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The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin (Cambridge Companions to Literature) Paperback – March 29, 2004

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'The essays explore the strain between romanticism and modernism in Benjamin's thought and manage to respond masterfully to the challenge of reading his sober prose, which ranges from laconic aphorisms to vibrant and exertive discourse ... yet another engaging essay focusing on Benjamin's relation to romanticism ... This essay's merit lies in demonstrating Benjamin's unequivocal and enthusiastic espousal of avant-garde aesthetics starting from One-Way Street to Arcades Project ... Jennings' essay is impelling and thought-provoking ...' Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

Book Description

This Companion offers a comprehensive introduction to the thought of the highly influential twentieth-century critic and theorist Walter Benjamin. The volume provides examinations of the different aspects of Benjamin's work that have had a significant effect on contemporary critical and historical thought. Topics discussed by experts in the field include Benjamin's relation to the avant-garde movements of his time, his theories on language and mimesis, modernity, his significance and relevance to modern cultural studies, and his autobiographical writings. Additional material includes a guide to further reading and a chronology.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Companions to Literature
  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521797241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521797245
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,089,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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If you've found your way here, chances are you already know a bit about Walter Benjamin, so I won't spend much time talking about his work in this review. Suffice it to say, however, that Benjamin's writings, even more than those of other cultural theorists (heck, more than those of most other writers) become more rewarding the more widely you read through them. As he might say, each particular work is like an individual piece of a mosaic - put them together and the orchestrated whole is (much, much) greater than the proverbial sum of the parts.

In light of this, a general overview of Benjamin's work for the invested beginner is an essential aide, and in English-language criticism this book is one of the best commonly available sources you'll find (the forthcoming translation of Uwe Steiner's book, "Walter Benjamin: An Introduction to His Work and Thought," promises to be a valuable counterpoint to this collection). The essays are all by well-known critics of Benjamin's writings - as far as I can tell, only Susan Buck-Morss is missing, but at least she already wrote her own book - so you don't need to worry about being steered wrong here. Personally, I found the essays on language and mimesis (Hanssen), cultural history (Caygill), Romanticism (Comay), and Benjamin's relationships with Brecht and the Frankfurt School (Nägele), as well as the introduction, particularly illuminating. Only the essay on Benjamin and psychoanalysis seemed lacking (if you have to use psychoanalysis to explain why Benjamin didn't use much psychoanalysis, maybe it's time to throw in the towel) - though in all fairness, I'm not much a fan of psychoanalytic theory myself, so take this complaint with a grain of salt.
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