Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis by Elizabeth Stewart

By Elizabeth Stewart

Indicates how Benjamin’s ideas concerning the individual’s event of the cloth global make major touch with post-Freudian psychoanalytic thought.

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Additional resources for Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis

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Allegory and writing are nevertheless intimately related. Benjamin’s main aim is to distinguish allegory from the symbol and to value it because it is faithful to transience, to singular objects (even if they are manipulated and emptied of their own concreteness) and to creaturely life. The symbol, on the other hand, like the Southern Counter-Reformation drama, wishes to totalize everything within itself. The allegorist is filled with a mania that is at the same time infused with the knowledge of death.

The allegorist is filled with a mania that is at the same time infused with the knowledge of death. Through artifice allegory restores movement, time, and a fragmented tradition from out of the self-destructive and melancholic stasis of the martyr. It creates a breathing-space. The possible psychological responses to modernity that Benjamin presents in his Trauerspiel book—the martyr, the tyrant, the melancholiac, the allegorist, the intriguer—all relate differently to catastrophe, anxiety, and disappearance.

A caesura into the empty time of historicism brings the possibility of change1 and a different mode of relating to objects—a non-grandiose, non-omnipotent mode. ” Even its own emergence as a specific genre is “original” in this sense: the Trauerspiel owes much of its origin to its breach with and difference from tragedy. The Trauerspiel book demonstrates at length that tragedy is no longer possible for historical reasons. At the same time, tragedy and the Trauerspiel are both entsprungen (emergent) from the origin of human history, similar to Benjamin’s image the breach between pure (divine) and human language.

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