philosophy

Berlin Childhood around 1900

60,00 kn

Over the last few decades Walter Benjamin has become one of the most prominent names in the humanities: considering definitions of modernity, film theory, philosophy of history, cultural studies or criticism of canonical literary texts, his work can hardly be avoided. This is brought about by Benjamin’s broad interests and lucidity, but also by his awareness of the fact that cultural theory or philosophy always implies an act of writing. His penchant towards the use of metaphor, image, allusion rather than systematical argumentation and his insistence on a purified stile rather than a strict composition make Benjamin’s texts – that always place themselves between philosophy and literature – a field of knowledge that never allows an unambiguous interpretation. In his Berlin Childhood around 1900 the dominant element is precisely this ‘surplus’ of literature; applying an autobiographical discourse, Benjamin creates a lyrical picture of his childhood in a rich bourgeois family from Berlin. Nevertheless, this seemingly personal thematic becomes a historically relevant document that bears witness to the life and culture of the big city, evoking a great number of social and philosophical issues: the constitution of subject through memory, the shadow of class struggle, the possibility of objective historical representation, the relation between modernism and messianism. Starting from a specific literary genre, Berlin Childhood around 1900 amplifies the tension between philosophy and literature, the tension that makes them both possible: thus Benjamin anticipates some of the most important themes and techniques of post-structuralism, and stays as modern as ever.