Walter Benjamin

1892 - 1940

photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (; German: [ˈvaltɐ ˈbɛnjamiːn] ; 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940) was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic, media theorist, and essayist. An eclectic thinker who combined elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, Jewish mysticism, and Neo-Kantianism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism. He was associated with the Frankfurt School, and also maintained formative friendships with thinkers such as playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem. He was related to German political theorist and philosopher Hannah Arendt through her first marriage to Benjamin's cousin Günther Anders though the friendship between Arendt and Benjamin outlasted her marriage to Anders. Both Arendt and Anders were students of Martin Heidegger, whom Benjamin considered a nemesis.Among Benjamin's best known works are the essays "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935), and "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (1940). His major work as a literary critic included essays on Baudelaire, Goethe, Kafka, Kraus, Leskov, Proust, Walser, Trauerspiel and translation theory. He also made major translations into German of the Tableaux Parisiens section of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal and parts of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. Of the hidden principle organizing Walter Benjamin's thought Scholem wrote unequivocally that, "Benjamin was a philosopher," while his younger colleagues Arendt and Adorno contend just as emphatically that he was "not a philosopher." As Scholem remarked: "The peculiar aura of authority emanating from his work tended to incite contradiction." Benjamin himself considered his research to be theological, though he eschewed all recourse to traditionally metaphysical sources of transcendentally revealed authority.In 1940, at the age of 48, Benjamin died by suicide at Portbou on the French–Spanish border while attempting to escape the advance of the Third Reich. Though popular acclaim eluded him during his life, the decades following his death won his work posthumous renown. Source: Wikipedia (en)

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