CFP: Creative Readings of Old Benjamin (Australia) (6/16/06; 8/17/06-8/19/06)

full name / name of organization: 
John Grech
contact email: 

Proposals for papers are invited for a panel at the "Walter Benjamin
and the Architecture of Modernity" conference to be held in Sydney,
August 17 - 19

Panel Title; "Brushing Up Against The Grain": Creative readings
(between the lines) of old Benjamin.

Chair; John Grech

Panel Description

Walter Benjamin often expresses his most profound thoughts with a
poetic, mystical, and, one could add, subtle Kabbalistic tenor.
Indeed, one of the features of his writing is that he seems quite
deliberately careful to camouflage or remove the prospect of creating
a direct, indexical significance of what he could be seen to be
saying in his writing. Instead of providing textual certainty,
Benjamin can sometimes leave his reader with a sense of the
mysterious and elusive effect of language and the meaning it can

This panel forefronts the textual ambiguity and uncertainty and seeks
creative, innovative, alternative, and/or intertextual dialogues
"between the lines" of part or the whole of Benjamin's oeuvre.
Welcome approaches would re-read specific essays in Benjamin's work
and open up, again, and interrogate the basic questions or problems
they pose. For example, in "The Task of the Translator", why does
Benjamin finally land in a bottomless abyss where the specific
language of an author and their translator opens up to the infinitude
of 'pure language'? Or, in "The Arcades Project", to what effect did
he so carefully juxtapose the discarded shards of culture into an
evocative walk through the arcades of historical debris? And, in
"Theses on the Philosophy of History", what does the account of Paul
Klee's 'Angelus Novus', amongst images of vanquished Carthagians and
victorious ruling Romans, suggest about the way we re-member and
re-collect the past?

Other welcome approaches could re-interpret Benjamin's work into
contemporary contexts and examine whether his work continues to be
relevant. For example, turning to "The Work of Art in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction", Benjamin goes to great length to show that
the greatest threat facing humanity is fascism, and the most powerful
weapon the fascist dictator has is modern technology with its
capacity to standardise the production of the artifact and
universalise its meaning. But is such a virulent anti-totalitarian
critique still relevant in a partial, oversaturated age of new media?
And is Benjamin really saying that the 'aura' of the reproduced
artifact is irretrievably depleted? So how do contemporary advocates
of global democracy respond to his critique of the social bonds and
cultural relations produced through reproduced/reproducing objects?
Then Benjamin ends the "Mechanical Reproduction" essay by portraying
communism as a great liberator of humanity, but who, after 1989, or,
in fact, after Sartre after Kruschev, still believes this? Is there
something still in old Benjamin's consideration of communism that
remains productive? What does Benjamin offer in a post 9/11 world?

In addressing such or other questions, this panel asks whether there
is an overarching project in Benjamin's writing, and if there is,
whether that project is yet, and is always in need of being

Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted to John Grech
<> by 16th June.

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