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Walter Benjamin's Berliner Kindheit um 1900: Longing, Enchantment and the Material Subject

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-383
JournalLife writing
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online date3 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jul 2018

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to offer an interpretation of Walter Benjamin's Berliner Kindheit um 1900 (Berlin Childhood Around 1900). Exploring the style and the content of Benjamin's text, both of which portray the world of his childhood as a place of enchantment, I suggest that Benjamin creates in this text a conception of the self as displaced into the surrounding material world. I argue that, in doing this, Benjamin seeks to explore the materiality of the subject and erase its subjection to time, creating a self that is constituted only by space. I seek to show that this is part of Benjamin's strategy of exploring a decentred conception of agency. In all this, I suggest, Benjamin converts his own childhood into a work of art in which there is a longing for redemption that cannot finally be achieved but that expresses an important understanding of the truth of a human life.

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