Benjamin and History: The Future of the Subject
Walter Benjamin's cultural criticism sought to grasp the nature of the dramatic social upheavals and transformations of his time (1892-1940). This work tried to discern emancipatory possibilities in contemporary social developments and the emergence of new cultural forms such as photography and cinema, but it was nonetheless preoccupied by problems of recovering past social and cultural history. In readings from Benjamin's major essays,the class seeks the critical intention of his cryptic utterances on problems of modern subjectivity in social history. These texts have provoked musings on temporality and the sense of history in present-day and 'postmodernist' social and cultural criticism. Other readings include selections from writers after Benjamin such as Susan Buck-Morss and filmmaker Alexander Kluge.