Reading Benjamin Reading, ACLA Vancouver (11/1/10; 3/31/11-4/3/11)

full name / name of organization: 
Brooks E. Hefner
contact email: 

In 1927, exactly one hundred years after Goethe first used the term "Weltliteratur," Walter Benjamin returned to Berlin from Moscow. He had spent his time there reporting on developments in Russian literature and film, and he arrived to find that his German translation of Marcel Proust's Within a Budding Grove had been published to strong reviews. Such multi-lingual and multi-national literary undertakings are central to Benjamin's entire corpus. While not a major figure in most narratives of world literature, Benjamin's involvement and theoretical interest in questions of translation, media, and cultural history suggest ways of placing him in these important contexts. But how do we read Benjamin's own reading? This seminar invites papers on Benjamin's own voracious reading and critical commentary, from major essays like "Unpacking My Library" to casual evidence of his reading preferences, such as the mention of William Faulkner's Light In August in one of Benjamin's final letters to Theodor Adorno. Possible topics may include:

* Benjamin's book reviews
* Benjamin's theory and practice of translation
* The Arcades Project and world literature
* German Men and Women and literary history
* Quotation, appropriation, appreciation
* Reading Benjamin's own reading list (in the Gesammelte Schriften)
* High/low reading preferences
* Benjamin and "booklike creations from fringe areas"
* Benjamin and international crime fiction
* Cinema as universal/transnational language
* Speculative Benjaminian readings
* Benjamin and Goethe/Proust/Brecht/Gide/Baudelaire
* World literature and "the trace"
* World literature and the literary flâneur

Please submit a 250 word abstract and 50 word bio through the ALCA conference site: