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Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis by Elizabeth Stewart

By Elizabeth Stewart

Exhibits how Benjamin’s recommendations in regards to the individual’s event of the cloth international make major touch with post-Freudian psychoanalytic concept.

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Additional resources for Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis

Example text

As Menninghaus puts it, contemplating a mournful nature and brooding over the abyss of language—which is both loss and infinity at the same time--is a despairingly hopeful way of doing this (1980, 206). Menninghaus also suggests that the actual letters, the material elements of words, the sounds, are experienced by this hopelessly hopeful man as containing the depths of God’s secrets, so that revelation may seem to be promised by its material manifestations within human history: in the sounds and letters of language (1980, 211).

Its status in psychoanalytic terms is analogous. I will go into considerably more detail in the next chapter to show the ways in which Lacan’s objet a can explain Benjamin’s more esoterically and theologically framed conceptions of language. Human language, for Benjamin, can only go so far as to “communicate itself” in language (which is itself a breach and “dislocation”) and to an original abyss, the traces of the original word, as Weber puts it, and not to God, as Pizer has it (unless “God” is identified with the leap between human and divine language).

Man was endowed by God with language and with the ability—and task—to name other things. This naming constitutes knowledge (Erkenntnis) and also art, just as it also constitutes human relationship with the material world (64). Naming allows man to communicate himself, as opposed to simply communicating about something else. To whom or what? Benjamin’s answer to this question in this essay is, of course: God. But the essay also tells us that the original naming took place in Paradise, which we have lost and replaced with judgment and instrumental knowledge.

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