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Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926

Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926

By Walter Benjamin
Edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings

“Readers new to Benjamin will find this a welcome introduction to a challenging but rewarding writer. Those already familiar with his work will be grateful to be reminded, once again, of the wisdom of his maxim, ‘all the decisive blows are struck left-handed.’”—Graham McCann, Financial Times

“The appeal of Benjamin’s writing, according to Terry Eagleton, lies in the way it ‘manages marvellously to combine…[Marxist] ‘aesthetics’ with the entrancing esotericism of the Kabbala.’… Benjamin is admired not in spite of but because of his arcane syntax, murky vocabulary, and buried meanings… You have to seek the truth in Benjamin’s writings, if you have the patience, and not treat them as conveying knowledge. There is an awful lot of husk to burn in the process, but the theory of truth, if true, explains the obscurity.”—Arthur C. Danto, Artforum

Selected Writings, Volume I increases our understanding of this most important of writers exponentially. There is nothing like Benjamin, and I can hardly imagine a more rewarding book being published this year.”—David Wheatley, The Irish Times

Walter Benjamin was one of the most original and important critical voices of the twentieth century, but until now only a few of his writings have been available in English. Harvard University Press has now undertaken to publish a significant portion of his work in definitive translation, under the general editorship of Michael W. Jennings. This volume, the first of three, will at last give readers of English a true sense of the man and the many facets of his thought. 

Volume I of the Selected Writings brings together essays long and short, academic treatises, reviews, fragments, and privately circulated pronouncements. Fully five-sixths of this material has never before been translated into English. The contents begin in 1913, when Benjamin, as an undergraduate in imperial Germany, was president of a radical youth group, and take us through 1926, when he had already begun, with his explorations of the world of mass culture, to emerge as a critical voice in Weimar Germany’s most influential journals.

The volume includes a number of his most important works, including “Two Poems by Friedrich Hölderlin,” “Goethe’s Elective Affinities,” “The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism,” “The Task of the Translator,” and “One Way Street.” He is as compelling and insightful when musing on riddles or children’s books as he is when dealing with weightier issues such as the philosophy of language, symbolic logic, or epistemology. 

Paperback
528 pages
7 halftones
Harvard University Press, 2004
6 3/8 x 9 1/4 inches
ISBN 9780674013551
Philosophy, Criticism, Anthology

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