overcoming of the concept of period of decline are one and the same thing (N2, 5). Yet, such overcoming, as Benjamin attests to, is not the end of these concepts an insight that ensures the reproducibility of what Benjamin calls the dialectical image since such concepts carry with them a secret index (GS 1.2: 693/SW 4: 380; Thesis II) to such an image. In this respect, the movement from das blickende Auge to Augenblick repeats the relation of the eye to the image in photography. The image that the eye looking into the lens sees can be read as the look of that eye the image as the Augenblick of das blickende Auge is already an effect of photography, of technology. Here, what is retained

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in the photographic image is not the look of things but the look in which things are seen. Seeing becomes this despite Benjamins methodological intention expressed in Convolute N: Method of this project: literary montage. I have nothing to say. Only to show (N1a, 8). In an entry from Convolute N which can be read as a virtual draft (but with slight variations) for the entry just cited from the Arcades Project also states this coming together in the form of a stepping: zusammentreten (N2a, 3). That progression and continuity dene a temporal relation between what-has-been and the now is also made explicit in N2a, 3. This phrase was also evoked at the end of the Benjamins 1933 text On the Mimetic Faculty. In this context, Benjamin states that such reading is the most ancient reading prior to all languages (GS 2.1: 213/SW 2: 722). In this same text, language, as the nexus of meaning of words or sentences, is the bearer through which, like a ash, similarity appears (GS 2.1: 213/SW 2: 722). If it is through the same ash that the dialectical image appears or comes to light the light of this ash then what could be more closely related to similarity than das bildliche Bild ? In it [the now of recognizability], truth is charged to the bursting point with time (N3, 1). This bursting (zerspringen) can be related to the image in which Benjamin speaks of the present as now-time shot through [eingespringt ] with splinters of messianic time (GS 1.2: 704/SW 4: 397; Thesis A). Without reference to this aspect of the dialectical image, Sylviane Agacinski speaks of the photographic image in these terms: In stopping time, in xing the imprint of things in a motionless image that the gaze can now explore, any photo offers, forever, the never seen (Historical Polemic: The Modernity of Photography, in Time Passing [New York: Columbia University Press, 2003], pp. 878). When this sentence is repeated in Convolute B, Benjamin marks it under the heading Dialectical Image (B3, 7) indicating the proximity of fashion to the nature of this image. For a searching and provocative reading of this relation, see Andrew Benjamin, Being Roman Now: The Time of Fashion. A Commentary on Walter Benjamins On the Concept of History XIV, in Style and Time, Ch. 2. On the timeliness of the Messiah and on how this assures that only the Messiah has messianicity, see Werner Hamacher, Now: Walter Benjamin on Historical Time in the next chapter of this volume, p. 678.

25 26 27 28

29

30

31

32

CHAPTER 3
1 2 3 4 The translations of Walter Benjamins works have occasionally been modied in keeping with the emphasis in the development of the argument. In the notes on Kafka, Benjamin similarly addresses a revolutionary weakness: Revolutionary energy and weakness are for Kafka two sides of one and the same state. His weakness, his dilettantism, his unpreparedness are revolutionary (GS 2.3: 1194). Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis, IN: Hacking, 1996), B 678. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 152. Compare the following note: With the idea of the classless society, Marx has secularized the idea of the messianic time. And that was a good thing to do. Disaster sets in with the social democracy elevating this idea to an ideal. In Neo-Kantian theory, the ideal was dened as an innite task. And this theory was the basic philosophy of the Social Democratic

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Party from Schmidt and Stadler to Natorp and Vorlnder. Once the classless society had been dened as an innite task the empty homogeneous time was transformed as it were into an anteroom where one could wait more or less calmly for the onset of the revolutionary situation. There is, in reality, one moment that did not carry with it its revolutionary chance it just needs to be dened as a specic one, namely as the chance of an entirely new solution in the face of an entirely new task (GS 1.3: 1231). It will not be necessary to point out that the social democratic ideals, which Benjamin blames for the passivity of the working class in the face of National Socialism, were promulgated as regulative ideas in social philosophy in particular in Germany even after the Second World War. They still dominate the discussion today. 5 In particular when reading Thesis XVII and its emphatic talk about arrest and monad, one should keep in mind that probably as early as 1913, but no later than 1917, Benjamin had read Husserls essay Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft from the journal Logos (which was published during 191011), and got to know the rst major attempt of a philosophical critique of historicism and at the same time of psychologism and scientic objectivism (see the letter to Franz Sachs, 11 July 1913 and the one to Gershom Scholem, 23 December 1917, which was important for Benjamins dissertation plans on the philosophy of history [GB 1: 1414 and 40611]). On the decisive p. 50 of his Logos essay Husserl summarizes in a few sentences some of his most important thoughts from his 1905 lectures on the phenomenology of internal time consciousness, Zur Phnomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins , which edited by Edith Stein were published for the rst time in 1928 by Martin Heidegger. There are indications that Benjamin knew Husserls lectures when he started making plans for the historico-critical introduction to his Arcades Project , from which the Theses later emerged. In the Logos essay the psychic is said to be an experience [Erlebnis] viewed in reection, appearing as self through itself, in an absolute ow, as Now [and thus enters] into a monadic unity of consciousness. Husserl complemented the motives of absolute reection, of the Now and of the monadic unity which will play a most important role in Benjamins work by characterizing this monadic unity and the limitless ow of phenomena as a continuous intentional line, which is, as it were, the index of the all-penetrating unity. This intentional line the index is for Husserl the line of the beginning and endless immanent time, of a time as Husserl stresses that is not measured by any chronometer. (This immanent time Husserl talks about is, as in the lectures, the time of the internal time consciousness, in contrast to the objective or transcendental time which can be measured by chronometers). The fact that at this point many more convergences between Husserl and Benjamins motives accumulate can hardly be a coincidence. Nor can it be a coincidence that Benjamins attacks in the Theses on the Philosophy of History are directed at the concept of empathy, which is central in the Logos essay and is also central to the earlier works of Moritz Geiger, a pupil of Husserls, with whom Benjamin studied in Munich. At this point, I can go only briey into the relevant convergence between Husserls lectures on internal time-consciousness and Benjamins notes from the late 1930s: they are mainly found in the conceptions of the image and of the protention of re-remembering. Husserl writes in section 24: Each remembrance contains intentions of expectation, whose fullment leads to the present. And: The re-remembering is not expectation, but it does have a horizon directed towards the future, the future of the re-remembered [Martin Heidegger ed.], The Phenomenology of Internal TimeConsciousness, [The Hague: Nijhoff, 1964]. 6 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason , B 225. 7 Heidegger is mentioned several times in the Convolutes of the Arcades Project , but not even once without Benjamins massive criticism of his philosophy of historical time

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which can be assumed to be the criticism of the philosophy of Being and Time and not just that of Heideggers early Marbach lecture leaving no doubt that Heideggers philosophy of historical time is seen as the only serious philosophical competition to Benjamins planned work. In a letter to Gershom Scholem Benjamin announces that in his introduction to the Arcades Project , which would be a critique of historical knowledge, je trouverai sur mon chemin Heidegger et jattends quelque scintillement de lentre-choc de nos deux manires, tres diffrentes, denvisager lhistoire (letter dated 20 January 1930, GB 3: 503). It would be misleading to assume Heideggers inuence on Benjamins later conception of time and history. This is not just because of the vulgar idea of an inuxus physicus could not do justice to the complexity of both trains of thought but also because that would leave aside the inuence that St Paul, Sren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Edmund Husserl have exerted on both authors. The inuence is particularly apparent in the conceptions of fullment, the fullled time and the moment. The distinction between that which is past and that which has been (Vergangenem und Gewesenem), which Benjamin tries to respect in some of his notes, may have been taken from Being and Time and not from Dolf Sternbergers dissertation Der verstandene Tod . It speaks in favour of the deep impression Heideggers book exerted on Benjamin, perhaps even the threat that he may have felt it posed, that he, together with Brecht, thought of organizing a critical community of reading for the shattering of Being and Time as mentioned in a letter to Gershom Scholem on 25 July 1930 (GB 3). A detailed account of Benjamins relation to Heidegger, which oscillated between fascination and abhorrence, would have to begin with Benjamins engagement with Heideggers habilitation thesis on Duns Scotus theory of categories and meaning (Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre). Such an account could dig deeper into the problems of the work of both authors than the admirers of the one and the despisers of the other would like. 8 Kellers verses cited by Benjamin evoke the reecting shield that paralyses the Gorgon. In Verlornes Recht, verlornes Glck, which peculiarly crosses the positions of Medusa and shield, it is said of a sailor: War wie ein Medusenschild / Der erstarrten Unruh Bild. 9 In the essay on Eduard Fuchs, der Sammler und der Historiker (GS 2.2: 468/SW 3: 288), Benjamin also quotes this passage from the preface to The Origin of German Tragic Drama in the context of formulations that later on contributed to the theses On the Concept of History. 10 The concept is derived from the context of neo-Kantianism and the calculus of the innitesimal and, as an emphatic concept of happening, is here brought up by Benjamin against Hegels discovery of the dialectical thought-time (Denkzeit) and thus against Hegels dialectic as well as at another place against Heideggers phenomenology, which, as Benjamin insists, is unable to set free a strict conception of history, at best a concept of time. Benjamin uses the formula of differentials of time in another place (N1, 2) in the sense of a deviation or digression (albeit a minimal one) away from the grand lines, and thus, once again, from the linear continuum of tradition. In the note relating to Hegel, the concept of the Now of recognizability is also brought into play. It does so as complement of the time differential and thus is not a thought time (Denkzeit) but an event time (Geschehniszeit) a time of the happening of time. Their relation can be formally characterized such that it is only the time differential that opens up the latitude where a Now of recognizability and thus history can happen. Because time differential and Now of recognizability are two aspects of the same happening, it can be said: the Now is differential. The concept of the Now of recognizability, which gives its title to an extended and important reection in the context of the theses On the Concept of History (GS 1.3: 12378/SW 4: 405), nds its most signicant exposition in a text dated by Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhuser to 1920 or 1921. This text asks for the

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11 12

medium of being true (Wahrsein) and truth (Wahrheit) and counters the epistemological dualism (Kants in particular, it seems) with the constitution of things in the Now of recognizability. The Now of recognizability is the logical time, which has to be reasoned for in the place of timeless validity. Logical time, however, is the time of truth which in the Now contains in an unbroken way only itself . That means however: the Now of recognizability, which contains itself, is its own medium it is Now as that which is recognizable and Now, in which cognition is possible, only because it is the point of indifference of both. As such, however, it is the medium in which both move. With this concept of logical time, that is, a time of language that can be characterized as a time of pure mediality in the sense of the essay on language from 1916, Benjamin on the one hand opposes over a period of 20 years the denial or levelling of time in theories of validity and within the Kantian and neo-Kantian epistemology. On the other hand, he also opposes the uncritical assimilation of the concept of history to the concept of time in Hegelian dialectics and Heideggerian phenomenology. With the Now of recognizability Benjamin not only achieved a theory of genuine historical cognition independent of the historical doctrines. With the Now of recognizability he also managed to lead the motives of transcendental and dialectical phenomenology while remaining loyal to them to the point where they leap over into the motive of the possibility of the Now of historical cognition. This is a possibility which does not just contain the resources of any reality, but also determines those resources according to the measure of this possibility, in so far as it is mere possibility. As mere possibility it determines this cognition, however, as a cognition that can be missed. In a text from Zentralpark, cognition is therefore characterized as missable, and even unrescuable if it is reachable only under the conditions of mere recognizability . This text can be read as a predecessor of Thesis V: The dialectic image is an image that ashes up. The image of what has been . . . must be caught in this way, ashing up in the now of recognizability. The redemption enacted in this way, and solely in this way, is won only against the perception of what is been unrescuably lost (GS 1.2: 682/SW 4: 1834). As incomplete as this sentence is, it is clear at the same time: only that which is unrescuable is rescued and even in its rescue it remains unrescuable. This can only mean: the Now of recognizability is the crisis, in which alone the crisis can be rescued and not its positive basic data. The crisis the medium is messianic. In the letters dated 21 December 1972 and 12 January 1973 to Gershom Scholem, in Gershom Scholem, Briefe III, 19711982 , ed. Itta Shedletzky (Munich: Beck, 1999), pp. 299 and 3001. Quoted from Franz Kafka, Hochzeitvorbereitungen auf dem Lande (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1980), p. 67.

CHAPTER 4
1 2 3 4 5 6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 6. Franoise Meltzer, Acedia and Melancholia, in Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History, ed. Michael P. Steinberg (New York: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 145. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , trans. Brian Massumi (London: Athlone Press, 1988), p. 10. Franz Kafka, The Castle, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir (London: Penguin, 1992), p. 17. Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , p. 10. This comment is a reference to Benjamins failed effort to come and join the Frankfurt school in New York and to the title of his article Central Park.

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7 Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka , p. 41. 8 Ibid., p. 57. 9 Ibid., pp. 578. This is also the way Kafka would describe protofascism to Gustav Janovoch in a conversation of 1928. 10 See Momme Brodersen, Walter Benjamin: A Biography, trans. Malcolm R. Green and Ingrid Ligers (London: Verso, 1997), pp. 21819. 11 Juan Insua (ed.), The City of K.: Franz Kafka and Prague (Barcelona: Centre de cultura contemporania de Barcelona, 2002), p. 123. 12 Kafka, In the Penal Colony, in The Transformation and Other Stories , trans. Malcolm Pasley (London: Penguin, 1992), p. 131. 13 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , p. 389. 14 Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel HellerRoazen (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 145. 15 Ibid. 16 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , pp. 1213. 17 Ibid., p. 12. 18 Ibid., p. 15. 19 Ibid., p. 214. 20 Agamben, Homo Sacer, p. 50. 21 Ibid., p. 53. 22 Ibid., pp. 523. 23 Ibid., p. 55. 24 Ibid., p. 57. 25 Ibid., p. 55. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid., p. 53. 28 Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale (London: Athlone Press, 1990), p. 174. 29 Ibid., p. 175. 30 Agamben, Homo Sacer, p. 65. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Deleuze and Guattari, On the Line, trans. John Johnston. (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986), p. 19. 34 Fredrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. R.J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 634. 35 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , p. 16. 36 Ibid., p. 12. 37 Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka , p. 12. 38 Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces, Diacritics 16 (1986): 25. 39 Reda Bensmaa, Foreword: The Kafka Effect, in Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka , p. xi. 40 Ibid. 41 Irving Wohlfarth, No-mans Land: On Walter Benjamins Destructive Character, in Walter Benjamins Philosophy, eds Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (Manchester: Clinamen, 2000), p. 164. 42 Ibid. 43 Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka , p. 73. 44 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus , p. 12. 45 All quotations in this paragraph are from A Thousand Plateaus , p. 12. 46 Ibid., p. 18. 47 Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka , p. 4.

Notes
48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 Ibid., p. 42. Ibid., pp. 1617. Ibid., pp. 212. Deleuze, The Fold , trans. Tom Conley (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p. 62. Ibid., p. 62. Ibid. Ibid., p. 63. Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p. 154. Ibid., p. 174. Ibid., p. 31.

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CHAPTER 5
1 Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia, Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works , ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1960), 18: 253. Henceforth references to this edition are abbreviated as SE . 2 See for some of these vacillations, the various histories provided by Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); Julia Kristeva, Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989); and, Giulia Schiesari, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), together with the inaugural work by Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy (New York: Basic Books, 1964). 3 See Agamben, Stanzas. 4 Cf. Jean Starobinski, La Mlancolie au miroir (Paris: Julliard, 1989). 5 See Freud, Fetishism, SE 21: 155 f. and Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence, SE 23: 2718. 6 Cf. Octave Mannoni, Je sais bien . . . mais quand mme: la croyance, in Clefs pour l imaginaire ou lautre scne (Paris: Seuil, 1969). 7 Cf. Andreas Huyssen, Monuments and Holocaust Memory in a Media Age, in Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia (New York and London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 24960. 8 Slavoj Zizek, The Plague of Fantasies (London: Verso, 1989). 9 Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tbingen: Niemeyer, 1927), section 27. 10 Pierre Nora (ed.), Les Lieux de memoire, 3 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1997). 11 The oscillation is reected in the contrast between the description in the Abri b , where the ego structurally assumes the unstable condition of fragmentation and supplementary accretion it perceives in the object, and the New Introductory Lectures, in which splitting, now generalized to the point of a universal topographical structure, is dissected in terms of a crystalline division temporary and recuperable along stable, pre-established lines. Thus, on the one hand, Outline of Psychoanalysis, SE 23: 204: Disavowals of this kind occur very often and not only with fetishists; and whenever we are in a position to study them they turn out to be half-measures, incomplete attempts at detachment from reality. The disavowal is always supplemented by an acknowledgement; two contrary and independent attitudes always arise and result in the situation of there being a splitting of the ego. Once more the issue depends on which of the two can seize hold of the greater intensity. Compare, on the other hand, New Introductory Lectures , Lecture XXIII, SE 22: 58 f.:

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So the ego can be split; it splits itself during a number of its functions temporarily at least. Its parts can come together afterwards. That is not exactly a novelty, though it may be putting an unusual emphasis on what is generally known. On the other hand, we are familiar with the notion that pathology, by making things larger and coarser, can draw attention to normal conditions which would otherwise have escaped us. Where it points to a breach or a rent, there may normally be an articulation present. If we throw a crystal to the oor, it breaks; but not into haphazard pieces. It comes apart along its lines of cleave into fragments whose boundaries, though they were invisible, were predetermined by the crystals structure. Cf. Freud, Analysis Terminable and Interminable, SE 23: 241. Cf. Freud, Medusas Head, SE 18: 273. Sren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and Repetition , ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 136: He was deeply and fervently in love, that was clear, and yet a few days later he was able to recollect his love. He was essentially through with the entire relationship. In beginning it, he took such a tremendous step that he leaped over life. If the girl dies tomorrow, it will make no essential difference; he will throw himself down again, his eyes will ll with tears again, he will repeat the poets words again. What a curious dialectic! He longs for the girl, he has to do violence to himself to keep from hanging around her all day long, and yet in the very rst moment he became an old man in regard to the entire relationship . . . Recollection has the great advantage in that it begins with the loss; the reason it is safe and secure is that it has nothing to lose. Nietzsches analysis of the it was the fantasy of the spectator before the pageant of ever-completed history is rigorously parallel. Nietzsche, On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, Untimely Meditations and Beyond Good and Evil 277: The everlasting pitiful too late! The melancholy of everything nished ! . . . Again, Nietzsche demonstrates the profound complicity between the too early and the too late at the level of fantasy: The problem of those who wait It requires luck and much that is incalculable if a higher human being in whom there slumbers the solution of a problem is to act break out one might say at the right time. Usually it does not happen, and in every corner of the earth there are people waiting who hardly know to what extent they are waiting but even less that they are waiting in vain. Sometimes the awakening call, that chance event which gives permission to act, comes but too late when the best part of youth and the strength to act has already been used up in sitting still; and how many a man has discovered to his horror when he rose up that his limbs had gone to sleep and his spirit was already too heavy! It is too late he has said to himself, having lost faith in himself and henceforth forever useless. (Beyond Good and Evil 274) Marcel Proust, A la Recherche du temps perdu . Cf. Freud, Fetishism, p. 154. For a fuller reading of the AdornoBenjamin entanglement in terms of the theological Bilderstreit or iconoclastic controversy see Rebecca Comay, Materialist Mutations of the Bilderverbot , in Andrew Benjamin (ed.), Walter Benjamin and Art (London: Continuum, 2004), pp. 3259. Motifs are assembled without being developed (C , p. 580). Note how the charge more or less resumes Lukcs own earlier opposition between narration and description in Narrate or Describe?, in Writer and Critic and Other Essays (London: Merlin, 1978), pp. 11048.

12 13 14

15

16 17 18

19

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20 See Irving Wohlfarths suggestive essay Et Cetera? Lhistorien comme chiffonier, in Heinz Wismann (ed.), Walter Benjamin et Paris (Paris: Cerf, 1986), pp. 559610. 21 Cf. Wohlfarth, Et Cetera? 22 Cf. Susan Buck-Morss, The Flneur, the Sandwichman, and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering, New German Critique 39 (1986): 99141. 23 Cf. Max Pensky, Tactics of Remembrance: Proust, Surrealism, and the Origin of the Passagenwerk , in Michael P. Steinberg (ed.), Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), pp. 16489. 24 Cf. Benjamins citation of Flaubert in the Theses on History (GS 1.2: 696): Peu de gens devineront combien il a fallu tre triste pour ressusciter Carthage . . . 25 See in particular Eduardo Cadavas exemplary remarks on the conjunction of these two texts and on the essentially photographic nature of historical memory (and vice versa) in Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).

CHAPTER 6
1 Thus the editors of a German collection of essays on Kierkegaard lament the fact that Benjamin, with the exception of his review of Adornos book on Kierkegaard had nothing to say about Kierkegaard: Leider hat er sich ber Kierkegaard andernorts [except in the review of Adornos book on Kierkegaard] nicht geub ert. Dab er ihn gleichwohl verarbeitet, lbt zumal seine Geschichtsphilosophie vermuten. In ihr scheint er geradezu darauf aus zu sein, Kierkegaards theologische Intention aus ihren idealistischen Fesseln zu lsen. Michael Theunissen and Wilfried Greve (eds), Materialien zur Philosophie Sren Kierkegaards (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1979), p. 80. 2 I am referring mainly to the rst version of 1931: Was ist das epische Theater? (GS 2.2: 51931). Translations, if not otherwise indicated, are my own. 3 Worum es heute im Theater geht, lbt sich genauer mit Beziehung auf die Bhne als auf das Drama bestimmen. Es geht um die Verschttung der Orchestra. Der Abgrund, der die Spieler vom Publikum wie die Toten von den Lebendigen scheidet, der Abgrund, dessen Schweigen im Schauspiel die Erhabenheit, dessen Klingen in der Oper den Rausch steigert, dieser Abgrund, der unter allen Elementen der Bhne die Spuren ihres sakralen Ursprungs am unverwischbarsten trgt, ist funktionslos geworden. 4 Wenn Du nmlich von meinem zweiten Entwurf schreibst darin wrde man nie die Hand WBs erkennen, so nenne ich das doch ein wenig geradezu gesagt und Du gehst dabei bestimmt ber die Grenze hinaus, an der Du gewib meiner Freundschaft nicht aber meiner Zustimmung sicher bist. [. . .] Der WB hat und das ist bei einem Schriftsteller nicht selbstverstndlich darin aber sieht er seine Aufgabe und sein bestes Recht zwei Hnde. Ich hatte es mir mit vierzehn Jahren eines Tages in den Kopf gesetzt, ich msse links schreiben lernen. Und ich sehe mich heut noch Stunden und Stunden an meinem Schulpult in Haubinda sitzen und ben. Heute steht mein Pult in der Bibliothque Nationale den Lehrgang so zu schreiben habe ich da auf einer hhern Stufe auf Zeit! wieder aufgenommen. (Letter to Gretel Karplus, 1 September 1935, GB 5: 151). 5 Das saturnische Tempo der Sache hatte seinen tiefsten Grund in dem Proze einer vollkommenen Umwlzung, den eine aus der weit zurckliegenden Zeit meines unmittelbar metaphysischen, ja theologischen Denkens stammende Gedanken- und Bildermasse durchmachen mubte, um mit ihrer ganzen Kraft meine gegenwrtige Verfassung zu nhren. Dieser Prozeb ging im stillen vor sich; ich selber habe so wenig

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von ihm gewubt, dab ich ungeheuer erstaunt war, als einem uerlichen Anstob zufolge der Plan des Werkes vor kurzem in ganz wenigen Tagen niedergeschrieben wurde. (letter to Werner Kraft, 25 May 1935, GB 5: 889). Sie mssen mir erlauben in diesem Umstand eine besonders bedeutsame Besttigung des Umschmelzungsprozesses zu sehen, der die ganze, ursprngliche metaphysisch bewegte Gedankenmasse einem Aggregatzustand entgegengefhrt hat, in dem die Welt der dialektischen Bilder gegen alle Einreden gesichert ist, welche die Metaphysik provoziert. (Letter to Adorno, 31 May 1935, GB 5: 98). So viel ist sicher: das konstruktive Moment bedeutet fr dieses Buch was fr die Alchemie der Stein der Weisen bedeutet. (Letter to Gretel Karplus and Adorno, 16 August 1935, GB 5: 143). The curious status the Liaisons dangereuses had for Benjamin is expressed in a letter to Adorno on 29 January 1937: Sie haben mir gestern eine grob e Freude gemacht. Die Geschichte der Rolle, die die Liaison dangereuses fr mich gespielt haben, hren Sie einmal mndlich von mir. Genug, dab sie so verlief, da ich das Buch bis heute noch nicht gelesen habe. Ihr Geschenk erffnet mir einen unvermuteten gewib den fr mich gangbaren Weg zu Laclos. (You gave me great pleasure yesterday. I will tell you the story of the role the Liaisons dangereuses have played for me sometime orally. Sufce it that it had the effect that I have not read the book to this date. Your present opens up an unexpected and for me possible way to Laclos.) GB 5: 454. Karl Marx, Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, in Politische Schriften, ed. Hans-Joachim Lieber (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1975), 1: 275. Friedrich Hlderlin, Bldigkeit, vv. 5 and 2, in Smtliche Werke und Briefe, ed. Michael Knaupp (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1992), 1: 443. Ob ich den Bogen jemals so werde spannen knnen, da der Pfeil abschnellt, ist natrlich dahingestellt. Whrend aber meine sonstigen Arbeiten recht bald den Terminus gefunden hatten, an dem ich von ihnen schied, werde ich es mit dieser lnger zu tun haben. Warum, deutet das Bild vom Bogen an: hier habe ich es mit zwei Enden zugleich zu tun, nmlich dem politischen und dem mystischen (GB 4: 5134). Friedrich Hlderlin, Smtliche Werke und Briefe, 2: 53. Again we might hear an echo from Marxs Der achtzehnte Brumaire where the proletariat disappears in the background of the revolutionary stage after the June revolt (Mit dieser Niederlage tritt das Proletariat in den Hintergrund der revolutionren Bhne, p. 279). But it is from that background of the stage from where the ghost that haunts Europe emerges and from which a trembling emanates through France and Europe: nicht nur Frankreich, ganz Europa zitterte vor dem Junierdbeben (ibid., p. 280). Danish quotations from Sren Kierkegaard, Frygt og Baeven, Samlede Vaerker, ed. Peter P. Rohde (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1962), 5: 39; German quotations from the edition of 1923 that was available to Benjamin: Sren Kierkegaard, Furcht und Zittern / Die Wiederholung, trans. H.C. Ketels, H. Gottsched and Chr. Schrempf, (Jena: Eugen Diedrichs, 1923), p. 37; English quotations from the Princeton edition: S. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling. Repetition, in Kierkegaards Writings, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 4: 41. Kierkegaard was indeed slightly hunchbacked. Dies ist auf menschliche Weise nur zwiefach mglich: in religiser oder politischer Observanz. Einen Unterschied dieser beiden Observanzen in ihrer Quintessenz gestehe ich nicht zu. Ebensowenig jedoch eine Vermittlung. Ich spreche hier von einer Identitt, die sich allein im paradoxen Umschlagen des einen in das andere (in welcher Richtung immer) und unter der unerllichen Voraussetzung erweist, dab jede Betrachtung der Aktion rcksichtslos genug, und radikal in ihrem eignen Sinne verfhrt. (Letter to Scholem, 29 May 1926, GB 3: 1589).

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1 See Longinus, Peri Hupsous , 43. 2 Of Experience, in The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journals, Letters , trans. Donald M. Frame (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1948) is the conclusion of Montaignes Essays and it consists of an inventory of the authors bodily and habitual attitudes. On this famous essay, see Jean Starobinski, The Bodys Moment, trans. John A. Gallucci, Yale French Studies 64 (1983): 273305; on Rabelais lists, see Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World , trans. Hlne Iswolky (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1984), passim and Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes towards a Historical Poetics, in The Dialogic Imagination , trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1988), pp. 167206; on the use of lists in La Popelinires perfect history see Zachary Sayre Schiffman, On the Threshold of Modernity: Relativism in the French Renaissance (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), chs 1 and 2. 3 Michel Foucault, Preface to The Order of Things: An Achaeology of the Human Sciences (London: Routledge, 2002), pp. xvixxvi. (The French title is Les Mots et les choses [1966]). 4 For Benjamins attitude to Warburg vis--vis the independence of disciplines, or, as Benjamin also called it, cultural history, see Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamins Concept of Cultural History, in David S. Ferris (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 839. Another article on the relation between Benjamin and the Warburg school that deserves mention is Beatrice Hanssens Portrait of Melancholy (Benjamin, Warburg, Panofsky), in Gerhard Richter (ed.), Benjamins Ghosts: Interventions in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Studies (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 16988. Although Hanssen does not address explicitly the issue of the independence of disciplines, her reading is still valuable for the investigation of the subject of history in showing that what distinguishes Benjamins method from Warburgs method is that for the former there is a disappearance of the human (p. 186). 5 Andrew Benjamin, Benjamins Modernity, in Ferris (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin , p. 113. 6 The historical method is a philological method, writes Benjamin in a note from the Paralipomena titled Dialectical Image (SW 4: 405/GS 1.3: 1238). And the philologist is, according to the essay on the Elective Afnities, the chemist who investigates the ashes of the pyre i.e. the material content of the work of art, or the historical pile of catastrophes. The constructive principle of historical materialism presupposes destruction (cf. N7, 6). 7 The culmination of historicism equates universal history with the third sense of historicism indicated earlier, the positivism claiming to present the facts as they really were. 8 The metaphor of the positivist historian as a collector of index cards comes from Carl Becker, Detachment and the Writing of History: Essays and Letters , ed. Phil Snyder (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1958), pp. 245. 9 The Storyteller is of course much more complex. The argument unfolds partly as a contrast between storytelling and the novel. See Timothy Bahtis Death and Authority: Benjamins The Storyteller, in Allegories of History: Literary Historiography after Hegel (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), pp. 22654 for an incisive reading of the difference between the two genres in terms of the temporality of the end and of ending. 10 Herodotus with an English Translation , trans. A.D. Godley (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1957), 2: 21. 11 The inadequacy of the question is indicated by the indecision as to who really is in control. Thus Jrgen Habermas discerns Benjamins failed notion of history in that

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materialism cannot be tted into theology, if the dwarf representing theology is taken to be in control (Walter Benjamin: Consciousness-Raising or Rescuing Critique, in Gary Smith (ed.), On Walter Benjamin: Critical Essays and Recollections [Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988], pp. 11314). Conversely, Bahti emphasizes Benjamins assertion that the puppet takes the chess-player into its service, and correctly shows that this reversal of control presents a chiasmus between the two terms (Bahti, History as Rhetorical Enactment: Walter Benjamins Theses On the Concept of History , in Allegories of History, pp. 2001). However, in relation to subjectivity Bahtis reading requires a further step: the subject is not presented in the reversal of control between man and puppet, but rather in the process of reversibility that the relation between man and puppet makes possible. Ian Balfour perceives this process of reversibility but concludes from this that the puppet and dwarf . . . have to combine forces, and it is the cooperation of the two that guarantees victory in the chess game of history (Reversal, Quotation (Benjamins History), MLN 106 [1991]: 627). This image of an alliance between the man and the puppet may be construed as purporting that they are independent entities. Reversibility must emphasize instead the complicity between man and puppet which undoes any notion of cooperation between individual parties.

CHAPTER 8
1 2 3 4 5 I wish to thank heartily Antoine Parzy for his helpful contribution to this work. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 2. Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, 1968), p. 199. D. N. Fustel de Coulanges, Histoire des institutions politiques de lancienne France, t. III, La monarchie Franque (Brussels: Ed. Culture et civilisation, 1964), p. ii. See on this point Jean Grondin, Introduction H-G Gadamer (Paris: Le Cerf, 1999). Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, in Gesammelte Werke (Tbingen, J.C.B Mohr, 1990), 1: 295 / Truth and Method , rev. trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1989), p. 290. Gadamer, Vorwort zur 2. Auage, in Gesammelte Werke 1: 443. Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (London: Faber & Faber, 1954), p. 3.

6 7

CHAPTER 9
1 Clearly the other important thinker about boredom is Martin Heidegger. While both Heidegger and Benjamin locate boredom as a condition of the modern and thus as one of the moods of modernity, there is a fundamental difference as to how the conception of the present is understood and thus in the way that it determines the philosophical project. For Heideggers most sustained engagement with boredom see his The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, trans. William McNeill and Nicholas Walker (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995). 2 I have tried to give a detailed account of this conception of the present in my Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism (London: Routledge, 1997). 3 Benjamins relation to Kant is a topic of research in its own right. In general terms however, Kant positions Space and Time as providing the conditions of possibility for experience. They are the pure forms of sensible intuition (Critique of Pure Reason , trans. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], A

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39). While experience is essential in terms of its possibility, what is left untreated by denition is the nature of the experience and any strong conception of the experiencing subject. Ambivalence is an ontological state, rather than one linked to the relativism of epistemology. What this means is that ambivalence is an aspect that is constitutive of subjectivity itself. Within the prevailing presence of ambivalence, knowledge is essential. The heritage in which the technology of art is discussed usually oscillates between two predetermined positions. In the rst instance the term technology assumes a monolithic quality and is thus not able to be used effectively to account for different and conicting practices that stem from the same technological source. While in the second techniques, as a domain of practice, are linked to a humanist conception of techne and as such presented in terms of human skill. The hand works with the machine. As opposed to both of these directions of research what needs to be pursued is what could be described as the development of an ontology of techniques. This is of course a project to come. However it is one that can be located within a mode of thinking that begins with Benjamin. I have tried to provide a more sustained version of this argument in Disclosing Spaces: On Painting (Manchester: Clinamen, 2004), see in particular Chs. 1 and 3. For other uses of the term distraction, see for example Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament , trans. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). One of Kracauers formulations opens up the question of who sees and thus the nature of the subject of distraction. Writing of the interior design of the cinema he notes that the stimulation of the senses succeed one another with such rapidity that there is no room left between them even for the slightest contemplation (p. 326). The temporality of this movement one marked by the elimination of any possible intervention is implicitly challenged by Benjamins notion of distraction. The audiences state of absorption retains a partiality precisely because of the ineliminability of the potential for criticality. For a detailed investigation of the complex politics of Fury see Anton Kaes, A Stranger in the House: Fritz Langs Fury and the Cinema of Exile, New German Critique (2003), 89: 3358. An obvious site in which it would be possible to begin to identify this development is in Freuds Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychoanalytical Works of Sigmund Freud , trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1973), 17: 65143. The value of Freuds work is the way it complicates any straightforward distinction between the individual and the group. What is interesting with Benjamin however is the possibility of introducing not the constraint of the ego-ideal, but a relationship between distraction and criticality that links their presence to a founding ambivalence. The ambivalence means that the critical will have a relation to formal presence, rather than the projection of one content as opposed to another. While it cannot be undertaken here, the question of ambivalence as a motif in psychoanalysis would need to be pursued through section II of Totem and Taboo. While its detail cannot be pursued, here the distinction between authentic and inauthentic self is formulated in Being and Time in the following terms: The self of everyday Dasein is the they-self which we distinguish from the authentic self that is from the self which has been taken hold of in its own way. As the they-self, the particular Dasein has been dispersed into the they, and must rst nd itself . Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1978), p. 167. The iconoclasm involves the need to retain technique and thus abstraction as site of the political and not to identify the political nature of art with content. As such the

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image must always be secondary. What matters therefore is not an image but an understanding of techniques within which (and with which) the future is produced. It is in this regard that it becomes possible to link the political in art to abstraction where the latter is understood as a site of potential. See in this regard Werner Hamacher, Afformative, strike: Benjamins Critique of Violence , in Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (eds), Walter Benjamins Philosophy. Destruction and Experience (Manchester: Clinamen, 2000), pp. 10837. This is of course the point at which the encounter with Nietzsche has to be staged. The section from The Gay Science that Benjamin quotes would need to be the site of engagement.

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CHAPTER 10
1 An earlier conception of the bourgeois domestic interior emphasizes this aspect of mortication: The bourgeois interior of the 1860s to the 1890s with its gigantic sideboards distended with carvings, the sunless corners where potted palms sit, the balcony embattled behind its balustrade, and the long corridors with their singing gas ames ttingly houses only the corpse. On this sofa the aunt cannot but be murdered. The soulless luxury of the furnishings becomes true comfort only in the presence of a dead body. (SW 1: 447) 2 Mario Praz, An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration from Pompeii to Art Nouveau , trans. William Weaver (London: Thames & Hudson, 1964), pp. 178. 3 Ibid., p. 25. 4 For a more detailed account of how Benjamins thinking critiques conventional ways of writing the history of the interior, privacy and domesticity, see Charles Rice, Rethinking Histories of the Interior, The Journal of Architecture 9.3 (2004): 27587. 5 While Benjamins notational thinking on the interior is not conned to Convolute I, it does offer the most intense coalescence of thinking and sources on the interior. 6 Rolf Tiedemann, Dialectics at a Standstill: Approaches to the Passagen-Werk, in AP, p. 931. 7 Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, Translators Foreword, in AP, p. xi. 8 Ibid., p. xi. 9 Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), p. 6. 10 Ibid., p. 6. 11 Ibid., p. 59. 12 Pierre Missac, Walter Benjamins Passages, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), p. 136. 13 Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). 14 See Peter Thornton, Authentic Dcor: The Domestic Interior 16201920 (New York: Viking, 1984), pp. 1011. 15 Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, The Plane of Immanence, in What is Philosophy? trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 38. 16 For a discussion of the status of the two exposs in Benjamins conception of The Arcades Project , see Missac, Walter Benjamins Passages, pp. 13945.

Notes CHAPTER 11
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8 9 10

The letter is published in Sokratis Georgiadiss introduction to the English translation of Sigfried Giedion, Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferro-Concrete, trans. J. Duncan Berry (Santa Monica, CA: The Getty Center Publication Programmes, 1995), p. 53. Noting Benjamins remark on Goethe, Kevin McLaughlin suggests that, the business of criticism for Benjamin was a kind of excavation in the sense of mining taking something out of the earth but in this case, more accurately, also bringing to light . McLaughlin, Virtual Paris: Benjamins Arcade Project, in ed. Gerhard Richter (ed.), Benjamins Ghosts (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), p. 212. The intention is not to revive the eighteenth-century archaeological approach to the past, but the act of understanding the past as a recovery, construction based on the memories of the past and the demands of the present. For a critique of archaeology as an approach to the past see Barry Bergdol, Archaeology vs. History: Heinrich Hbschs Critique of Neoclassicism and the Beginnings of Historicism in German Architectural History, Oxford Art Journal 5 (1983): 313. I am paraphrasing Walter Benjamins remarks mainly because he refers to the angel as a male person. For the history and a comprehensive account of Benjamins thesis on history see O.K. Werckmeister, Walter Benjamins Angel of History, or the Transguration of the Revolutionary into the Historian, Critical Review 10 (1996): 23967. On the concept of ruin in Walter Benjamins discourse see Beatrice Hanssen, Walter Benjamins Other History (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1998), Ch. 4, pp. 9681. For transitoriness in reference to fashion and time in Walter Benjamins discourse on history, see Andrew Benjamin, Being Roman Now: The Time of Fashion: A Commentary on Walter Benjamins Theses on the Philosophy of History XIV, Thesis Eleven 75 (2003): 39-53. Franoise Choay, The Invention of the Historic Monument (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 13. Choay pursues the development of the idea of the monument from its anthropological dimension in pre-Renaissance time through Albertis discourse on monument as a work of art, to the nineteenth century when the purpose of the Latin monumentum gave way to the historic monument. I am using image in interchange with the phenomenon of building as discussed by Fritz Brethaupt. According to him, within the phenomenon there is something nonphenomenal that does not appear, and within the event there is something that does not take place. And he continues, history comes into play by delaying the appearance of this nucleus within the phenomenon (History as the Delayed Disintegration of Phenomena in Richter, Benjamins Ghosts , p. 191). According to Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Pre-industrial trafc is mimetic of natural phenomena . . . Only during a transitional period did the travellers who transferred from the stagecoach to the railway carriage experience a sense of loss due to the mechanisation of travel: it did not take long for the industrialisation of the means of transport to alter the consciousness of the passengers: they developed a new set of perceptions. Schiverblusch, Railway Journey: The Industrialisation of Time and Space in the 19th Century (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986), p. 15. See also Sigred Giedion, Mechanisation Takes Command, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). Harry Harootunian, Historys Disquiet (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), p. 19. The true picture of the past its by. The past can be seized only as an image that ashes up at the moment of its recognizability, and is never seen again (SW 4: 390). Hubertus Gassner, The Constructivists: Modernism on the way to Modernization, in The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde, 19151932 (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1992), p. 318.

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Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in the East and West (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), p. 119. 12 Giedion, Building in France, p. 87. Giedions statement in part stimulated Walter Benjamin to invest in technology as the source of new collective needs. After receiving a copy of Giedions book Benjamin admired him in a letter using the following words: I am studying in your book . . . the differences between radical conviction and radical knowledge that refresh the heart. You possess the latter, and therefore you are able to illustrate, or rather to uncover, the tradition by observing the present (quoted in Building in France, p. 53). In Convolute N of the Arcades Project Benjamin returns to Giedion criticizing his inclination for historicism: just as Giedion teaches us to read off the basic features of todays architecture in the buildings erected around 1850, we, in turn, would recognize todays life, todays form, in the life and in the apparently secondary, lost forms of that epoch (N1, 11). Here is Detlef Mertins interpretation of the Benjamins cited statement: In reworking Giedions dualism into a dialectic between physiological processes and phantasmagoric dreams, Benjamin pointed to the immanence of truth within the expression of bodily labours and the physiognomy of historical event (Walter Benjamins Glimpses of the Unconscious: New Architecture and New Optics, History of Photography, 22 (1998): 118. 13 On this subject see Buck-Morss, Dreamworld , especially Ch. 2, On Time, pp. 4296. 14 James S. Ackerman, Origins, Imitation, Conventions (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), p. 249. 15 One is reminded of David Wattkins position in Morality and Architecture (London: Clarendon Press, 1977). 16 I am paraphrasing John McCole in Walter Benjamin and the Antinomies of Tradition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), p. 172. The author makes these claims based on Benjamins remarks in Experience and Poverty (SW 2: 7316). 17 For the complex inuence of Freuds work on Benjamin, see Laurence A. Rickels, Suicitation: Benjamin and Freud, in Benjamins Ghosts , pp. 14253. 18 For a brief and concise documentation of Benajmins attraction to the work of modern architects, specially Le Corbusier and Scheerbart, see Detlef Mertins, The Enticing and Threatening Face of Prehistory: Walter Benjamin and the Utopia of Glass, Assemblage, 29 (1996). 19 Gianni Vattimo, The End of Modernity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), pp. 7989. 20 Hanssen, Walter Benjamins Other History, p. 54. 21 I am beneting from Andrew Benjamins reections on Time and Task: Benjamin and Heidegger Showing the Present, in Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 2655. 22 For Walter Benjamin, revolution, a moment of danger, offers the historian the opportunity to seize hold of a memory as it ashes up (SW 4: 391). 23 The work of two historians amongst others comes to mind: Manfredo Tafuri and Kenneth Frampton. For Tafuri, architectures ideology unfolds itself in a stressful search for a space beyond the domain that is already occupied, or will be occupied, by capitalist forces of production and consumption. Every aspect of the everyday life which in one way or another relates to the art of building has either already been internalized into the representational realm of capitalism or would be part of it through architecture. See Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1976). Important to Framptons discussion of modern architecture are dichotomies such as tradition and innovation, mtier and technology, but also site and material. Frampton reads these dichotomies through Walter Benjamins ideas on the loss of aura and Martin Heideggers discourse on dwelling. What these

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readings entail is the loss of the unity between architecture and place, and the historical impossibility of retaining such a unity even through mechanical reproduction of the object. Thus Framptons quest for modern architecture where the inection of a chosen tectonic penetrates into the inner most recesses of the structure, not as a totalizing force but as declension of an articulate sensibility. See Frampton, Place, Production and Architecture, in Modern Architecture: A Critical History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1980), p. 297. Briey, what makes these two gures important, however, is the difference involved in their emphasis on architectural praxis. While Tafuri expands ones understanding of the problematic of the project of modernity, exploring the work of architects who attempt to retain architectures autonomy in spite of the expected failure, Frampton, instead, highlights marginal victories when aspects of place-making are retained, as the instrumental reason tightens its circle on architecture. Their difference has also to do with the fact that Tafuri recognizes the historicity of separating the task of the historian from that of the architect. The latter, he believed, should design and build, regardless of the historians attempt to disclose the immanent gap between form and meaning in modernity. Framptons methodology, on the other hand, enjoys a strategic doubling: in analysing a building, Frampton tries to understand, as much as possible, how the architect had sought an architectonic solution for the given situation. This is not the rule: the classicatory means employed by historians who are inuenced by post-structuralist theories is different: instead of discussing the work in reference to the project of modernity, an attempt is made to write the history of modern architecture based on themes central to the development of modernism. See, for example, Alan Colquhoun, Modern Architecture (London: Oxford University Press, 2003). His vision of history differs from that of Kenneth Frampton and Manfredo Tafuri. While Frampton sees modernity as an incomplete project, for Tafuri it represents a historical project with its own modalities of closure. On Wlfin see Principles of Art History, trans. M.D. Hottinger (New York: Dover, 1950). Also see Michael Podro, The Critical Art Historians of Art (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), pp. 98-110. On this subject see Harry Francis Mallgrave, Epilogue, The Semper Legacy: Semper and Riegl, in Gottfried Semper (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 35581. Also Debra Schafter, The Order of Ornament, The Structure of Style: The Theoretical Foundations of Modern Art and Architecture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), especially pp. 3259. Alois Riegl, The Dutch Group Portrait, October, 74 (1995): 335. Analysing Rembrandts (The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp), Riegl argued that: The picture accordingly contains a double unity through subordination: rst, between Tulp and the seven surgeons, all of whom subordinate themseleves to him as the lecturer, and, second, between the crowning surgeon and the beholder, the latter subordinated to the former and indirectly through him to Tulp in turn. Such a perception of the beholder and painting remains, according to Rigel, closely dependent upon the works of his direct predecessors . . . and one becomes convinced that Rembrandt, too, was primarily merely an executor of the artistic volition of his people and his time (p. 4). According to Margaret Iversen, for Riegl, different stylistic types, understood as expression of a varying Kunstwollen, are read as different ideals of perception or as different ways of regarding the minds relationship to its objects and of organizing the material of perception. Iversen, Alois Riegl: Art History and Theory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), p. 8. Alina Payne, Architecture, Ornament and Pictorialism: Notes on the Relationship Between the Arts from Wlfin to Le Corbusier, in Karen Koehler (ed.), The Built Surface (Burlington: Ashgate, 2002), pp. 5472.

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See for example, Bernard Cache, Digital Semper, in Anymore (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), pp. 19097. And Neil Leach (ed.), Digital Tectonics (London: WileyAcademy, 2004). A point of view which has nurtured some historians, Manfredo Tafuri and Kenneth Frampton in particular, to theorize history according to the problematic relation of architecture to capital, technique, land and institutions of capitalism. An argument could be made that there are other historians who were also inspired by architects. The obvious examples could be Zevis inspiration from Frank L. Wright, or Le Corbusiers inuence on Giedion. In these two latter cases, the issue was not reconstruction of the history, but construction of a future based on a normative practice. While one sought to perpetuate the Zeitgeist , the other opted for a holistic practice inspired by Wright. Quoted in Ann-Marie Sankovitch, Structure/Ornament and the Modern Figuration of Architecture, The Art Bulletin 80 (1998): 715. Peter Osborne, Small-scale Victories, Large-scale Defeats: Walter Benjamins Politics of Time, in Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (eds), Walter Benjamins Philosophy: Destruction and Experience (Manchester: Clinamen, 2000), p. 88. Andrew Benjamin, Benjamins Modernity, in David S. Ferris (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 149. Discussing interruption in Benjamins essay on Goethes Elective Afnities and rhe Arcades Project , Andrew Benjamin associates the very understanding of modernity with Benjamins discourse on the caesura, an essential concept for understanding modernitys departure from the past and thus the interruption of historical continuum so important for historicism. Reecting on the July revolution Walter Benjamin makes insightful reections differentiating calendar from clock. Against the transient nature of the time registered by the clock, the calendar suggests a notion of present in which time stands still, and this is also the time in which a historical materialist is writing history (SW 4: 395). When historical references are called natural in uncritical afrmation, identifying the empirical course of their development as progress, the result is myth; when prehistoric nature is evoked in the act of naming the historically modern, the effect is to mystify. Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989), p. 68. For Peter Osbornes critique of Buck-Morsss reading of the dialectical images, see Small-scale Victories, in Benjamin and Osborne (eds), Walter Benjamins Philosophy, p. 88. Andrew Benjamin argues that the dialectical image is an interruption. The image becomes a type of temporal montage and therefore should not be understood within the conventions of images (Benjamins Modernity, p. 111). Carlo Ginzburg, History, Rhetoric, and Proof (London: University Press of New England, 1999), p. 24. According to Andrew Benjamin, this passage is historical. Noting the difference between time and the object, he writes: Poesis involves a different relationship than the one at work in art dened as techne. Indeed, it is because the relationship is formulated in this way that the temporal considerations at work in the latter the conception of the work of art determined by techne are such that they open up as historical (Benjamins Modernity, p. 107). On this subject see James S. Ackerman, Origin , especially the Introduction. This is Walter Benjamin characterizing the differences between the early Romantic understanding of knowledge and the modern concept of criticism. See The Concept of Criticism, SW 1: 152. Here Beatrice Hanssen suggests a contrast between Martin Heideggers essay on the work of art where the Greek Temple is praised in terms of its poetry, and Walter Benjamin, for whom the ancient temple no longer had any place. From now on, it could exist only as a ruin. Hanssen, Benjamins Other History, p. 78.

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43 On this distinction see ibid., Ch. 2, in particular. 44 Quoted in Carlo Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (Baltimore, MD Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 101. 45 On this subject see, Gevork Hartoonian, Notes on Critical Practice, Architectural Theory Review 7 (2002): 114. 46 Here I am beneting from Harry Harootunian, The Benjamin Effect: Modernism, Repetition, and the Path to Different Cultural Imagination, in Michael P. Steiberg, (ed.) Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), pp. 6287.

CHAPTER 12
Translations from the German texts by Benjamin and Rosenzweig are mine, although I have provided reference to the available English translations. 1 Most helpful have been: Rebecca Comay, Benjamins Endgame, in Walter Benjamins Philosophy: Destruction and Experience, ed. Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (Manchester: Clinamen, 1994), pp. 25191. Irving Wohlfarth On the Messianic Structure of Walter Benjamins Last Reections, in Glyph 5 (1978): 148212, and the more recent Eric Jacobson, Metaphysics of the Profane (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003). 2 Stphane Moses, Walter Benjamin and Franz Rosenzweig, in Gary Smith (ed.), Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 22846. 3 References are to Franz Rosenzweig, rst the German, then the equivalent English. Der Stern der Erlsung, in Franz Rosenzweig: Der Mensch und sein Werk: Gesammelte Schriften , Vol. 2 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976); The Star of Redemption , trans. William W. Hallo (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1971).

CHAPTER 13
1 2 3 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism , trans. Talcott Parsons (London: Unwin, 1968). Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George Schwab (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985). Max Weber, Hauptprobleme der Soziologie: Erinnerungsgabe fr Max Weber, ed. Melchior Palyi (Munich: Duncker and Humblot, 1923).

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CONTRIBUTORS
Andrew Benjamin has taught philosophy and architectural theory in both Europe and the USA. He is Professor of Critical Theory in Design and Architecture, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, in the University of Technology, Sydney, and Adjunct Professor of Critical Theory at Monash University. His previous books include: The Plural Event (1993), Present Hope: Philosophy, Architecture, Judaism (1997); Philosophys Literature (2001) and Disclosing Spaces: On Painting (2004). Howard Caygill is Professor of Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he teaches philosophy, aesthetics and cultural history. His publications include: Art of Judgment (1989); A Kant Dictionary (1995) and Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience (2002). Rebecca Comay is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. She has published extensively in areas of European philosophy, and particularly on the work of Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Hegel and contemporary French thought. Georges Didi-Huberman teaches at the Ecole des hautes tudes en sciences sociales, Paris. He is the author of numerous books in French. His books in English translation include: Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (1995); Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salptrire (2003); Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art (2004) and Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion (2004). David Ferris is Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author of Theory and the Evasion of History (1993) and Silent Urns: Romanticism, Hellenism, Modernity (2000); and the editor of Walter Benjamin: Theoretical Questions (1996) and The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin (2004). He is currently completing a book on Walter Benjamin entitled Torsos of Modernity: Walter Benjamin and the Moment of Criticism. Robert Gibbs is Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, in the eld of modern Jewish philosophy. He taught at St Louis University and Princeton University, and has published widely on ethics, continental philosophy, and Jewish thought. His rst major project addressed ethics and Jewish thought, including two books: Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas (1992) and Why Ethics? Signs of Responsibilities

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(2000). His ongoing project focuses on ethics and laws, and he is completing a book, Commands and Laws: Ethics and Laws in Contemporary Jewish Philosophy, that explores the different interpretations of law in twentiethcentury Jewish philosophers. Werner Hamacher is Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Goethe University, Frankfurt a.M., and has taught at the Free University Berlin, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, the University of Amsterdam and the Ecole normale suprieure. His publications include: Pleroma: Reading in Hegel (1998); Premises: Studies in Philosophy and Literature from Kant to Celan (1996, 1999) and Maser (1998). Gevork Hartoonian is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra. He has taught at many US universities, including Columbia University and the Pratt Institute. He is the author of Modernity and its Other (1997), and Ontology of Construction (1994). His most recent publications include, Modernism, the entry essay for the Encyclopaedia of 20th Century Architecture (2004); Gottfried Semper: The Structure of Theatricality, Art Criticism (2003); Beyond Historicism: Manfredo Tafuris Flight, Art Criticism (2002) and Frank Gehry: Roong, Wrapping, and Wrapping the Roof, Journal of Architecture, (2002). Rainer Ngele is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. His books and essays deal mainly with literature in the intersection of philosophy and psychoanalysis, concentrating on Benjamin, Freud, Kafka, Hlderlin, Brecht, Artaud and others. His publications include: Reading after Freud (1987); Theatre, Theory, Speculation: Walter Benjamin and the Scenes of Modernity (1991); Echoes of Translation: Reading between Texts (1997) and Literalische Vexierbilder: Drei Versuche zu einer Figur (2001). Stephanie Polsky has recently received her doctorate in the history of ideas from Goldsmiths College, University of London, for her thesis Walter Benjamins Transit: A Destructive Tour of Modernity. She has lectured widely on Benjamin at various institutions including Goldsmiths, Camberwell College of Arts, Central St Martins and the London College of Printing. She currently lectures in the department of Creative Critical and Communication Studies at Greenwich University. Her most recent work has focused on Benjamin and the history of technology. Charles Rice is Lecturer in Architecture at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, and has taught in architectural history and theory at the Architectural Association, London. He researches the historical emergence of the bourgeois domestic interior, the theoretical issues surrounding its

Contributors

255

inhabitation, and the contemporary mediatization of the interior and the city. He is coeditor, with Barbara Penner, of Constructing the Interior, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture (2004), and his work is also published in Archis, Architectural Design , Architectural Theory Review and Critical Quarterly. Philippe Simay is Directeur de programme at the Collge international de Philosophie and associate researcher at the Laboratoire danthropologie sociale of the Centre national de la recherche scientique (CNRS). His research interests are architecture, theory of modernity, constitution of anthropological knowledge. He has published several articles on these subjects and has edited two books: La Ville dvoile: Benjamin et la modernit urbaine (2005), and La Ville en tat de choc: Simmel, Kracauer, Benjamin (2005). Dimitris Vardoulakis teaches at the Victorian College of the Arts and is research assistant at Monash University. Publications include articles in Greek and in English, recently in the International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Angelaki and Modern Greek Studies, as well as translations into Greek of short stories, poetry and a novel, Alasdair Grays Poor Things (2001). He is coeditor of the journal Colloquy and coeditor, with Leslie Hill and Brian Nelson of After Maurice Blanchot: Literature, Criticism, Philosophy (2005).

Index
Ackerman, James 187, 250n. Adorno, Theodor Wiesengrund 71, 72, 912, 968, 100, 105, 179, 240n. Agacinski, Sylviane 234n. Agamben, Giorgio 74, 779, 89 Alberti, Leon Battista 247n. Arendt, Hannah 1434, 146, 153 Aristotle 111 Atget, Eugne 202, 278, 30, 33, 232n. Augustine 217 Bahti, Timothy 243n., 244n. Bakhtin, Mikhail 243n. Balfour, Ian 244n. Ball, Hugo 217 Baudelaire, Charles 4, 6, 25, 89, 100, 20912, 232n. Bataille, Georges 7, 8, 227n., 228n. Becker, Carl 243n. Beckett, Samuel 231n. Behne, Adolf 179 Belting, H. 231n. Benjamin, Andrew 123, 193, 232n., 234n., 247n., 248n., 250n. Benjamin, Dora 106 Benjamin, Walter A Short Presentation on Proust, Held on my Fortieth Birthday 62 The Arcades Project 8, 17, 19, 202, 258, 317, 456, 48, 49, 5763, 968, 100, 103, 105, 11822, 126, 1413, 147, 149, 1523, 159, 1648, 17181, 2089, 21213, 217, 2256, 228n., 231n., 233n., 234n., 2356n., 243n. The Author as Producer 103 Berlin Childhood around 1900 226 Capitalism and Religion 216, 2205 Central Park 4, 137, 237n. The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism 4950, 143, 194, 195, 250n. Critique of Violence 76, 7980, 21718, 219 The Destructive Character 1434 Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian 122, 1467, 1934, 236n. Experience and Poverty 138, 1745, 248n. Franz Kafka 758, 86, 103, 116, 147 Goethes Elective Afnities 121, 123, 220, 243n., 250n. Karl Kraus 103, 1456, 147 Little History of Photography 4, 12, 2930 Moscow 82 Moscow Diary 72 Naples 83, 211 On Language as Such and on the Language of Man 62, 103, 128, 226, 237n. On Some Motifs in Baudelaire 3, 4, 6, 39, 20912

Index On the Concept of History 1, 7, 24, 26, 28, 32, 357, 3848, 527, 607, 804, 86, 989, 116, 11820, 1227, 1301, 1346, 137, 14855, 156, 183, 185, 186, 193, 197 8, 20714, 215, 233n., 234n., 235n., 236n., 237n., 241n., 247n., 248n., 250n. On the Mimetic Faculty 234n. One-Way Street 147, 177, 217, 2234, 246n. The Origin of German Tragic Drama 4, 56, 57, 60, 83, 98, 103, 105, 109, 141, 143, 217, 2234, 236n. Paralipomena to On the Concept of History 19, 24 5, 279, 36, 523, 120, 1223, 126, 12930, 134, 148, 151, 152, 2345n., 236n., 243n. Praise of the Puppet: Critical Comments on Max von Boehns Puppen und Puppenspiele 146 Rastellis Story 215 The Rigorous Study of Art: On the First volume of Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschung 1902 The Storyteller 98, 12934, 13842 Surrealism 101 The Task of the Translator 423 Toys and Play: Marginal Notes on a Monumental Work 1689 Two Poems by Friedrich Hlderlin 1078 What is Epic Theatre 1023, 10717 The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological

257

Reproducibility 3, 12, 17, 205, 2833, 36, 103, 15764, 169, 1867, 189, 191, 232n., 233n. World and Time 21719, 223 Bensmaia, Reda 238n. Bergdol, Barry 247n. Blanqui, Luis-Auguste 164 Bloch, Ernst 198, 217 Blood, Susan 232n. Brodersen, Momme 238n. Bois, Yve-Alain 15, 2289n., 230n., 231n. Bonnefoi, C. 230n. Borges, Jorge Luis 85 Brandt, Sebastian 223 Brecht, Bertolt 71, 83, 102, 105 17, 117, 236n. Brethaupt, Fritz 247n. Buber, Martin 109, 197, 214 Bchner, Georg 109 Buck-Morss, Susan 176, 186, 228n., 241n., 248n, 250n. Brger, Peter 227n. Bush, George W. 203 Cache, Bernard 250n. Cadava, Eduardo 231n., 233n., 241n. Caygill, Howard 243n. Celan, Paul 45, 109 Czanne, Paul 230n. Char, Ren 153 Chirico, Giorgio de 165 Choay, Franoise 184, 247n. Clay, Jean 14, 229n., 231n. Cohen, Hermann 197, 200 Colquhoun, Alan 249n. Comay, Rebecca 240n., 251n. Criquei, J.P. 229n. Damisch, Hubert 14, 230n. Dante 6, 227n. Danto, Arthur 227n.

258

Walter Benjamin and History Grandville (Jean-Ignace-Isidore Gerard) 225 Greenberg, Clement 9, 12, 229n. Grondin, Jean 244n. Guattari, Flix 706, 80, 815, 246n. Guttmann, Simon 106 Hamacher, Werner 246n. Habermas, Jrgen 243n. Hanssen, Beatrice 188, 195, 243n., 247n., 250n. Harootunian, Harry 185, 186, 251n. Hebel, Johann Peter 129 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich 78, 90, 92, 122, 202, 204, 227n., 236n., 237n. Heidegger, Martin 57, 91, 149, 163, 2356n., 237n., 244n., 245n., 248n., 250n. Heinle, Christoph Friedrich 106 Herodotus 119, 1313 Hess, Thomas 10, 229n., 230n., 231n. Hitler, Adolf 62, 72, 111, 120, 215 Hobsbawn, Eric 142 Hofmannsthal, Hugo von 36 Hlderlin, Friedrich 1078, 11112 Homer 119 Hope, Thomas 178 Horkheimer, Max 72, 912, 1213 Husserl, Edmund 150, 235n., 236n. Huyssen, Andreas 239n. Ibsen, Henrik 177 Iversen, Margaret 249n. Jacobsen, Eric 251n. Janovoch, Gustav 238n. Jung, Carl Gustav 8, 96 Kaes, Anton 245n. Kafka, Franz 37, 678, 1445, 234n., 237n.

Deleuze, Gilles 706, 79, 80, 817, 227n., 231n., 246n. Derrida, Jacques 160, 162, 231n. Didi-Huberman, Georges 227n., 228n., 229n., 230n., 231n. Dilthey, Wilhelm 148, 149 Droysen, Johann Gustav 148 du Boucher, Andr 230n. Ducot, O. 229n. Duhamel, Georges 160, 162 Duschamp, Marcel 9 Eiland, Howard 176 Einstein, Carl 8 Eisenstein, Sergei Mikhailovich 8, 226n. Flida, Pierre 228n., 230n. Ficino, Marsilio 89 Flaubert, Gustave 241n. Foucault, Michel 82, 120 Fountaine, Pierre 178 Fourier, Charles 171, 2256 Frampton, Kenneth 188, 2489n. 250n. Freud, Sigmund 8, 16, 889, 92, 95, 99, 111, 114, 187, 2212, 23940n., 248n. Fuchs, Eduard 144, 146 Fustel de Coulanges, Numa Denis 148 Gadamer, HansGeorg 14951 Garnier, Charles 1923 Gassner, Hubertus 186 Gauguin, Paul 2289n. Geiger, Moritz 235n. Georgiadis, Sokratis 246n. Giacometti, Alberto 9, 15, 230n. Giedion, Sigfried 182, 186, 247n., 248n., 250n. Ginzburg, Carlo 194, 251n. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 204, 220, 247n., 250n.

Index Kandinsky, Wassily 9 Kant, Immanuel 1, 456, 4950, 52, 556, 61, 6978, 823, 85 6, 101, 122, 157, 234n., 235n., 236n., 237n., 2445n. Karplus (Adorno), Gretel 103, 1056 Keller, Gottfried 56, 59, 236n. Kierkegaard, Sren 95, 102, 111, 11317, 179, 236n., 240n., 241n. King, Martin Luther, Jr 204 Klee, Paul 183 Klibansky, Raymond 239n. Kracauer, Siegfried 245n. Kraft, Werner 104 Kraus, Karl 61, 144, 145 Kraus, Rosalind 227n. Kristeva, Julia 239n. La Popelinire, Lancelot Voisin de 120, 243n. Lacan, Jacques 92 Lacis, Asjia 72 Leach, Neil 250n. Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris) 186, 248n., 250n. Lebensztejn, Jean-Claude 228n., 229n., 231n. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 79, 85 Leskov, Nikolai 129, 139 Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim 95 Levinas, Emmanuel 198 Longinus 120 Lwith, Karl 164 Lukcs, Georg 223, 240n. Luther, Martin 110, 223 Lyotard, Jean-Franois 184 Malevich, Kazimir 6, 9 Mallarm, Stphane 56 Mallgrave, Harry Francis 249n. Mannoni, Octave 90 Marx, Karl 8, 301, 58, 61, 96, 97, 107, 108, 113, 184, 185, 186, 208, 2212, 226, 234n., 242n.

259

Masaccio 228n. Mauss, Marcel 139 McCole, John 248n. McLaughlin, Kevin 176, 247n. Meltzer, Franoise 237n. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice 14 Mertins, Detlef 248n. Michelet, Jules 97 Missac, Pierre 177, 180 Mondrian, Piet 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, 228n., 230n. Monglond, Andr 19, 245, 289, 232n., 233n. Montaigne, Michel de 120, 132 Morgenstern, Soma 62 Moscovici, M. 227n. Neher, Gaspar 1134 Newman, Barnett 5, 6, 67, 918, 22931n. Nietzsche, Friedrich 79, 81, 87, 89, 93, 109, 264, 2212, 223, 236n., 240n., 246n. Nora, Pierre 92 Osborne, Peter 193, 250n. Panofky, Erwin 5, 6, 16, 227n., 228n., 239n., 243n. Payne, Alina 191 Payot, D. 231n. Pen, Tsui 856 Pensky, Max 241n. Percier, Charles 178 Perret, C. 227n., 228n. Plato 113, 114 Pliny the Elder 5 Podro, Michael 249n. Pollock, Jackson 9, 14 Praz, Mario 1735 Proust, Marcel 3, 4, 62, 69, 99 Rabelais, Francois 120 Rang, Florence Christian 217

260

Walter Benjamin and History Semper, Gottfried 1912, 194 Shakespeare, William 185 Shankovitch, Ann-Marie 250n. Stadler, August 235n. Stalin, Joseph 62, 72, 120, 215 Starobinski, Jean 239n., 243n. Stefn, Margarete 116 Stein, Edith 235n. Sternberger, Dolf 236n. Strauss, Erwin 14 Strick, J. 229n. Tafuri, Manfredo 188, 248n., 249n., 250n. Tasso, Torquato 89 Tiedemann, Rolf 1756, 227n., 236n. Vasari, Giorgio 7 Vattimo, Gianni 1878 von Verschuer, Otto 74 Vorlnder, Karl 235n. Warburg, Aby 5, 7, 122, 243n. Wattkin, David 248n. Weber, Max 21623 Werkmeister, O. K. 185 Wohlfarth, Irvin 238n. 241n., 251n. Wolff, Kurt 73 Wlfin, Heinrich 190, 195 Wright, Frank L. 250n. Zevi, Bruno 250n. iek, Slavoj 912

Ranger, Terence 142 Ranke, Leopold von 122, 148 Raphael 232n. Reinhardt, Ad 5, 6, 9, 229n. Rembrandt 191, 249n. Rice, Charles 246n. Richardson, B. 229n., 230n. Rickels, Laurence A. 248n. Riegl, Alois 1912, 194, 249n. Rodchenko, Alexander 186 Rose, B. 230n. Rosenburg, H. 230n. Rosenstock, Eugen 217 Rosenzweig, Franz 197214, 217 Sachs, Franz 235n. Saxl, Fritz 239n. Schafter, Debra 249n. Scheerbart, Paul 174, 217, 2256, 248n. Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von 204 Schiffman, Zachary Sayre 243n. Schivelbusch, Wolfgang 247n. Schlegel, Friedrich von 4950 Schliesari, Giulia 239n. Schmidt, Johannes 235n. Schmitt, Carl 216, 224 Schneider, P. 230n. Schoen, Ernst 49 Scholem, Gershom 71, 767, 105 6, 108, 145, 149, 183, 198, 214, 235n., 236n., 237n. Schweppenhuser, Hermann 236n. Scotus, Duns 236n.