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Title: Poetik des Zwischenraumes. Zur sprachlichen Kulturkritik und physiognomischen Historizitat am Beispiel von Walter Benjamin und ausgewahlten Schriften seiner Zeit
Author: Petersen, Leena A.
ISNI:       0000 0001 1871 9732
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2007
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Language and the imagistic can be regarded as key figures of modern perception. The present thesis provides a comparative analysis of the role and development of both elements in 19th and early 20th-centljry German intellectual culture, focusing particularly on Walter Benjamin's philosophical reflections. The title of the thesis, 'Poetics of the Space Inbetween', recurs on Benjamin's physiognomic historiography and his simultaneous attempt of a culture critique. By using methods of modernity, the essential imagistic elements of the 17th to the 20th century are to be permeated in an intuitive way. The space in-between can be located between language and the imagistic. It can be regarded as offering a potential physiognomic knowledge of reality.' Here. one can detect the 'caesura', with the help of' which Benjamin intends to establish a historiography of modernity beyond a methodical integration of mythical elements. The starting point of the present doctorate is the assumption that in modernity one can perceive a turn from the linguistic as medium of knowledge and world experience towards the imagistic. The transition from rational knowledge of Enlightenment ideas through and within the medium of language towards an understanding of the world as imagistic phenomenon can be located in a space in-between. Within the analysed period, reason has lost its dominating significance. Instead, doubts occur regarding the project of Enlightenment. Consequently, new ways to grasp, represent and criticise reality have to be discovered. Central concepts in this context are, e.g., the modern experience, memory, individuation, secularisation and the role of concreteness. The topic to be considered is thus the form of process, 'Verlaufsformen', to use an expression of Benjamin, in which language crisis and the rise of imagery are expressed. Benjamin's work will be examined because his writings represent a conglomeration of fin-de-siecle's tendencies on the one hand and embody a very particular form of culture critique between strategy and immanence on the other. Regarding this, both his early works as well as his late works are of concern. Sources were, furthermore, found in the literary and theoretical works listed in Benjamin's record of his own reading as well as in his correspondences and references in his own texts. The process and development of the rising imagery and language crisis was followed by introducing first the philosophical and methodical background and approach. The second chapter explores the current phenomenon of 'Bildwissenschaft': Today, a growing scholarly body is concerned with visual studies, which is based on the so-called iconic turn that aims to describe the increasing use and perception' of images in modernity. The chapter gives a ' survey on the development, origins and problems of both a conceptualisation of images fr~m the 19th century up until today as well as of the newly founded discipline. Following thIS, the ~aradigmatic earlier writings of Erwin Panofsky and Aby Warburg are analysed in a narrative approach which focuses mainly on the history of the artistic idea and a critical Imagistic historiography. The question arising from this of an epistemological basis for the outlined inauguration of the imagistic into ways of grasping the world is then addressed through a reflection of the so-called 'Lebensphilosophie', philosophy of life. The analysis of the diverse approaches of Ludwig Klages, Henri Bergson and Walter Benjamin is follow~d by the introduction of Georg Simmel's concept of historical time which becomes relevant to Benjamin's idea of historiography. . The third chapter explores Benjamin's examination of New Kantianism through Hermann Cohen as well as the consequences resulting from this for Benjamin's own work. In this context, Cohen's posit of 'ethical aniconism' is regarded as central concept. Subsequently, the study follows Benjamin's methodical corollary of physiognomic critique within the area of language which acts according to the thesis that knowledge would, nevertheless, never be image-less. An essential way to understand Benjamin's methodical approach is the ensuing - closer analysis of quite d.iverse but influential concepts such as those formulated, e.g., by Immanuel Kant, early Romanticism,' Benjamin's correspondence with Florens Christian Rang, Jean Hering's concept of the idea, Leibniz's monade, H6lderlin, Carl Gustav Jochmann, Hermann Lotze, Heinz Werner's linguistic social physiognomy or Johann Wolfang Goethe's concept of truth. The fourth chapter is devoted to an application of Benjamin's methodology by means of considering 'apparent excesses', first in Baroque and later in the 19th and early 20th century. From Benjamin's treatment of the Baroque. mourning play up to his late writings, here, the history of human individuation can be retraced: In the course of secularisation, the manifestness of the world becomes substituted by imagistic elements. Relevant aspects of the changing perception of the world such as the contemporary phenomena of melancholy and later boredom - which are also based on imagistic elements - are thoroughly discussed from the point of view of cultural history. Apart from a close reading of Benjamins's conception, this includes reflections upon the writings of e.g. Baroque drama, Goethe, BaUdelaire, Hermann Bahr, Ernst Robert Curtius, the Historical Avantgarde, Karl L6with and the critique of Nietzsche, Franz Rosenzweig's concept of tragedy and Sigmund Freud. Modernity is not characterised by total secularisation, on the contrary: the element of myth comes to play an essential role. Therefore, the last. chapter of the thesis is devoted to this very phenomenon. The interpretation includes myth critique and theories of Benjamin's time as well as their relevance for Benjamin's last fragmentary works, in particular The Arcades Project. In this context, significant corresponding ideas like those of Erich Unger, Florens Christian Rang's critique of the modern dionysian, Freud's dream theory, .Surrealism, Benjamin's examination of Marxism, and ideas developed by Siegfried Giedeon and Valery are taken into account. Following from this, the chapter discusses Theodor W. Adorno's critique according to which Benjamin's late work has to be characterised as a 'mythologising of demythologising'; furthermore, Benjamin's introduction of such categories as the 'state of exc~ption' or the 'extreme' - among others according to Carl Schmitt - is c~allenged by the askIng the conclUding question, whether or notone could still establish a space in-between of knowledge in the face of imagistic tendencies in Benjamin's late work. Moreover, by fO~lowin.g Benjamin's late perspectives on concrete images, e.g. film, the crucial question is raIsed In which respect Benjamin's work might have distanced itself from an orientation ~owards Cohen's concept of ethical aniconism. The change from enigmatic images in anguage towards two-dimension, partly concrete images, the final chapter argues, corresponds not only with changing modalities of perception in modernity but with enJamln s present time by which he - as a matter of course - is not unaffected.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available