Jane O. Newman: Re: Getting Outside the Box


I agree with Alex Gelley that Auerbach’s unpacking of figuration is a question of hermeneutics, of the reading and interpreting of historical events, different than Benjamin’s interest in allegory perhaps, but of close enough filiation for them to have perhaps talked about it in Berlin when Benjamin was working on the Trauerspiel book, as they talked about Baroque emblem books during those years. (It might even be that it is in Benjamin’s reading of how the actual emblems of the Baroque worked that we can see similarities. To go into this comparison would make this post too long.) In any case, it is difficult for me to imagine that Auerbach and Benjamin were not participating in the more, well, inclusive, ecumenical – or perhaps better, cross pollinating (and thus mutually contaminating…) – conversations about allegory going on at the time (cf. Warburg, Panofsky, etc.). These are the kinds of conversations that I try to listen in on in Benjamin’s Library, as I state there on p. 12, as part of a project of creating a new ‘horizon of meaning’ for Benjamin’s claims about allegory, redemption, messianism, Ursprung, and so on. Such claims would then be precisely not “utterly idiosyncratic” – although they are often stated in mystifying ways. Braider’s formulation in his post is cunning: “We’re no longer obliged to see things as [Benjamin] did, or to try to see them through some understanding of how he did,” from within his famously “abstruse” system and logic, in other words. Rather, it is (I argue) only from a position outside of his own that Benjamin’s reading of the Baroque made be allowed to make a new kind of sense.

One thought on “Jane O. Newman: Re: Getting Outside the Box

  1. I like the expression “a new kind of sense.” Jane Newman’s exploration of the relationship between Benjamin’s thinking and Marc Bloch is illuminating. Her approach to Benjamin’s libraries of texts in relation to the Baroque is helpful in understanding his projects not only as transgressive of “disciplinary and methodological borders” but also as refusing any easy obligation of witnesses and readers of witness-texts in one time and place to “fulfill the promise” of another, even while (because?) mediating and interpreting can offer “citizen-students” opportunities for new promise.

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