Benjamin provides a significant precedent and model for thinking about the points of contact and translation between our various technological media as the places where mimetic transformation and symbolic play can begin. Video remote control has transformed the notion of montage from one of shock juxtaposition to the smooth operation of consumer choice. The "total flow" of video text may effectively neutralize the power of cinematograhic montage to shock us into new conceptual recognitions, but our own fingers on the remote also offer opportunities that should not be instantly relegated.
At the interface s of video and critical literacy we can explore a mode of writing whose figurative organization mimics the pause, freeze-frame, slow speed re- run, scan, as ways of isolating marginal detail in the surface of an image. Written narrative, or anecdote, too can be submitted to repetition and microscoping that may release new meanings through repetition.
In this way televisual literacy learns from both psychoanalytic and deconstructive readings in which image and scene function as hieroglyph and condensation, principles of rhetorical organization that depart from "realist" conventions of historical exposition. In the next section I will discuss this possibility in relation to the psychoanalytic theory of the primal scene. Flashback: The Phantom Event The interfaces of poststructuralist notions of textuality and televisual media are multiple.
Jameson refers to modernist literature "intelligently and opportunistically absorbing the techniques of film, " while in the postmodern situation the theory of the text administers the shift of alphabetic literacy into its electronic fojrms Understanding the relation of theorists like Benjamin to the 18 emergence of the electronic apparatus helps to orient the continued invention of critical responses to and interventions in technological change.
Cadava characterizes Benjamin's photographic method as "focusing on what has been overlooked or hidden within histo::Y, on the transitoriness of events, and on the relation between any given moment and all of history" Benjamin's ambition in the Arcades Project to recover the meanings of the past through attention to the incidental details of everyday life aligns his research practice to the reconstruction of forgotten scenes in Freudian psychoanalysis. Ned Lukacher compares the theoretical status of Benjamin's dialectical images to the primal scene constructed in psychoanalysis that can never be ultimately verified by conscious memory but nevertheless can have a powerful explanatory and potentially therapeutic effect.
The Wolf Man's dream, associated in his memory with an illustration in a book, various fairy tales, and other incidental memories generated an inter-text that provided Freud with a hermeneutic key to certain traumatic episodes in the patient's past. The primal scene was intended by Freud to effect a cure but its status remained controversial--not least for the Wolf Man himself, who could never remember whether it actually happened The 19 lesson of this experimental reconstruction for Lukacher lies in its general relevance for contemporary issues in historiography: the primal scene comes to signify an ontologically undecideable intertextual event that is situated in the differential space between historical memory and imaginative construction, between archival verification and interpretive free play.
Neither the primal scene nor the dialectical image is an "image of the present, " rather their possibilities lie in calling forth the non-present by way of fragmentary traces and remains. Like Freud's notion of screen memories, TV and video histories often function as displacements of memory, representations that mask repressed traumas or social conflict. For Freud, screen memories provide apparently insubstantial details from past experience that must be decoded in order to reveal their actual psychic significance.
The image gives us the "fix" that screens painful memory; at the same time the image itself becomes the key to unlocking the secrets of the past. That this return was also a displacement was more accurately noted by the Frankfurt School for whom TV, as an expression of the culture industry, embodied a condition of unmourning. So TV gave us the Kennedy funeral that never stops and the assassination that has become a perpetual rerun. The Zapruder footage, which supports conspiracy theories as well as functions as an electronic monument of national remembrance, has been slowed down, fragmented, rerun an infinite number of times and scanned for the secrets that its surface promises to disclose; it presents itself as a televisual symptom of a national repetition compulsion.
The televisual legacy of J. While the assassination provided an historic opportunity for the "liveness" of TV to swing into high activity and maximum ideological effect through the subsequent funeral, the Zapruder footage provides a precedent for video-text in the opportunities it provokes for image decomposition. Blow-Uo gave the cinematic presentation of this photographic mode of decomposition as suspense drama; the assassination generalizes the process into a mass obsession, a cryptophilia.
The paradox of the televisual has become, through video, the doubling of its "liveness" by an accompanying possibility of infinite replay: no closure, no burial, memory as remote control. Returning to the Oedipal 21 scene--the murder of the king- -assassination on TV re-invents the primal sacrificial drama theorized by Freud.
Psychoanalysis re-runs scenes from memory in order to disclose previously imperceptible perspectives that can open our sights to new destinations. Benjamin's Arcades Project was a journey back to the nineteenth-century, a form of time travel made possible by Benjamin's strayings through the streets of Paris. The Arcades Project borrowed its montage principle of re construction from the contemporary technology of cinema that provided a new means of simulating travel through time and space; Benjamin invented a historiographic time machine. Benjamin attended to ways in which photographic close-ups exploded the confines of social spaces while slow motion, by extending movement, took control away from "father time.
The age of mechanical reproduction, which has destroyed the distance necessary to the preservation of the aura by bringing objects closer to us in their ruined form as fragmentary images, returns us to 22 that child-like perception exploited by commodity display of the world that refuses separation and lack.
The photographic zoom through space-time is driven by an unconscious desire to return to a pre-Oedipal state of things, the infant's relation to the mother's body. Helping us to understand the logic of the optical unconscious, Eisenstein's theory of montage draws on the notion of an "inner speech" that is "at the stage of image- sensual structure, not yet having attained that logical formulation with which speech clothes itself before stepping out into the open" figure of the child or the savage suggests the power of montage to draw from the mnemonic archive of pre-logical sensuous thought.
For both Benjamin and Eisenstein the realm of sensuous images leads the way to body memory and communal ritual, the values of communal traditions that have been increasingly displaced by industrial modernization. These older, mimetic forms of behavior are given a severely reduced sphere of play in bourgeois art and the world of childhood.
What results in both Benjamin's and Eisenstein's montage practice is indeed like a politicized version of Freudian psychoanalysis, directed toward awakening social memory and inspiring historical agency. The implications of this approach for academic research are far-reaching, moving beyond critical analysis toward embodied, experiential understanding. As Lukacher explains, with regard to this realm of primal images and scenes, we move beyond the conventional limits of 23 hermeneutics as "we are no longer concerned only with the translation of one language into another but with the most elemental translation from the prelinguistic state into language itself.
The storehouse of images taken from dreams and childhood memories that Freud drew from in the construction of the primal scene has its analogy today in an excavation of our electronic archive.
International Walter Benjamin Congress 1997
Close-Up : The Case of W. Eisenstein gives an example of the mnemonic impact of the sensuous-imagistic order from his film The Battleship Potemkin : the prince-nez of the ship's surgeon Full screen close-ups of the surgeon's spectacles appear in two scenes: the first in which they are used to magnify the maggots clinging to the ship's rotten meat; the second in which they remain hanging on the ship's ropes ropes that might have been used, if not for the mutiny, to hang the sailors who refused to eat the soup made from the meat after the surgeon has been cast overboard.
The close-up of the spectacles is motivated by its metonymic association with the surgeon and the oppressive political order he embodies, and by the larger, apocalyptic images of the general strike and proletarian revolution. As Eisenstein explains, the mental association of part to whole participates in the logic of "primitive" thinking manifest in sympathetic magic; for 24 example, the association of an arrow with the wound it has caused.
Such associative thinking defies any claim to an entirely "objective" realism: it is inescapably irrational and imaginative in part. Eisenstein understands filmic montage dialectically--and here he distinguishes himself from the Nazi appropriation of the same imagistic power--as the overcoming of the negation of magical -oral culture by alphabetic culture, and thereby as the socialist destruction of the era of Euro-centrism and imperialism In the case of Walter Benjamin we can begin to deconstruct the opposition between the literairy-critical and the televisual by noting the strong presence of imagistic evocations in Arendt ' s Introduction to Illuminations and also, by contrast, the strong didactic-analytic purpose of Berger's TV adaptation.
Susan Sontag's evocation of Benjamin as the "last intellectual" was influenced by Arendt ' s portrayal of Benjamin as a luckless, impractical bibliophile whose relations with Marxism were "absurd. If there is a single detail that emerges as a close-up in the scene of Benjamin's death it is the "large black briefcase" that he carried with him crossing the Pyrenees but that went missing after his death. But the case also joins those countless detective novels that became the stereotypical product of the age of print: what became of Benjamin's suitcase and what did it contain?
Such a mystery, open to speculation and imaginative reconstruction, belongs to the same realm where Benjamin situated his experimental method: as Lukacher comments, "in the unverifiable preontological zone between memory and imagination. Rather than attempting to reconstruct the contents of Benjamin's case, we can take up this unknown factor as a paradoxical signifier motivating a textual economy--one that translates Benjamin's story into the languages of popular media through the channels of their common cultural codes.
Benjamin's iconography has become inseparable from the narrative of Adorno's reception of Benjamin's unpublished manuscripts, his critique of the early drafts of the Arcades Project, his different roles as Benjamin's disciple, successor, and editor of his collected writings.
The following discussion will remake this story by back-tracking to the earlier scene in which Benjamin entrusts Georges Bataille, just prior to the occupation of Paris, certain cases containing his manuscripts. The diegesis that supports this scene--the meetings of the College of Sociology, the archives of the Bibliotheque Nat ionale- -becomes the organizing strategy of my own montage reconstruction.
Benjamin's encounter with Bataille opens a space of possibility because it resists any account that would close the case by recourse to conventional historical coverage. Despite or because of Bataille 's subsequent fame and influence on a later generation of French writers, the relationship between Benjamin and Bataille has received little attention. Benjamin's legacy remains to a large degree shaped by the custody of the Frankfurt School. Benjamin's encounter with Bataille emerges as an overlooked detail of potential significance pointing toward an "other scene" in the Benjamin story, a passage into the archive that has yet to be taken.
The scene in which these figures appear together can only be reconstructed through inter textual montage, and can be verified only by scant documentation. Bataille 's role in Benjamin's life appears as a trace, barely a presence. Bataille 's significance is not only historical in a "realist" sense: the conjunction of the place held by poststructuralist theory with Benjamin's influence in the contemporary intellectual landscape is of great interest, even controversy — as we have already seen.
La Case Vide Poststructuralism's attention to textual economies owes as much to Bataille 's notions of expenditure as it does to 27 structuralist linguistics. The discoveries of modern linguistics, anthropology, and psychoanalysis were approached by these thinkers as the basis for an inventio exploiting the potentialities of semiotic excess. For example, Deleuze took Lacan's "Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter'" as a demonstration of two heterogeneous series the scene in the Imperial boudoir and the scene of detection converging in a paradoxical element the letter , what structuralism had called the empty square la case vide Heterogeneous series might consist of propositions and denotated objects, verbs and adjectives, events and intentions, etc.
In any of these examples language always presents the possibility of an interminable regress; for example in the case of Walter Benjamin, "case" might refer to a lost object denotation , or to its proposed contents proposition , or to the circumstances of its going astray event or process of reconstructing event. In any case, its exchange across different series continues to generate meanings.
Just as there are two series of displacements regarding Poe ' s "Purloined Letter, " we could compose two divergent series around Bataille and Adorno's custody of the Arcades Project, with Benjamin's case s as the circulating element. Or, more divergently, we could use the case to compose an exchange between Benjamin and the televisual. How can the possibility of interminable circulation and that of " standstill " --or the respective scenes of "The Purloined Letter" and the Wolf Man--be brought together? If, in Lacan's famous formulation, "the unconscious is structured like a language, " then it is precisely in tejnns of the continual processes of condensation and displacement that Deleuze finds his answer to this dilemma in the pre-Socratic philosophers: "where the anecdote of life and the aphorism of thought amount to one and the same thing" The story of the philosopher Benjamin points to an historical scene in which the logics of circulation and catastrophe can be reconfigured.
While the scene with Bataille in the Bibliotheque initiates a series of posthumous exchanges and reconstructions, the scene at Port Bou acts out the catastrophe of loss and expenditure that punctuates any linguistic system. The case of Walter Benjamin will continue to circulate between a certain excess of and a catastrophic rupture of signification, between a conservative tendency that will monumentalize his legacy and a revolutionist drive to renew his critical project.
Icon Deleuze mentions the death of Socrates as an example of an anecdote that has taken on mythic status in the Western 29 intellectual tradition: to counter this status Deleuze re- poses the anecdotes that surround the Cynic philosopher Diogenes. The life and death of Benjamin are now commonly allegorized in critical commentary and the urgency of the historical moment to which he responded adds to this narrative interest. In an interesting study of cinematic mourning, Annette Michelson recounts how Dziga Vertov's Three Songs for Lenin received a general approval in the Soviet Union that his earlier montage experiments like The Man with the Movie Camera had failed to achieve.
Film was crucial in establishing the modern state's usurping the place of the sacred in popular culture. Benjamin had noticed this process during his visit to Moscow in , commenting on the growing cult of Lenin's image: 30 The well-known picture of the orator is the most common, yet another speaks perhaps more intensely and directly: Lenin at the table bent over a copy of Pravda. When he is thus immersed in an ephemeral newspaper, the dialectical tension of his nature appears: his gaze turned, certainly, to the horizon but the tireless care of his heart to the moment.
Yet while it does not attempt to extricate itself from an almost religious fascination with the photographic aura, Benjamin's citation nevertheless redirects that form of attraction by substituting for a model of phonological presence an image of immersion in textual ephemera. So Benjamin provides an example of writing dialectically with the popular icon. Michelson suggests that the effect of the freeze-frame in Vertov's films is to restore the "flash," or shock effect, that was also central to Benjamin's theory of photography: "it inserts, within our experience of lived time, the extratemporality of death" Avant-garde aesthetics need to be understood in conjuction with popular cultural forms as they both might relate to the practice of mourning: Benjamin inscribes the gesture of monumentalization in the same movement as he suggests a critique of the illusion of peirmanence by situating the icon in terms of the historical and the everyday.
Can the same be said of the following description by Susan Sontag? Two men, neither of whose faces can be seen, share a table some distance behind him. Benjamin sits in the right foreground, probably taking notes for the book on Baudelaire and nineteenth-century Paris he had been writing for a decade. He is consulting a volume he holds open on the table with his lef t-hand--his eyes can't be seen-- looking, as it were, into the lower right edge of the photograph.
Under Sontag's gaze this photograph becomes another emblem of melancholic scholarly immersion and Benjamin's pursuit of the arcane is seen as an undialectical descent into the past. The doubleness of every photograph that makes it appear timeless and permanent while it remains fragmentary and contingent is concealed by Sontag through the construction of a monumental imago: intellectual history as wish projection.
Here criticism unconsciously mimics TV in its imaginary reconstructions of the past, its one-dimensional foregrounding of the face and blurring of the background, its narcissistic nostalgia as a refusal to work through real loss. TV has assumed the iconic functions of popular culture listed by Michelson with respect to Vertov's film: "idealization of physical traits, solemnity and rhythmical repetition, the representation of the saint or martyr's life in episodes, and the view of the saint in quotidian 32 existence, together with friends, donors, children, worshipers, mourners, disciples" Sontag ' s wish image of Benjamin as the "last intellectual" belongs in the realms of contemporary hagiography, but her photo-poetics--borrowed from Ben j amin- -point toward the ephemera that formed the basis of Benjamin's Arcades Project.
As in the scene with Bataille before the fall of Paris, the Bibliotheque Nationale provides the mise-en-scene for the staging of Benjamin's return. The various death cults that have become a driving force in twentieth century culture have become the object of numerous recent studies. The multiple and competing narratives about J. Just as these different narratives emerge out of a range of cultural formations so are there competing critical evaluations of their value and effects. Various commentaries have celebrated the Elvis phenomenon as a populist reclaiming of history that struggles against commercial media exploitation of his image.
At the other extreme, in the case of Hitler and the Holocaust, popular images have been seen to erode and subvert any sense of the actualities and moral implications of the historical events. The re-presentation on television of various popular death cults as a way reinforcing the sense of a national constituency repeats the institutionalization of linguistic uniformity over different vernaculars during the print revolution of early modern Europe. This new language of images, however, tends to seirve the interests of global corporate power over those of the nation state.
Just as sacred scripture had once exerted hegemony over the multiple spirit cults of tribal orality, Elvis has been transformed from a regional cultural phenomenon- -a Southern White, working-class male singing Black rhythm and blues--into an 3.
Both historical moments, print and electronic, constructed new global markets and re organized massive flows of capital and information. In both cases minority experience has become attached to the semiotics of national identity or has been banished from the languages sanctioned by social or economic legitimacy. Walter Benjamin is becoming an increasingly visible example of an academic death cult attracting the forms of attention common to other fetshized after-lives: repeated reproduction of his portrait; repetition of certain anecdotes about his life and death that imbue the past he is made to embody with a particular nostalgic value; finally, and most 34 commonly, repetition of certain citations from his work that now permeate cultural studies and have entered popular culture — New Wave rock groups pay their tributes to Benjamin alongside Elvis.
Buck-Morss writes of "the world of academic cults" that has led to the mystification of Benjamin's work by cloaking itself in "intellectual jargon. When mourning goes wrong in this context, the drive for research becomes a drive to hide, a cryptophilia. The very act of "coverage," as the pun suggests, may be turned to the interests of occultation in specialized discourse. What has to be hidden? The memory of pleasure, based on the experience of the archaic ego, the oral libido. The pleasures so often denied by academic discourse that are more readily available in oral cultures--st02rytelling that mixes memory with fantasy--are precisely those exploited by the entertainment industry.
According to many theoretical studies of subculture, communities are reconstructed through reclaiming this realm of collective memory and imagination from, or through, the mass media. As an alternative to a perceived impasse in academic responses to popular culture, Ulmer proposes writing with the "ghost-effect" of an allegorical mode of composition. In the spaces between memory and imagination we can begin to 35 listen for "other" voices that may release us from the blockages that scholarly conservation can unknowingly maintain.
The return of the photographic still in the video freeze-frame initiates a mourning-work that will also proceed by citations, puns, anecdotes, and images that allow the voices of those enc 2 rypted others to speak. Ulmer begins this process with a proposition derived from the "Theses on the Philosophy of History": "I ask, after Benjamin, what image, what tableau, what scene, and also what story from history stings me into an awareness of the temporality of catastrophe?
In my study the scene is one in which Walter Benjamin flees Paris in , conducting a relay between the cases of manuscripts left concealed in the Bibliotheque and the catastrophe of his suicide at the border.
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Catastrophe The legendary origin of mnemotechnics is traced to Simonides ' remarkable feat in recalling all of the places occupied by guests at a banquet after the roof had caved in and killed them. In Freudian psychoanalysis, the construction of the primal scene made available images of 36 castration. Writing out of our own sense of historical danger we might recover something of our repressed histories. The popularity of Benjamin's story among intellectuals makes it analogous to a televisual recreation of the past.
What Ulmer notices about academic discourses, Mary Ann Doane finds also characteristic of television: "what is now at stake in the catastrophe, for us, is coverage. Television confronts us with death as ever-ready, random, but because it is on television, distant from us. While catastrophe promises to disrupt, to overthrow "total flow," it is immediately reproduced according to the banality of eveirything, including the residual terror of our own death which has become meaningless.
Patricia Mellencamp, also working at the interface of Benjamin and television, points to this transformation of mourning that we have been discussing: The historical and crucial difference between Benjamin, Freud, and television is that television is shock and therapy; it both produces and discharges anxiety. Whereas for Benjamin shock came from the public "crowd" of modernity and historical events , and for Freud the experience or affect was, with the critical exception of the war neuroses, individuated.
TV administers shock and ameliorates the collective affects, imagined and 37 shared, perhaps uniform. Via repetition, information, and constant coverage, TV is both source and solution. As cultural studies examines the various processes of social identification, those fantasies about dead rock stars, screen idols, and politicians that already circulate through a variety of commercial and subcultural economies are becoming increasingly visible in the intellectual scene.
We are witnessing the emergence, at the interfaces of cultural theory, electronic technologies, and everyday life, of a notion of textual production whose model is no longer the conscious individual or self -ref lexive subject but the decomposing body of the celebrity. The academy has long supported its own death cult in the institutional figure of the author- -national literatures and critical traditions have been founded on the tombs of Shakespeare and Goethe. My study of Benjamin also works at the intersections of private and public realms as a way of participating in the logics of a televisual culture.
Chapter One discusses Adorno's critique of the culture industry, which took shape in the situation of his exile in America and the aftermath of the Holocaust, and how a principal way in which Adorno's relation to this history was acted out was through his reception and publication of his friend's writings. The fate of Benjamin's manuscripts after his death gives rise to a story about his relations with Adorno and Bataille in light of their respective concerns with mourning and sacrifice.
I relate Benjamin's theories to Bataille 's ideas about radical expenditure undeianining all forms of monumental ity and place both theorists ' responses to historical catastrophe in the context of TV's representations of history in the postwar era. In Chapter Two I take up the psychoanalytic notion of scenic construction that had influenced Benjamin. Lukacher defines the Freudian primal scene as situated in an undecideable space "between archival verification and interpretive free play.
Exploring the psychodynamics of electronic mourning, in Chapter Three I discuss the 39 prototypical cult movie, Casablanca , as a fetish that re- plays the moment when it was "still possible to believe" that heroic individual acts could solve complex political situations. I read Hannah Arendt ' s portrayal of Benjamin for an American audience in conjunction with these popular images of heroism.
In Chapter Four I examine the general transformation of our historical archive by electronic media. The inter- text that connects Benjamin with Casablanca is further developed as a way of outlining the history of TV, libraries, museums, and the Surrealist aesthetics and politics that influenced Benjamin, all of which directs me toward a mythology of the displaced person in the twentieth- century imagination.
In Chapter Five I further explore the conjunction of persons, theories, and representations at the Berlin Olympics as a primal scene of TV culture. I also look at Benjamin's attendance at Bataille's College of Sociology where the question of the cultic and the analysis of fascism was under urgent discussion. This "last stop" in Benjamin's career concludes my investigation of the death cult as a theme in Benjamin's writings and as en emergent form in TV culture. My conclusion follows the signifying chain case- casa-blanca to uncover behind TV's screen memories the historical experience that Benjamin perceived to be buried with the French revolutionist August Blanqui and which was publicly mourned in the rituals of the death cult that made Blanqui its hero.
Arriving at this "forgotten" image of the 40 death cult, which I argue is of great significance in Benjamin's later essays, and historically coinciding with Bataille's interest in secret societies, my conclusion discusses the place of the death cult as a means by which oppressed peoples and communities negotiate a populist vision of history. Hannah Arendt. Harry Zohn New York: Schocken, p. Reflections: Essays. Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings by Walter Benjamin.
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Hannah Arendt, Introduction, Illuminations. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment , trans. John Gumming New York: Continuum, p.
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Patrick Camille London: Verso, p. Psychoanalysis Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Especially insofar as this assessment implies an extension of this critique to poststructuralism. That Ross does not consider in her discussion the legacies of Surrealism, in particular of Bataille let alone any direct consideration of poststructuralism as also an important critique of structuralism , is symptomatic of her tendency to reduce intellectual and artistic movements to ideology. My use of poststructuralist methods here, while invoking both mourning and Bataille 's notions of expenditure, is intended as a response to any such narrow understanding of poststructuralism.
Mark Lester with Charles Stivale, ed. Constantin V. Geoffrey H. Hartman Bloomington: Indiana University Press, So when a possible candidate for such a status comes along, he is likely to be very well received, especially if he is safely and posthumously out of reach. Such belated "receptions, " for being rare, are all the more intense in the field of literary theory. A fairly recent example is, of course, the case of Walter Benjamin. In the same way that the masked figures who participated in ancient rites were understood to communicate with the world of the dead, the figure of the author still gives rise to academic cults that organize and define the limits of the dissemination of knowledge: the authorial voice that is supported by the monumental installation of a name, image, life story, remains a primary source by which we negotiate our relations with the past.
What happens, however, when this death cult that has taken a specific form in an era of print and book literacy is displaced by the new technologies that now transmit image. According to the most influential of media analysts, the various modes of electronic information have given rise to an epochal mutation of our culturally mediated encounters with death. Have the implications of these changes for the academic study of our culture in the "age of television" yet been fully understood? The "age of criticism" has presented--especially in the United States--a new variation on literary celebrity with the emergence of the theorist.
The academic reception of French Structuralism on one hand, and the popular fame of Jean-Paul Sartre on the other, opened the doors for the marketing of poststructuralism. Intellectual stars are nothing new but, as Paul de Man notes in the passage cited above, they have been rare in the realm of literary studies. De Man's response to hero worship as it arises in an academic field of study is ironic: such projections may help to popularize a discipline but their effects always remain to be unmasked by critical hermeneutics. Yet de Man himself became subject posthumously to a scandal that continues to de-fame the circulation of his name and his writings.
Close readings, by Derrida and others, of the de Man text, which now includes his wartime journalism for collaborationist newspapers, have not been entirely successful in dispelling the suspicion with which de Man's legacy is now approached. Eric Santner, in his discussion of this controversy, has commented on de Man's "error" insofar as he sought to displace and disperse the particular, historical tasks of mourning, which for him, as is now 46 known, were substantial and complex, with what might be called structural mourning, that is, mourning for those "catastrophes" that are inseparable from being- in- language.
He gives de Man's reading of Benjamin's "Task of the Translator," as his example of this tendency: "Benjamin's. De Man's attempt to shift focus from the pathetic-human into the linguistic -inhuman is as complex a move as his own rigorous critical method would demand. In approaching the many theoretical issues it raises, I want first to simply note how this gesture assumes a distance from that pathos that no doubt also supports the "hero-worship" so prevalent in the case of Walter Benjamin.
The linguistic mode of textual analysis that de Man practiced with such sophistication developed out of the "scientific" advances of both European Structuralism and American New Criticism that had attempted to separate their practice from the moralizing and psychologizing tendencies of popular, or "amateur, " styles of literary commentary. The journalistic circulation of information via the attractions of celebrity and scandal was an anathema to the new 47 professional ethos of the postwar American academic. Yet de Man's legacy has become contaminated by the logic of this other mode of information in a way that can no longer be dismissed with a polite--or polemical--irony.
In fact the scandals that have become associated with the names of "deconstruction, " "de Man, " and "Heidegger, " have become a center point of contemporary critical discussion and debate. While many intellectuals of de Man's generation articulated their positions in opposition to the kind of political engagement proposed and practiced by Sartre, the "media event" has returned to haunt their public image. The logics of popularity and notoriety should not be dismissed if we wish to understand the political landscape in which any intellectual endeavor takes shape.
Critical theory has always faced on one hand a philosophical and literary inheritance, and on the other commodity fetishism, the Society of the Spectacle, the "precession of simulacra," etc. She praised parts of the work, such as his chapter on "The Transformation of Sexuality into Eros", but maintained that in some ways it conflicted with Marcuse's Marxism. She criticized Marcuse's account of repression, noting that he used the term in a "metaphoric" fashion that eliminated the distinction between the conscious and the unconscious, and argued that his "conception of instinctual malleability" conflicted with his proposal for a "new reality principle" based on the drives and made his critique of Fromm and Neo-Freudianism disingenuous, and that Marcuse "simply asserted a correspondence between society and personality organization".
Alford, writing in , noted that Marcuse, like many of his critics, regarded Eros and Civilization as his most important work, but observed that Marcuse's views have been criticized for being both too similar and too different to those of Freud.
He wrote that recent scholarship broadly agreed with Marcuse that social changes since Freud's era have changed the character of psychopathology, for example by increasing the number of narcissistic personality disorders. He credited Marcuse with showing that narcissism is a "potentially emancipatory force", but argued that while Marcuse anticipated some subsequent developments in the theory of narcissism, they nevertheless made it necessary to reevaluate Marcuse's views.
He maintained that Marcuse misinterpreted Freud's views on sublimation and noted that aspects of Marcuse's "erotic utopia" seem regressive or infantile, as they involved instinctual gratification for its own sake. Though agreeing with Chodorow that this aspect of Marcuse's work is related to his "embrace of narcissism", he denied that narcissism serves only regressive needs, and argued that "its regressive potential may be transformed into the ground of mature autonomy, which recognizes the rights and needs of others.
Other discussions of the work include those by the philosopher Jeremy Shearmur in Philosophy of the Social Sciences ,  the philosopher Timothy F. Murphy in the Journal of Homosexuality ,  C. Farr, the philosopher Douglas Kellner , Andrew T. Shearmur identified the historian Russell Jacoby 's criticism of psychoanalytic "revisionism" in his work Social Amnesia as a reworking of Marcuse's criticism of Neo-Freudianism.
He also maintained that Marcuse's misinterpretation of Freud's concept of reason undermined Marcuse's argument, which privileged a confused concept of instinct over an ambiguous sense of reason. She endorsed Marcuse's criticisms of Fromm and Horney, but maintained that Marcuse underestimated the force of Freud's pessimism and neglected Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle Cho compared Marcuse's views to those of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan , writing that the similarities between them were less well known than the differences.
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Adorno , Marcuse failed to "take temporality and transience properly into account" and had "no genuine appreciation of the need for mourning. Hite identified the book as an influence on Thomas Pynchon 's novel Gravity's Rainbow , finding this apparent in Pynchon's characterization of Orpheus as a figure connected with music, memory, play, and desire.
She added that while Marcuse did not "appeal to mind-altering drugs as adjuncts to phantasy", many of his readers were "happy to infer a recommendation. However, he criticized Marcuse for relying on an outdated 19th-century translation of Schiller. Brown commended Eros and Civilization as the first book, following the work of Wilhelm Reich , to "reopen the possibility of the abolition of repression" in Life Against Death. He saw Brown's exploration of the radical implications of psychoanalysis as in some ways more rigorous and systematic than that of Marcuse. He noted that Eros and Civilization has often been compared to Life Against Death , but suggested that it was less elegantly written.
He concluded that while Marcuse's work is psychologically less radical than that of Brown, it is politically bolder, and unlike Brown's, succeeded in transforming psychoanalytic theory into historical and political categories. He deemed Marcuse a finer theorist than Brown, believing that he provided a more substantial treatment of Freud. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre criticized Marcuse for focusing on Freud's metapsychology rather than on psychoanalysis as a method of therapy in Marcuse He believed that Marcuse followed speculations that were difficult to either support or refute, that his discussion of sex was pompous, that he failed to explain how people whose sexuality was unrepressed would behave, and uncritically accepted Freudian views of sexuality and failed to conduct his own research into the topic.
He criticized him for his dismissive treatment of rival theories, such as those of Reich. He also suggested that Marcuse's goal of reconciling Freudian with Marxist theories might be impossible, and, comparing his views to those of the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach , argued that by returning to the themes of the Young Hegelian movement Marcuse had retreated to a "pre-Marxist" perspective. Phil Brown criticized Marcuse's attempt to "synthesize Marx and Freud" in Toward a Marxist Psychology , arguing that such a synthesis is impossible.
He maintained that Marcuse neglected politics, disregarded the class struggle, advocated "sublimation of human spontaneity and creativity", and failed to criticize the underlying assumptions of Freudian thinking. Though influenced by Marcuse, he commented that Eros and Civilization was referred to surprisingly rarely in gay liberation literature.
In an afterword to the edition of the book, he added that Marcuse's "radical Freudianism" was "now largely forgotten" and had never been "particularly popular in the gay movement. The social psychologist Liam Hudson suggested in The Cult of the Fact that Life Against Death was neglected by radicals because its publication coincided with that of Eros and Civilization. Comparing the two works, he found Eros and Civilization more reductively political and less stimulating. He accused Marcuse of sentimentalism.
Hencken described Eros and Civilization as an important example of the intellectual influence of psychoanalysis and an "interesting precursor" to a study of psychology of the "internalization of oppression" in the anthology Homosexuality: Social, Psychological, and Biological Issues However, he believed that aspects of the work have limited its audience. Though granting that Marcuse proposed a "powerful image of a transformed sexuality" that had a major influence on posts sexual politics, he considered Marcuse's vision "utopian".
The philosopher Jeffrey Abramson credited Marcuse with revealing the "bleakness of social life" to him and forcing him to wonder why progress does "so little to end human misery and destructiveness" in Liberation and Its Limits However, he argued that while Marcuse recognized the difficulties of explaining how sublimation could be compatible with a new and non-repressive social order, he presented a confused account of a "sublimation without desexualization" that could make this possible.
He described some of Marcuse's speculations as bizarre, and suggested that Marcuse's "vision of Eros" is "imbalanced in the direction of the sublime" and that the "essential conservatism" of his stance on sexuality had gone unnoticed. The philosopher Roger Scruton criticized Marcuse and Brown in Sexual Desire , describing their proposals for sexual liberation as "another expression of the alienation" they condemned. Seidler credited Marcuse with showing that the repressive organizations of the instincts described by Freud are not inherent in their nature but emerge from specific historical conditions.
He contrasted Marcuse's views with Foucault's. The philosopher Seyla Benhabib argued in her introduction to Marcuse's Hegel's Ontology and the Theory of Historicity , an interpretation of the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel influenced by the philosopher Martin Heidegger , that Eros and Civilization continues the interest in historicity present in that earlier work and that Marcuse views the sources of disobedience and revolt as being rooted in collective memory.
However, he considered the way these works turn the internal psychological process of repression into a model for social existence as a whole to be disputable. Bernstein described Eros and Civilization as "perverse, wild, phantasmal and surrealistic" and "strangely Hegelian and anti-Hegelian, Marxist and anti-Marxist, Nietzschean and anti-Nietzschean", and praised Marcuse's discussion of the theme of "negativity".
However, he argued that Marcuse failed to reinterpret Freud in a way that adds political to psychoanalytic insights or remedy Freud's "failure to differentiate among various kinds of civil society", instead simply grouping all existing regimes as "repressive societies" and contrasting them with a hypothetical future non-repressive society. The economist Richard Posner maintained in Sex and Reason that Eros and Civilization contains "political and economic absurdities" but also interesting observations about sex and art.
He credited Marcuse with providing arguments that made the work a critique of conventional sexual morality superior to the philosopher Bertrand Russell 's Marriage and Morals , but accused Marcuse of wrongly believing that polymorphous perversity would help to create a utopia and that sex has the potential to be a politically subversive force. He considered Marcuse's argument that capitalism has the ability to neutralize the subversive potential of "forces such as sex and art" interesting, though clearly true only in the case of art.
He argued that while Marcuse believed that American popular culture had trivialized sexual love, sex had not had a subversive effect in societies not dominated by American popular culture. He questioned to what extent Marcuse's readers understood his work, suggesting that many student activists might have shared the view of Morris Dickstein, to whom it work meant, "not some ontological breakthrough for human nature, but probably just plain fucking, lots of it".
The philosopher James Bohman wrote in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy that Eros and Civilization "comes closer to presenting a positive conception of reason and Enlightenment than any other work of the Frankfurt School. However, she believed that Marcuse's influence on historians contributed to the acceptance of the mistaken idea that Horney was responsible for the "desexualization of psychoanalysis.
She described Eros and Civilization as "overschematic yet blobby and imprecise". He suggested that Marcuse found the gay liberation movement insignificant, and criticized Marcuse for ignoring it in Counterrevolution and Revolt , even though many gay activists had been influenced by Eros and Civilization. He pointed to Altman as an activist who had been inspired by the book, which inspired him to argue that the challenge to "conventional norms" represented by gay people made them revolutionary.
The gay rights activist Jeffrey Escoffier discussed Eros and Civilization in GLBTQ Social Sciences , writing that it "played an influential role in the writing of early proponents of gay liberation", such as Altman and Martin Duberman , and "influenced radical gay groups such as the Gay Liberation Front's Red Butterfly Collective", which adopted as its motto the final line from the "Political Preface" of the edition of the book: "Today the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the political fight.
According to P. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. February Abramson, Jeffrey B. Boston: Beacon Press. Altman, Dennis St Lucia: University of Queensland Press. Benhabib, Seyla; Marcuse, Herbert Hegel's Ontology and the Theory of Historicity. Bernstein, Richard J. Marcuse: Critical Theory and the Promise of Utopia. London: Macmillan Education. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CS1 maint: extra text: authors list link Brown, Norman O. Brown, Phil Toward a Marxist Psychology.
New York: Harper Colophon Books. Cantor, Jay; Brown, Norman O. Santa Cruz: New Pacific Press. Caplan, Pat Mimesis, with its connotations of mimicry, the act of expression, and presentation of the self, is at the core of discussions of these perspectives on the body, materiality, psychosis, the literary and political. Illustrations include art by Paul Klee and patients. Much to her credit, the author explains the complex school of post-Freudian psychoanalysis succinctly, and yet she never misses out on crucial details Stewart's work fills in important gaps in the existing body of work on Benjamin and other schools of thought The dialectics of Benjamin's intricate transfiguration of Melanie Klein and of Bion are made radiantly clear.
This book is particularly useful for establishing both Benjamin's vision of Kafka and his effect, through Bion, on Samuel Beckett. The work of Klein and her followers has been shamefully neglected in literary and philosophical studies, and Stewart's book goes some way to rectifying that omission. In particular she shows the kinship between Benjamin's thinking and that of the catastrophe-oriented Wilfred Bion.