Benjamin, Walter (1892–1940)

Walter Benjamin was a German-Jewish philosopher, historian, literary critic, language theorist, and translator. After the National Socialist takeover in Germany in 1933, he emigrated to Paris. In 1940, attempting to flee the German invasion of France, Benjamin committed suicide near the French-Spanish border.

Benjamin's “configurative” writings draw concepts, citations, and other materials from a wide range of sources. These include European philosophy, Judaic theology, romantic aesthetics, Marxist theories, critical theory, and the literature of the baroque, Charles Baudelaire, Marcel Proust, surrealism, Franz Kafka, and Bertold Brecht. Benjamin's work comprises analyses of modernity's commodity world, examinations of transformations in the structure of individual and collective experience in the realms of capitalist production and consumption, and explorations of the subversive dimensions of mass culture (notably of photography ...

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