A Note on Smallness, Memory & Comedy in Walter Benjamin’s “Berlin Childhood” and Stuart Ross’s “Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew”

At the outset of Berlin Childhood around 1900, Walter Benjamin suggests that something out of his past was calling to him and that he had decided to surrender himself to it.  His memory has a narcotic affect.  But it is teaching him something.  Peter Szondi argues that, for Benjamin, the “search for time past is […]

Gentle Irresistibility: Adorno on the Promises of Happiness and Truth in Walter Benjamin’s Work

Religion and philosophy are both interested in some form of ultimate good that results in happiness. Aristotle is often noted for saying that all human beings desire to be happy. Much of what we do is for the sake of happiness. For Aristotle, the desire for happiness is built into human nature and is achievable. […]

Courting Failure: On Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt’s Readings of the Schlemiel – An Essay Published in Berfrois

I recently wrote an essay on Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt’s readings of the schlemiel and published it on the online journal Berfrois.  This essay touches on thinkers and themes that will appear in my book on the schlemiel.  It is a foreshadowing, if you will. Here is the link to the article: http://www.berfrois.com/2014/07/menachem-feuer-walter-benjamin-hannah-arendts-readings-of-the-schlemiel/ Enjoy! Menachem […]

John Steinbeck, Marc Maron & Walter Benjamin on Driving, Distraction, and Reflection

Over the years, I have driven thousands of miles across the United States. And I have always looked at these journeys – with all of those hours behind the wheel – as opportunities for me to think and reflect on all kinds of things. To be sure, some of my best thoughts have come to […]

Walter Benjamin’s “Dream Kitsch”

Like Robert Walser, Walter Benjamin, from time to time, wrote in very small script.   According to the editors of the Walter Benjamin Archive, Benjamin’s “miniaturized script is reminiscent of Robert Walser’s ‘pencil system’, which he used to help him write”(50). But unlike Walser, who “learnt to ‘play and poeticize’, in the small and smallest details, […]

Literature and Failure: On Walter Benjamin and Howard Jacobson’s Description of Literature

One of the things that really prompted me to look into the schlemiel was a statement Walter Benjamin once made – in a letter to his dear friend, the Kabbalah scholar, Gershom Scholem – about Franz Kafka’s literary project. In the letter, dated June 12, 1938, Benjamin describes Kafka’s entire literary project in terms of […]

Walter Benjamin on Socrates, Histrionic Dialogue, and Comedy as the “Inner Side of Mourning”

Walter Benjamin was fascinated with the figure of the “imposter” (or intriguer) and how it related to the Trauerspiel (Mourning Play) since it represents the meeting point of comedy and tragedy.   This meeting point, for Benjamin, finds its precursor in Socrates.  His silence, as opposed to tragic silence, is ironic. It is based on letting […]