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Benjamin’s Figures: Dialogues on the Vocation of the Humanities

The writings of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) are famously and purposely marked by fragmentariness. Paradoxically, a central aim of his work was to connect: all his life he sought to further the integration of scholarship in the humanities which, he believed, had too long suffered from the prevalence of rigid disciplinary boundaries.

Author
Editors: Madeleine Kasten, Rico Sneller, Gerard Visser
Date
09 January 2019

In his analyses of widely divergent cultural phenomena and the constellations to which they belong, Benjamin  shows himself unusually aware of the role of the philosopher/critic. Characteristically, the latter appears in different shapes in his work according to varying contexts: the angel of history, the narrator, the flâneur, the child, the collector – to name just some central figures. Indeed the use of multiple, at times carefully orchestrated voices in Benjamin’s texts radicalizes the notion of interdisciplinarity in ways which continue to provide a vital source of critical inspiration for the humanities, especially at a time when scholarship worldwide is increasingly becoming constrained by the rule of the market. This volume brings together sixteen essays each of which explores this critical potential through a dialogue with one of more of Benjamin’s figures.

About the editors
Madeleine Kasten is assistant professor of comparative literature and literary theory at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, The Netherlands. Rico Sneller is assistant professor of philosophical anthropology at the Leiden University Institute for Philosophy. Gerard Visser is philosopher of culture and associate professor emeritus at the Leiden University Institute for Philosophy.

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