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Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)


One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1993), dir. John Hughes
Paris, Capital of 19th Century, an essay/experimental film about the Passagen-Werk by Benjamin Bardou (2010)


Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist. His work, combining elements of historical materialism, German idealism and Jewish mysticism, has made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory and Western Marxism, and has sometimes been associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. As a literary critic, among his major works are essays on Goethe's novel Elective Affinities; the work of Franz Kafka; translation theory; the stories of Nikolai Leskov; the work of Marcel Proust and perhaps most significantly, the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. He also made major translations into German of the Tableaux Parisiens section of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal and parts of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.

His turn to Marxism in the 1930s was partly due to the influence of Bertolt Brecht, whose critical aesthetics developed epic theatre and its Verfremdungseffekt (defamiliarisation, alienation). An earlier influence was friend Gershom Scholem, founder of the academic study of the Kabbalah and of Jewish mysticism.

Influenced by the Swiss anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815–87), Walter Benjamin coined the term “auratic perception”, denoting the aesthetic faculty by means of which civilization may recover an appreciation of myth.[2] Benjamin's work is often cited in academic and literary studies, especially the essays "The Task of the Translator" (1923) and "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936). -- Wikipedia