But let us assume that he’d succeeded in finishing his great project. The figure of the flâneur had been “discovered” earlier in the novels of Honoré de Balzac and others, and the main themes of Baudelaire’s poems had been studied even by German academics, some of whom had offered analyses not dissimilar to Benjamin’s.Tags: Essays By Langston HughesBusiness Plan For A Law FirmCreative Writing Programs For SThe Things They Carried Essay Questions And AnswersEnglish Language Essay WritingCanadian Student Essay CompetitionEssays Censorship MediaWhy Do I Want To Be A Nurse Essay
As for his Marxism, such as it was: if that is the main point of attraction, by rights the real culture hero should be his contemporary Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)—once famed as the “father of the New Left” but, these days, decidedly not a name to conjure with.
More likely, Benjamin owes his fame to the rise of cultural studies and its various academic subdisciplines: post-modernism, post-structuralism, women’s and gender studies, and the rest of the lot.
Notably underrepresented is Asja Lācis, Benjamin’s great love; it was she who broke up his marriage, was instrumental in his conversion to a peculiar brand of Marxism, and engineered his personal introduction to Brecht.
Latvian-born, a militant Communist, she lived in Moscow until suddenly disappearing in 1938.
A central emblematic figure for Benjamin was that of the flâneur, the stroller or urban explorer who habituated these environs.
Having gathered a mountain of materials, Baudelaire’s poetic masterwork Les Fleurs du Mal being prominent among them, Benjamin wanted to show how urbanization had revolutionized not only culture, as evidenced in art and architecture, urban planning, and new ideas of beauty, but life in general.
Yes, he was highly educated, widely read, and engaged in diverse areas of inquiry.
Yes, his ideas (as in his best-known essay, “”) were often original, and there were flashes of genius. Had he produced a new philosophy of history, proposed a fundamentally new approach to our understanding of 19th-century European culture, his main area of concern, or revolutionized our thinking about modernity?
Jennings and published by Harvard, is only the latest addition to a seemingly unending stream. Eiland and Jennings cite such cultural signposts as the radical student movement of the 1960s and the attendant revival of Marxist thought.
But 60s radicals were hardly great readers, and Benjamin’s writings are, to say the least, maddeningly opaque and often altogether inaccessible.