Drawing upon a wealth of journal writings and personal correspondence, Esther Leslie presents a uniquely intimate portrait of one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin. She sets his life in the context of his middle-class upbringing; explores the social, political, and economic upheaval in Germany during and after World War I; and recounts Benjamin’s eccentric love of toys, trick-books, travel, and ships. From the Frankfurt School and his influential friendships with Theodore Adorno, Gershom Scholem, and Bertolt Brecht, to his travels across Europe, Walter Benjamin traces out the roots of Benjamin’s groundbreaking writings and their far-reaching impact in his own time. Leslie argues that Benjamin’s life challenges the stereotypical narrative of the tragic and lonely intellectual figure—instead positioning him as a man who relished the fierce combat of competing theories and ideas.
Closing with his death at the Spanish-French border in a desperate flight from the Nazis and Stalin, Walter Benjamin is a concise and concentrated account of a capacious intellect trapped by hostile circumstances.
Seven decades after his death, German Jewish writer, philosopher, and literary critic Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) continues to fascinate and influence. Here Uwe Steiner offers a comprehensive and sophisticated introduction to the oeuvre of this intriguing theorist.
Acknowledged only by a small circle of intellectuals during his lifetime, Benjamin is now a major figure whose work is essential to an understanding of modernity. Steiner traces the development of Benjamin’s thought chronologically through his writings on philosophy, literature, history, politics, the media, art, photography, cinema, technology, and theology. Walter Benjamin reveals the essential coherence of its subject’s thinking while also analyzing the controversial or puzzling facets of Benjamin’s work. That coherence, Steiner contends, can best be appreciated by placing Benjamin in his proper context as a member of the German philosophical tradition and a participant in contemporary intellectual debates.
As Benjamin’s writing attracts more and more readers in the English-speaking world, Walter Benjamin will be a valuable guide to this fascinating body of work.
Simone de Beauvoir; Translation and Notes by Anne Deing Cordero; Edited by Margaret A. Simons and Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir; Foreword by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir University of Illinois Press, 2021 Library of Congress PQ2603.E362Z46715 2009 | Dewey Decimal 848.91403
Provocative insights into Beauvoir's philosophical and personal development during wartime
Written from September 1939 to January 1941, Simone de Beauvoir’s Wartime Diary gives English readers unabridged access to a scandalous text that threatened to overturn traditional views of Beauvoir’s life and work.
Beauvoir's clandestine affair with Jacques Bost and sexual relationships with various young women challenge the conventional picture of Beauvoir as the devoted companion of Jean-Paul Sartre. At the same time, her account of completing her novel She Came to Stay at a time when Sartre had just begun Being and Nothingness questions the traditional view of Beauvoir’s novel as merely illustrating Sartre’s philosophy.
Wartime Diary also traces Beauvoir's philosophical transformation as she broke from the prewar solipsism of She Came to Stay in favor of the postwar political engagement of The Second Sex. Beauvoir's emerging existentialist ethics reflect the dramatic collective experiences of refugees fleeing German invasion and life under Nazi occupation. The evolution of her thought also reveals the courageous reaffirmation of her individuality in constructing a humanist ethics of freedom and solidarity.
This edition also features previously unpublished material, including her musings about consciousness and order, recommended reading lists, and notes on labor unions. In providing new insights into Beauvoir’s philosophical development, the Wartime Diary promises to rewrite a crucial chapter of Western philosophy and intellectual history.
The Weimar origins of political theory is a widespread and powerful narrative, but this singular focus leaves out another intellectual history that historian David L. Marshall works to reveal: the Weimar origins of rhetorical inquiry. Marshall focuses his attention on Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Aby Warburg, revealing how these influential thinkers inflected and transformed problems originally set out by Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, Theodor Adorno, Hans Baron, and Leo Strauss. He contends that we miss major opportunities if we do not attend to the rhetorical aspects of their thought, and his aim, in the end, is to lay out an intellectual history that can become a zone of theoretical experimentation in para-democratic times. Redescribing the Weimar origins of political theory in terms of rhetorical inquiry, Marshall provides fresh readings of pivotal thinkers and argues that the vision of rhetorical inquiry that they open up allows for new ways of imagining political communities today.
At Columbia University in 1906, William James gave a highly confrontational speech to the American Philosophical Association (APA). He ignored the technical philosophical questions the audience had gathered to discuss and instead addressed the topic of human energy. Tramping on the rules of academic decorum, James invoked the work of amateurs, read testimonials on the benefits of yoga and alcohol, and concluded by urging his listeners to take up this psychological and physiological problem.
What was the goal of this unusual speech? Rather than an oddity, Francesca Bordogna asserts that the APA address was emblematic—it was just one of many gestures that James employed as he plowed through the barriers between academic, popular, and pseudoscience, as well as the newly emergent borders between the study of philosophy, psychology, and the “science of man.” Bordogna reveals that James’s trespassing of boundaries was an essential element of a broader intellectual and social project. By crisscrossing divides, she argues, James imagined a new social configuration of knowledge, a better society, and a new vision of the human self. As the academy moves toward an increasingly interdisciplinary future, William James at the Boundaries reintroduces readers to a seminal influence on the way knowledge is pursued.
Readers generally know only one of the two famous James brothers. Literary types know Henry James; psychologists, philosophers, and religion scholars know William James. In reality, the brothers’ minds were inseparable, as the more than eight hundred letters they wrote to each other reveal. In this book, J. C. Hallman mines the letters for mutual affection and influence, painting a moving portrait of a relationship between two extraordinary men. Deeply intimate, sometimes antagonistic, rife with wit, and on the cutting edge of art and science, the letters portray the brothers’ relationship and measure the manner in which their dialogue helped shape, through the influence of their literary and intellectual output, the philosophy, science, and literature of the century that followed.
William and Henry James served as each other’s muse and critic. For instance, the event of the death of Mrs. Sands illustrates what H’ry never stated: even if the “matter” of his fiction was light, the minds behind it lived and died as though it was very heavy indeed. He seemed to best understand this himself only after Wm fully fleshed out his system. “I can’t now explain save by the very fact of the spell itself . . . that [Pragmatism] cast upon me,” H’ry wrote in 1907. “All my life I have . . . unconsciously pragmatised.”
Wm was never able to be quite so gracious in return. In 1868, he lashed out at the “every day” elements of two of H’ry’s early stories, and then explained: “I have uttered this long rigmarole in a dogmatic manner, as one speaks, to himself, but of course you will use it merely as a mass to react against in your own way, so that it may serve you some good purpose.” He believed he was doing H’ry a service as he criticized a growing tendency toward “over-refinement” or “curliness” of style. “I think it ought to be of use to you,” he wrote in 1872, “to have any detailed criticism fm even a wrong judge, and you don’t get much fm. any one else.” For the most part, H’ry agreed. “I hope you will continue to give me, when you can, your free impression of my performance. It is a great thing to have some one write to one of one’s things as if one were a 3d person & you are the only individual who will do this.”
Benjamin’s famous “Work of Art” essay sets out his boldest thoughts—on media and on culture in general—in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought.
This essay, however, is only the beginning of a vast collection of writings that the editors have assembled to demonstrate what was revolutionary about Benjamin’s explorations on media. Long before Marshall McLuhan, Benjamin saw that the way a bullet rips into its victim is exactly the way a movie or pop song lodges in the soul.
This book contains the second, and most daring, of the four versions of the “Work of Art” essay—the one that addresses the utopian developments of the modern media. The collection tracks Benjamin’s observations on the media as they are revealed in essays on the production and reception of art; on film, radio, and photography; and on the modern transformations of literature and painting. The volume contains some of Benjamin’s best-known work alongside fascinating, little-known essays—some appearing for the first time in English. In the context of his passionate engagement with questions of aesthetics, the scope of Benjamin’s media theory can be fully appreciated.
The Work of Mourning
Jacques Derrida University of Chicago Press, 2001 Library of Congress B2430.D483W67 2001 | Dewey Decimal 194
Jacques Derrida is, in the words of the New York Times, "perhaps the world's most famous philosopher—if not the only famous philosopher." He often provokes controversy as soon as his name is mentioned. But he also inspires the respect that comes from an illustrious career, and, among many who were his colleagues and peers, he inspired friendship. The Work of Mourning is a collection that honors those friendships in the wake of passing.
Gathered here are texts—letters of condolence, memorial essays, eulogies, funeral orations—written after the deaths of well-known figures: Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Edmond Jabès, Louis Marin, Sarah Kofman, Gilles Deleuze, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-François Lyotard, Max Loreau, Jean-Marie Benoist, Joseph Riddel, and Michel Servière.
With his words, Derrida bears witness to the singularity of a friendship and to the absolute uniqueness of each relationship. In each case, he is acutely aware of the questions of tact, taste, and ethical responsibility involved in speaking of the dead—the risks of using the occasion for one's own purposes, political calculation, personal vendetta, and the expiation of guilt. More than a collection of memorial addresses, this volume sheds light not only on Derrida's relation to some of the most prominent French thinkers of the past quarter century but also on some of the most important themes of Derrida's entire oeuvre-mourning, the "gift of death," time, memory, and friendship itself.
"In his rapt attention to his subjects' work and their influence upon him, the book also offers a hesitant and tangential retelling of Derrida's own life in French philosophical history. There are illuminating and playful anecdotes—how Lyotard led Derrida to begin using a word-processor; how Paul de Man talked knowledgeably of jazz with Derrida's son. Anyone who still thinks that Derrida is a facetious punster will find such resentful prejudice unable to survive a reading of this beautiful work."—Steven Poole, Guardian
"Strikingly simpa meditations on friendship, on shared vocations and avocations and on philosophy and history."—Publishers Weekly