Hide and Seek: Walter Benjamin’s Reading of Children and Childhood – Take 2

Yesterday’s blog ended with several questions which puzzled over why Walter Benjamin or Georges Bataille would be so interested in “returning to childhood” or describing the “true child.” Before going to sleep last night, I thought about these questions.  But instead of simply thinking about them, I thought about myself.  After all, I am as […]

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. […]

Psychotic Man-Child Fathers – Schlemiel Children: Marc Maron’s “Attempting Normal” (Part I)

When I watch comedy, I’m always curious as to what kind of life this or that comedian lived while growing up. Like many theorists of comedy, I do think there is some plausibility to the claim that comedy, in some way, is born out of and addresses some kind of trauma or loss.   Ruth Wisse, […]

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, […]

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 […]

I Want to Start Again: The Schlemiel, Bad Luck, and the Desire for a New Life (Starring Walter Benjamin)

The desire for change and a new life is fundamentally human.  And oftentimes the desire to start a new life is based on the fact that one is beset by bad luck.  To be sure, this is a theme which many Jews are familiar.  Bad luck seems to follow Jews around.  And, as a result, […]

The “Anxiety of Influence” or Giorgio Agamben’s Gloss on Benjamin’s Reading of Kafka’s Pre-Historic Characters

One of the euphemisms that the literary theorist Harold Bloom is famous for is the “anxiety of influence.”  For Bloom, this term describes the contentious relationship of the contemporary writer to his antecedents.   The anxiety deals with how one relates to these antecedents and the greatness of the modern writer is to “revise” the tradition […]

‘Clumsy Scribblings of Senseless Children’s Hands’: On Heidegger and Kafka’s Temples

One of the most “Greek” moments of Martin Heidegger’s celebrated essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” can be found in his description of the “temple work.”  Heidegger depicts the temple as “giving things their look” and “men their outlook.”  The temple “lets the god himself be present and thus is the god himself.” […]