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7 February 1985
The Function of Criticism: From the ‘Spectator’ to Post-Structuralism 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 133 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 86091 091 1
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... of a critic swiftly assimilating, and memorably responding to, wave after wave of neo-Marxist theory. As major influences, Sartre, Williams, Lukacs, Goldmann, Anderson, Althusser, Macherey, Benjamin, Derrida and the feminist movement have followed one another in quick succession. The Function of Criticism, hard on the heels of The Rape of Clarissa and Literary Theory: An Introduction, marks if ...

Through the Trapdoor

Jeremy Harding: Walter Benjamin’s Last Day

19 July 2007
The Narrow Foothold 
by Carina Birman.
Hearing Eye, 29 pp., £7, August 2006, 9781905082100
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... by the authorities. Hans was in central France at a camp in Vernuche; Lisa was near the Pyrenees in a ‘women’s camp’ in Gurs, which had been holding refugees from Spain. (Hannah Arendt and WalterBenjamin’s sister Dora were also interned at Gurs, while Benjamin had spent several weeks in Vernuche.) As the Germans advanced deeper into France and the administration reeled, evasion or ...
3 August 1995
The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin​ 1910-1940 
edited by Theodor Adorno and Manfred Jacobson, translated by Evelyn Jacobson.
Chicago, 651 pp., £39.95, May 1994, 0 226 04237 5
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T.W. Adorno/Walter BenjaminBriefwechsel 1928-40 
edited by Henri Lonitz.
Suhrkamp, 501 pp., DM 64, April 1994, 3 518 58174 0
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... WalterBenjamin was not a letter writer of the order of Lawrence or Flaubert, for whom the medium of the letter seems to fill a need, not for mere self-expression, but for some larger exercise of the personality in ...

Stamp Scams

Walter Benjamin, translated by Jeffrey Mehlman

8 September 1994
... I want to speak about a domain which the most learned and cleverest experts in philately have yet to exhaust: the subject of fraud. Fraud involving stamps. Ever since 1840, when Rowland Hill, a simple schoolmaster, was knighted, granted a stipend of some 400,000 marks, and appointed Postmaster General by the British Government in recognition of his invention of the stamp, millions upon millions have ...

Sedan Chairs and Turtles

Leland de la Durantaye: Benjamin’s Baudelaire

21 November 2013
Charles Baudelaire: Un poeta lirico nell’età del capitalismo avanzato 
by Walter Benjamin, edited by Giorgio Agamben, Barbara Chitussi and Clemens-Carl Härle.
Neri Pozza, 927 pp., €23, December 2012, 978 88 545 0623 7
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... On a spring day in 1940 WalterBenjamin gathered together the thousands of pages comprising his work of the last decade and carried them to his favourite place in Paris, the Bibliothèque nationale. When he got there he gave them to ...

Kafka’s Dog

P.N. Furbank

13 November 1997
The Treasure Chest 
by Johann Peter Hebel, translated by John Hibberd.
Libris/Penguin, 175 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 14 044639 7
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... Hausfreundes. It established his reputation firmly, and from then on he has never been short of distinguished admirers. Chekhov and Gogol loved his stories, Tolstoy knew some of them by heart, and WalterBenjamin, Heidegger and Elias Canetti have paid ardent tribute to them. The praise is well deserved. This Treasure Chest strikes me as quite a treasure; and the new edition, with its chaste green ...


John Sutherland

2 October 1980
Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Information Age 
by Edward Ploman and L. Clark Hamilton.
Routledge, 248 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0539 3
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... In his essay on Nikolai Leskov, WalterBenjamin observes, almost in passing, that the novel inevitably brings about the end or storytelling. Like many of Benjamin’s paradoxes, this insight is very unsettling to the received idea – oh dear no, the novel doesn’t tell a story after all. Benjamin’s reasoning runs thus: the story (the only current example ...

Platz Angst

David Trotter: Agoraphobia

24 July 2003
Repressed Spaces: The Poetics of Agoraphobia 
by Paul Carter.
Reaktion, 253 pp., £16.95, November 2002, 1 86189 128 8
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... the balance of masses. More recently, a connection has been made between Westphal’s account of agoraphobia and the analyses of modern alienation undertaken by Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer and WalterBenjamin. These analyses restore a certain proportion between stimulus and response. In them, agoraphobia disappears as a category. It is the environment that must be held responsible for causing ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith

3 October 2002
The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... from Marilyn Monroe, Kafka, Lenny Bruce (who occupies an entire page), Billy Wilder, Madonna (or the ‘popular singer Madonna Ciccone’, as Smith has it, a tic that runs throughout the book), WalterBenjamin (or ‘the popular wise guy WalterBenjamin’). Each chapter has a cute digest at its head, announcing the delights on offer: ‘Alex-Li Tandem was Jewish – A rainbow over Mountjoy – ...

In Moscow

Tony Wood: In Moscow

8 August 2002
... begin to seem like stage sets as soon as you notice what fills the spaces behind them. There is a striking uncertainty about Moscow urbanism, a looseness in its grip on the landscape, something WalterBenjamin, who was in Moscow from December 1926 to February 1927, observed with perceptive perplexity: In the streets of Moscow there is a curious state of affairs: the Russian village is playing ...
9 October 2013
The Hamlet Doctrine 
by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster.
Verso, 269 pp., £14.99, September 2013, 978 1 78168 256 2
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... outsiders to the world of Shakespeare criticism’, and so they have allied themselves with what they call ‘a series of outsider interpretations of Hamlet, notably those of Carl Schmitt, WalterBenjamin, Hegel, Freud, Lacan and Nietzsche’. As outsiders go, at least in the academic world, these seem fairly mainstream figures. But they have been chosen because what each of their ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: Italian Futurism

20 March 2014
... of movement’. Marinetti elaborated on this playbook in his manifestos, and Mussolini performed it in his March on Rome in 1922. This is one lesson of futurism, and it was articulated as such by WalterBenjamin at the end of his essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproducibility’ (1936): with Marinetti and company, Benjamin writes, ‘self-alienation has reached such a degree ...

He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht

2 July 2014
Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... sacrifice, and the first money he earned from his writing came from patriotic verse. But idealism turned to disillusion and his anti-militarism caused a rift with his father and strait-laced brother Walter. He now immersed himself in British and American literature: Robert Louis Stevenson, Melville, above all Kipling. He became the leading figure in a bohemian gang who wrote and sang songs together ...

Saint Terence

Jonathan Bate

23 May 1991
Ideology: An Introduction 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 242 pp., £32.50, May 1991, 0 86091 319 8
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... himself divides it into two phases: the first’s characterised by a fairly rigorous Marxism, born of les événements and codified in Criticism and Ideology (1976); the second, inaugurated by WalterBenjamin, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism (1981), is still firmly Marxist at base, but has a more flexible superstructure shaped by various brands of Post-Structuralism, most notably ...
22 November 1979
The True Interpreter 
by Louis Kelly.
Blackwell, 282 pp., £15
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... has exhibited a prodigality and quality worryingly at odds with the weakness of much ‘original’ work. Could there be a connection? On the philosophic front, thinkers such as I.A. Richards, WalterBenjamin, W.V.O. Quine have made of translation the centre of a theory of meaning. All communication between source and receptor, even within one’s native tongue, has been recognised as analogous ...

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