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The German–Jewish writer Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) is now widely regarded as one of the most original and insightful cultural theorists of the twentieth century. An associate of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research (the Frankfurt School), and close friend of the critical theorist Theodor Adorno, the Judaic scholar Gershom Scholem, and the playwright Bertolt Brecht, Benjamin developed a highly idiosyncratic critical and redemptive theoretical approach to cultural phenomena drawn from, and interweaving in complex and enigmatic ways, Marxism, Judaic mysticism and messianism, and modernism (in particular, surrealism). Principally a literary theorist, his attention was nevertheless drawn to an extremely diverse range of cultural forms, media, and practices: film and photography; architecture, monuments, and urban space; commodities and fashions; and children's toys and fairytales. The significance ...

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