Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Names written in invisible ink : Walter Benjamin, friendship and historical generation
Author: Dolbear, Sam
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 9000
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
This thesis takes a diagram of Walter Benjamin's Urbekanntschaften ('primal acquaintances') as its starting point to explore questions of friendship and generation in relation to history, as manifested through Benjamin's work and biography. The diagram, drawn hastily in the corner of a notebook in 1932, includes 48 names connected by lines. I first transpose this diagram into a number of counter-forms to interrogate its potential significance: into the arborescent form of an ontogenetic/phylogenetic tree, a diagram of chemical bonds, a city map and an astral chart. Each chapter then draws out a number of spatio-temporal constellations detectable on the diagram: from Benjamin's exile in Switzerland from 1917 to his time in Naples/Capri in 1923-24 and, lastly, to his time in Paris around 1927. With each moment clusters of names and shared generational concerns emerge. With 1933 and the fracturing of the generation by political and social crisis, the diagram is surpassed by another document: an address book, used by Benjamin from 1933 until his death in 1940. The address book is a record of scattering: the dispersal of people, relationships, things in exile, as testament to repeated erasures. In order to ground the thesis in an account of experience, I contextualise each moment on the stage of Benjamin's generational development. This is both collective (historical, phylogenetic) but also individual (historical, ontogenetic), from an account of adolescence to maturation into the 1920s. 1933 brings an account of degeneration and the thesis falls back into childhood in the conclusion: with an account of projected salvation. The purpose of this thesis is to reconsider the work of Walter Benjamin within the context of his life, through his associations and within the currents of larger historical conjunctures; to examine questions of friendship and its relation to history and politics; to investigate the parallels of friendship and generation from the work of Benjamin alongside his contemporaries; to understand friendship's relation to freedom and the redemption not just of life but the concept of friendship itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available