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Walter Benjamin : the production of an intellectual figure Hoenle, Sandra Vivian Berta 1999

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W A L T E R B E N J A M I N T H E P R O D U C T I O N O F A N I N T E L L E C T U A L F I G U R E by S A N D R A V I V I A N B E R T A H O E N L E B . A . , wi th Dis t inct ion, The Universi ty o f Calgary, 1977 M . A . , The Universi ty o f Calgary, 1987 A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F D O C T O R O F P H I L O S O P H Y in T H E F A C U L T Y O F G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S Department o f Educat ional Studies W e accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H . C O L U M B I A December 1999 © Sandra V i v i a n Ber ta Hoenle , 1999 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2788) 11 Abstract Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), a twentieth-century Jewish-German intellectual, has recently achieved iconic status; however, during his lifetime, many scholars considered him to be a failure. This substantial shift in scholarly attitude invites questions concerning how intellectual figures are understood and constructed within academia. Cultural studies has renewed and enlarged the sphere o f interest in Benjamin 's w o r k while, at the same time, canonizing and thus freezing it. This dissertation addresses the non-canonical side o f the product ion o f Walter Benjamin and, in so doing, shows what traditional scholarship has over looked — the effect o f the so-cal led "private" sphere on so-called "publ ic" intellectuals. The dominant model for traditional scholarly studies remains both abstract and linear: it consists o f tracing the influence o f one (usually male) scholar upon another. This dissertation disrupts the tacit assumptions behind such an approach to knowledge by showing how intellectuals are produced both by and at the intersections o f the public and the private. The general scholarly acceptance o f this false dichotomy, commonly referred to as the public/private split, has resulted in v iewing scholars as though they exist in an abstract realm o f ideas rather than in a concrete realm o f l ived reality. I d raw on and add to the insights o f feminist and cultural studies scholars w h o have attempted to show h o w people 's interested contradictory locations, defined, as they are, by class, religion, ethnicity, gender, and so on, intersect with and affect their publicly constructed identities. T o this end, my study provides a concrete example o f how one particular intellectual, Wal ter Benjamin, has been (and continues to be) produced within specific historical, social, and cultural contexts. i i i Table of Contents Abstract i i Acknowledgements , iv Dedication v Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Literature Overv iew: Identifying the Issues 18 Introduction 18 Overv iew 22 Conc lus ion 50 Chapter 2 Personal Genealogy: M e t h o d o l o g y and Theory 52 Chapter 3 Benjamin 's Social and Famil ia l Situation 72 D o r a Sophie Kel lner /Po l lak /Benjamin /Morser and the Discourse o f the Wife 88 Chapter 4 Boundar ies o f Knowledge : Benjamin as a "Fai lure" 110 Chapter 5 Capr i , 1924: Lac i s and Benjamin: Porous L ines o f Demarca t ion . . . 143 Chapter 6 Lac i s , M o s c o w and Radio Pedagogy 186 Chapter 7 Conclus ion 216 Works Cited and Consulted 224 iv Acknowledgements I w o u l d l ike to sincerely thank my advisor, D r . Les l ie R o m a n , and my research committee, D r . Jean Barman , D r . Steven Taubeneck, and D r . Geoffrey W i n t h r o p - Y o u n g , for all o f their extremely valuable assistance and support during the various stages o f the prolonged gestation and difficult birth o f this dissertation. In particular, I wish to express my deep gratitude to D r . Les l ie R o m a n for her guidance through my explorations o f feminist theories and crit ical pedagogies and for her continued energetic support throughout the duration o f this project. M y heartfelt thanks go to D r . Florentine St rze lczyk for her friendship and unwavering support. I would also l ike to convey my indebtedness to M s . Joanne Richardson and M s . Rosv i t a Vaska . Final ly , I wish to express my l o v i n g gratitude to my husband, Jiirgen Bahr , who unquestioningly assumed the role o f "wi fe" whenever there were insufficient hours in the day for me to contribute to the running o f our household, and who has steadfastly supported me in a multitude o f ways. V Dedication This dissertation is dedicated wi th love to my mother, Inge Geider. H e r uncondit ional love together w i th her support for this and all o f my endeavours has helped me step through doors o f possibili ty that were held shut to her by her o w n historical, social , and cultural contexts. 1 Introduction This project is located at the intersection o f cultural studies and crit ical pedagogy — interdisciplinary fields that have developed in similar and often parallel ways during the past two decades. These t w o areas understand culture as process rather than product, and they characterize knowledge product ion as one instance o f cultural production. I contend that these two areas intersect at numerous points that can and should be brought into product ive dialogue wi th one another. Proceeding from this shared conception o f culture and knowledge, this study examines ways o f understanding intellectual figures according to the premise, again c o m m o n to both fields, that identity and subjectivity are formed in and by every sphere o f existence. M o r e o v e r , these spheres are all social sites that depend on cultural conditions (Johnson 11). The subject o f this analysis is Wal ter Benjamin, a figure whose w o r k has been used and examined in both fields and, therefore, may function to show how and where they intersect. Whi l e there are numerous ways o f defining cultural studies and crit ical pedagogy, the definitions relevant to this study are those that are derived from the w o r k o f the B i rmingham Centre o f Cul tura l Studies. These fields have four things in common: First , both fields are interdisciplinary. Whi le disciplinary w o r k places its subjects o f study wi thin specific, established frameworks and methodologies, posit ioning them wi th regard to the w o r k o f others within that discipline, interdisciplinary studies occur at the intersection o f various disciplines, bringing new insights that may not be seen from within a single discipline. F r o m this it fo l lows that each examined subject is embedded within its o w n specific context and that each new cultural context suggests a particular methodological constellation rather than a new method or theory (Denham, Kacandes, and Petropoulos 16; emphasis in original). B o t h fields also examine not only a chosen object o f study, but also the means by which knowledge about that subject is determined; that is, they attempt to understand the problematic nature o f knowledge claims ( M i c h e l 2 33) by examining knowledge not as a product but as a process. They do not seek "truth"; rather, they attempt to understand how "truth" is produced, and they do this by taking a crit ical attitude towards both their objects o f study and their own practices (Taubeneck 162). This pronounced shift o f attention f rom product to process is accompanied by a pedagogical shift from transmission, mastery, and reproduction to interaction, critical engagement, and product ion. The second thing that both fields have in common is that they generally agree wi th Stuart H a l l ' s definition o f culture as "both the meanings and values which arise amongst distinctive groups and classes, on the basis o f their given historical conditions and relationships through which they 'handle ' and respond to the condi t ions o f existence; arid as the l ived traditions and practices through which these 'understandings' are expressed and in which they are embodied" ("Cultural Studies; T w o Paradigms" 527; emphasis in original). Consequently, culture is understood not in terms o f artefacts or objects, but in terms o f numerous processes simultaneously occurr ing within all social spheres. Thus cultural objects, such as texts, are not examined for what they are but, rather, for why and how a society has labelled them in certain ways (e.g., as beautiful or true) (Kacandes 11; emphasis in original). The analysis o f cul tural processes occurs wi th in an understanding o f culture as primarily relational. Y e t these relations represent neither harmony nor homogeneity but, rather, a creative tension between possibly contradictory elements (Denham, Kacandes , and Pet ropoulos 16). Such tension facilitates the detection and understanding o f the dynamics o f cultural processes. G iven that culture is comprised o f numerous relational processes, there can be no final answers to questions, as processes continually shift and change. Consequently, both fields are engaged in projects that, by definition, can never be completed. The third thing that cultural studies and critical pedagogy have in common is their general perception that education is closely l inked to culture. A s R icha rd Johnson has argued, cultural studies and educational practices and processes are interdependent (6). Investigations concerning 3 education ask questions relating to how, by w h o m , and for w h o m knowledge is p roduced and disseminated. Related to education are issues concerning intellectuals. W i t h i n the t w o fields under discussion, the intellectual is understood as a cultural phenomenon inhabiting a particular subject posit ion. A s Johnson maintains, "[subject ivi t ies are formed in every sphere o f existence, in all social sites that all depend on cultural condit ions" (11). In other words , intellectuals are constructed at many sites, not only in those related to institutions o f formal learning. Twentieth-century German-Jewish intel lectual Wal ter Benjamin was constructed in many ways and in many locations, both during his life and after. Understanding the intellectual as a cultural phenomenon al lows for a fuller, less distorted examination o f intellectual figures — an examination that looks not for where they fit in relation to others in the same field but, rather, for how they fit within their respective social and cultural contexts. These contexts contain both public and private spheres, situations o f both formal and informal education. Intellectuals are made not only at their desks and in lecture halls, but also around the kitchen table. A consequence o f taking into account both public and private spheres is that people other than intellectuals are enabled to speak. U n t i l recently, the intellectual has occupied a privileged posit ion wi th regard to knowledge production and dissemination — a posit ion that has been increasingly challenged. Cul tural studies and critical pedagogy problematize this posi t ion o f authority and, in so doing, make the connections between scholarship and society more obvious. Benjamin, l ike other intellectual figures, is neither a harmonious whole nor a homogeneous entity but, rather, a complex, often ambiguous and contradictory figure. Moreove r , Benjamin the intellectual is inseparable from Benjamin the man, for the social contexts wi th in which he l ived fo rmed bo th him and his work . H i s private life and informal educational and social situations contributed to shaping him as much as did the social institutions wi th which he was associated. 4 This brings me to the final thing that cultural studies and crit ical pedagogy have in common: namely, their politics. B o t h fields are poli t ical in that they assume that practice matters and that intellectual w o r k both can and should make a difference (Nelson, Treichler, and Grossberg 6). A s Irene Kacandes maintains, "[o]ne o f the ways in which cultural studies tries to make a difference is by showing just what is 'at stake' in the wor ld around us, that is by naming and invest igat ing categories that are inherently relevant to contemporary societies" (10). In the words o f Graham M u r d o c k , "making a difference" is "making available the repertoire o f meanings through which the social w o r l d ... is understood and acted o n " (68). The questions that we ask ourselves, the w o r k we do, and the connections between that w o r k and the society in which w e live should all , in some way, contribute to improving the general social welfare (Denham, Kacandes , and Petropoulos 1), to "making the goal o f knowing the wor ld subserve the goal o f eliminating injustice in it" (Lu tz 308). The importance o f seeking social justice and connecting intellectual w o r k to its cultural/social context may be seen in the making o f Walter Benjamin. Overview of Chapters Chapter One Chapter 1 provides a br ief overview o f Benjamin scholarship. The major works reviewed maintain the separation o f public and private, referring to the latter, i f at all , as background to, rather than as consti tutive of, Benjamin's work . M a n y o f the works that attempt to provide an overall understanding o f Benjamin's oeiivre do so by classifying him as a particular k ind o f scholar wi th in a specific scholarly tradition. M o s t attempt to determine whether Benjamin is messianic or materialistic, whi le others focus on elucidating the psychological and institutional ways in which he has been constructed as a failure. The messianic-versus-materialist distinction that was prominent in earlier research has gradually given way to understandings that attempt to show that Benjamin 5 was, in fact, both, wi th his early work being primarily messianic and his later w o r k being primarily materialistic. These sorts o f classifications provide a strategy that effectively silences those dimensions o f Benjamin and his w o r k that do not fit pre-established categories. 1 Such polarized understandings o f Benjamin are problematic in that they posit separate and opposing spheres that render relational understandings virtually impossible and leave numerous dimensions o f his life and w o r k unexamined. Specifically, the private realm remains unexplored, and, w i th it, all those elements traditionally held to be external to the intellectual (public) realm: emotions, interpersonal relationships, reproductive and maintenance work , and the role o f gender. F o r example, my survey o f how Asja Lac i s has been portrayed illustrates that, regardless o f her many accomplishments and the significant role she played in Benjamin's life and work , she is generally either dismissed or understood as a pleasant diversion. Sometimes she appears in the role o f a mythologized figure: as Ariadne or as a muse to the genius, Benjamin. T o date, there has been no satisfactory way o f explaining L a c i s ' role in Benjamin's life. Overa l l , wi thin the fields o f critical pedagogy and cultural studies in Great Br i t a in and N o r t h Amer i ca , engagement wi th Benjamin is both diverse and uneven, ranging from detailed analyses to brief references. Iain Chambers and R o g e r S imon provide examples o f h o w Benjamin 's w o r k may be used to gain insights into popular culture (Chambers) and the practices o f remembrance and commemorat ion (Simon). M o s t commonly, however, those who cite Benjamin as an authority do not engage wi th any aspect o f his work . Such studies, among them G i r o u x ' s and M c L a r e n ' s work , demonstrate that Benjamin has become an icon — someone whose function is to represent an idea ' The verb "to silence" generally denotes intentionality. I use this verb neither to imply that individuals consciously set out to purge certain aspects of Benjamin's habilitation process nor to imply that there was a university conspiracy against him; rather, 1 believe that the underlying assumptions concerning what constitutes a successful scholar effectively silenced certain aspects of his habilitation because, for various (often unexamined) reasons, they were considered of no relevance. 6 or attitude. C o m m o n to all o f the studies reviewed is that they deal wi th Benjamin as an idea rather than as a person. In sum, there are large gaps and silences in the Benjamin literature, primarily wi th respect to the intersection o f the public and the private, the intellectual and the emotional, and the role o f women in Benjamin's life and work . The aim o f my project is to begin to bridge those gaps and to begin rethinking a number o f assumptions underlying scholarly w o r k that, by virtually ignoring the private, the emotional, and women, portrays the making o f intellectual figures as abstracted from social contexts. Chapter Two Chapter 2 provides the theoretical and methodological f ramework for my analysis o f Benjamin. I accept Doro thy Smith 's assertion that the scholarly product ion o f knowledge is subject to different regimes o f truth at different junctures and that the frameworks within which "great" intellectual figures are examined determine which dimensions o f their lives and works are valorized and which are silenced. I accept T o r i l M o i ' s notion that knowledge about intellectual figures is "made" by a network o f discourses that includes various strands, such as gender, rel igion, race, location, and class. A s examining all o f these interrelated dimensions w o u l d be too formidable a task for one dissertation, I concentrate on gender, while indicating how gender intersects wi th other social locations by class, ethnicity, religion, and nation. A s M o i and others have noted, intellectual figures generally become the subject o f research in t w o forms: (1) biography, which examines " l i fe" ; and (2) literary-cultural cr i t icism, wh ich examines an aestheticized form o f their intellectual work . The theory and practice o f this split is both informed by and reinforces the still prevalent public/private dichotomy. Because the implicit assumption that women belong in the private sphere is still predominant in Benjamin scholarship, 7 women ' s contributions to making Benjamin as a public intellectual figure are devalued, minimized, or ignored. M o i points out that intellectuals are often reduced to a concept or a set o f ideas. Thus, for example, Benjamin is often reduced to his idea o f "rubbing history against the grain." H e r cr i t ic ism o f h o w intellectual figures are understood leads her to propose the method o f personal genealogy — a relational analysis that includes both the private and the public and that stands counter to most scholarly analysis, wh ich contents itself wi th look ing at abstract interactions between ideas. The method o f personal genealogy provides a means o f examining how cultural and educational processes contribute to the making o f an intellectual. It is both gendered and situated, thus including the whole person. A s N a n c y M i l l e r asserts, "public spaces o f institutional life remain haunted by the emotions institutional authority prefers to exclude: desire, love, anxiety, pain" (983). M o i insists that there should be no methodological distinction between a person's written texts and her/his life texts. L i k e M o i , I begin from the premise that numerous written and life texts intersect to "make" the person be ing analyzed. The verb "to make" indicates: (1) how the educational institution produced and continues to produce Benjamin, first through the process o f his education and then through research about him; (2) how he was/is produced by his own texts; and (3) how he was/is produced by his gendered social position. I analyze the complex intersections o f the multiple dimensions o f Benjamin 's life and work in a relational manner; that is, both wi th and against one another. M o i ' s study focuses on making meanings, whereas my study, which is based on a materialist understanding o f discursive analysis, focuses on issues o f power relations and materiality. B y discourse I refer to a process that both forms and is formed by material reality and, as such, has material consequences within specific social and historical contexts. Thus meanings are not neutral but, rather, privilege certain groups and specific kinds o f knowledge. This being the case, academics 8 need to be accountable for the formative role their w o r k plays in the product ion o f knowledge. In this connect ion, I turn to Jaequi Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohan ty , w h o explain that accountabili ty involves not only devising critical analytic tools and taking responsibility for them, but also finding new and more accurate ways o f understanding the wor ld . The goal o f these new understandings should be social justice. The challenge I undertake is twofold : (1) to avo id the prevalent bifurcation that either reduces the intellectual 's accomplishments to effects o f personal circumstances or v iews those accomplishments as aesthetic objects, "undefined" by life; and (2) to provide a feminist analysis o f Wal ter Benjamin that foregrounds the dimension o f gender and critiques and disrupts the still prevalent public/private, professional/personal split. Feminist scholarship recognizes the need to examine h o w knowledge is produced at various intersections o f publ ic and private. A s M a g d a L e w i s has observed: "Knowledge production is always the result o f our intellectual efforts to make sense o f our most mundane and most profound social experiences, motivated by our moral/polit ical agenda and laced wi th conversation, casual remarks, the circulating o f books and articles that have interested us and which we think might interest others, and the mutual critique o f texts" (Lewis 123-24). T o say that Benjamin is no more than the sum o f his w o r k and the product o f the influence o f the "great men" before him is to present a limited and distorted understanding o f him in particular and o f intellectual figures in general — one that continues to privilege the traditional, masculine intellectual lineage. Whereas numerous scholars have set a goal o f producing a "who le" picture o f Benjamin 's w o r k and thought, fo l lowing my feminist predecessors, I address the inconsistent and the contradictory in an attempt to provide an understanding o f Benjamin that includes not only his ideas, but also the social relations that made his work possible. 9 Chapter Three The recognit ion that knowledge is produced by individuals situated wi th in specific social, interpersonal, and intellectual communities requires a new type o f scholarship — a scholarship that addresses not only those texts that exist within established intellectual traditions, but also the product ion o f scholarship itself. Chapter 3 contains an analysis o f the nature and effects o f splitting an intellectual into private and public, particularly as this split relates to gender. Benjamin is posit ioned wi th in the larger, German social context and his o w n familial context, especially his relationship wi th his wife, D o r a Kel lner /Benjamin. These dimensions are most often regarded as background to the intellectual, when in fact they are constitutive o f both his/her w o r k and subjectivity. A s Ange la M c R o b b i e notes in her cr i t icism o f Paul Wi l l i s , in order to understand members o f a social group, it is necessary to include private as well as public dimensions. Benjamin was made by his class and family affiliations as much as by his institutional and public associations. L i k e numerous middle-class, acculturated Jewish families in Ber l in , the Benjamins strove to be as much like other middle-class Germans as possible, and they aspired to enter the class o f the educated bourgeoisie. A s Benjamin attempted to enter this class, G e r m a n society and the university i tself were undergoing a great deal o f change. Al though it was virtually his birthright, as the son o f a wealthy family, to attend university, the general uncertainty brought about by social change and the high unemployment rate among intellectuals was blamed on Jews (among other marginal groups), thus reducing his chances o f success. This situation posit ioned Benjamin as both privileged and marginalized, and it contributed to his becoming a "failure." In Chapter 3 I revisit Benjamin as the "poor , struggling genius," as he has often been constructed, particularly in conjunction with his outsider posi t ion vis-a-vis the university. The evidence seems to suggest that the loss o f material privileges, together wi th his o w n reluctance to 10 take on most forms o f employment, contributed to a percept ion o f poverty and hardship that coloured both his w o r k and later understandings o f him. A c c o r d i n g to Benjamin, culture is produced not only by the great, but also by the nameless: " E s [das Ku l tu rgu t ] dankt sein Dasein nicht nur der M i i h e der groBen Genien, die es geschaffen haben, sondern auch der namenlosen F r o n ihrer Zeitgenossen" ("fjber den B e g r i f f der Geschichte" 696) ["They (cultural assets) owe their existence not only to efforts o f the great minds and talents, who have created it, but also to the anonymous toil o f their contemporaries" ("Theses on the Phi losophy o f H i s t o r y " 258)]. These "nameless toilers" are often those who dwel l in the private sphere, those engaged in the so-called reproductive work that enables cultural product ion; namely women. It is the supportive w o r k generally performed by women that enables the public work , and it is this "anonymous t o i l " that is written out o f official accounts o f h o w both knowledge and culture are produced. One such nameless toiler, who was involved with a "great mind and talent," is Wal te r Benjamin 's wife, Dora Kellner/Benjamin. She typed some o f her husband's work , shared many o f his intellectual interests, tended to his domestic needs, had the connections to assist in the publication o f a number o f his essays, and earned most o f the family income. A s yet she has not been included in any discussion o f Benjamin's work , although her "support ing role" has been acknowledged in biographical works . 2 N o one has questioned her role, thus perpetuating the myth that the intellectual is somehow "above" daily necessities, having a "wi fe" who tends to such matters. In Chapter 3,1 examine Benjamin's social and familial situation and how the discourse o f the wife has been employed by Benjamin scholars and, to some degree, by D o r a and Wal ter 2 Fuld's biography mentions the factual aspects: when and how the Benjamins met, married, and later divorced. Brodersen provides more information about Dora herself, her parents, and the kind of work she did while married to Walter. Scholem, The Story of a Friendship, also discusses the emotional ups and downs of the Benjamin marriage, to which he was witness. Puttneis and Smith provide a wealth of information about Dora and the Benjamin marriage without attempting to establish links between it and Benjamin's work. 11 themselves, to minimize D o r a Kel lner /Benjamin 's role in the mak ing o f Walter Benjamin. M y questions are: D o e s our understanding o f what makes an intellectual need to include scrubbing toilets and changing diapers? H o w do the private and public intersect to make intellectual labour possible? In other words , I question the prevalent notion o f the intellectual as an abstract, decontextual ized individual and seek to understand the material processes that contribute to the product ion o f an intellectual figure by conducting a relational analysis o f h o w the public and private spheres contribute to intellectual production. Chapter Four Chapter 4 examines how the university made Benjamin at the time o f his attempted habilitation at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt. I analyze the institution o f the university and its members at that t ime, together wi th Benjamin 's relationship wi th academia, in order to demonstrate h o w various strands o f his life contributed to making him. These strands include his disdain for institutions o f education (which appears to have begun wi th his enthusiasm for Gustav Wyneken ' s school reform and his own involvement in the Student Refo rm M o v e m e n t ) . 3 Other strands include the rejection o f his habilitation, the anti-Semitism o f the Universi ty o f Frankfurt, the inflexibility o f both the institution and Ben jamin himself (especially his sharp cri t icism o f all existing forms o f formal education and the majority o f formal educators), and the fact that his w o r k did not conform to any particular discipline, school o f thought, or methodological paradigm. Benjamin 's academic failure is comprised o f numerous dimensions, including systemic anti-Semitism, the strict adherence to disciplines, and his supervisor 's ambit ions. The professors he 3 Gustav Wyneken (1875 -1964), an educational reformer who ran the private school Benjamin attended for a short time, was an influential leader in the Student Reform Movement. Benjamin was strongly influenced by Wyneken and his ideas, although he broke off all relations with Wyneken in 1915 because of the latter's pro-war stance. w o r k e d wi th had their o w n careers to consider, and they wished to enhance those careers by reproducing themselves — by fathering 4 a bright, new scholar and by avoiding being associated wi th "undesirables." H o w e v e r , Benjamin 's life circumstances and desires also played a role in his leaving the university. These include his financial situation, pressure from his parents to stop depending on them for financial support, the responsibilities o f being a husband and father, his o w n reluctance to devote any o f his time to teaching and mentoring students, and his long-standing disdain for the university as an institution and for many o f its faculty members (whom he felt to be generally incompetent). A l though the various conflicts that arose during Benjamin's university years have been examined to some degree, for the most part this examination has been framed wi thin antagonistic terms: Benjamin versus the institution or Benjamin versus various individual members o f the inst i tut ion. 5 M i s s i n g to date is not only a relational analysis o f these antagonistic relationships and the various dimensions that comprise them, but also a closer examination o f one relationship in particular. I refer here to Benjamin 's association with Gottfried Salomon-Delatour , who could be considered his mentor during his attempt at habilitation. While not directly involved in Benjamin 's formal educational process, Sa lomon 6 played an important role that has not yet been acknowledged. Sa lomon has been neglected for two main reasons: (1) he holds no place in the intellectual traditions wi th in wh ich Benjamin is generally placed and (2) his mentoring relationship wi th Benjamin is A This is very apparent in the German word for supervisor: "Doktorvater," literally, doctor-father. In German, the process, the relationship, and its obvious gendering are much more explicit than they are in English. 5 See, for example, Irving Wohlfarth, "Resentment Begins at Home: Nietzsche, Benjamin, and the University," On Walter Benjamin: Critical Essays and Recollections, Ed. Gary Smith, (Cambridge, Mass/London: M I T Press, 1988) 224-59; and Burkhardt Lindner, "Habilitationsakte Benjamin: fiber ein 'akademisches TrauerspieP und fiber cin Vorkapitel der 'Frankfurter Schule'" ["The Benjamin Habilitation File: A n 'Academic Tragedy' and a Preface to the 'Frankfurt School'"], ZeitschriftfurLiteraturwissenschaft undLinguistik 53/54 (1984): 147-65. ° Salomon is referred to both as Salomon and as Salomon-Delatour ~ in fact he published under both names. I wi l l refer to him as Salomon. 13 nurturing and, hence, is considered to be part o f the private realm, and therefore irrelevant to Benjamin 's intellectual life. Evidence provided by the recently published Benjamin/Salomon correspondence indicates that Salomon played an important role in the making o f Wal ter Benjamin. H e was Benjamin 's main contact at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt and, as such, a friend and mentor who provided support for Benjamin and his work . Furthermore, the two men shared numerous intellectual interests, and it is possible to clearly trace Salomon 's influences on Benjamin 's work . M y examination shows that one can arrive at no easy conclusions concerning Benjamin 's academic failure (and success). L i k e all other aspects that contribute to the making o f an intellectual, acceptance by the university is contingent upon numerous dimensions, both in and out o f the control o f the individual . This being the case, a scholar cannot adequately be defined by his/her acceptance or rejection by a university. Consequently, it is not the fact o f Benjamin 's rejection that is o f primary interest to me, but rather the processes by which it occurred. Only when the various strands are taken into consideration is it possible to arrive at a fuller understanding o f how the institution makes an intellectual figure. Chapter Five Chapter 5 addresses Benjamin 's relationship with Asja Lac is and the time they spent in Capr i . There is a general consensus that this trip was a major event in Benjamin 's life and work . M o m m e Brodersen , for example, maintains that " in contrast to Theodor Wiesengrund (later A d o r n o ) , wi th w h o m he had become acquainted the year before in Frankfurt, Ernst B l o c h and Alf red Sohn-Rethel , ... Benjamin 's stay on Capr i was to mark a turning point in his life that had a lasting influence on his wr i t ing" (Brodersen, Walter Benjamin 135). B e m d Witte, in his intellectual biography o f Benjamin, argues that "[t]he year 1924 marked a decisive change in Benjamin's life and thinking. Under the impact o f his experiences at the time, he transformed himself from esoteric philosopher to poli t ically engaged writer, from language mystic to dialectical materialist" (71). M i c h a e l Jennings asserts that Benjamin "dated his espousal o f M a r x i s m to a stay on Capr i in 1924, during which he established a complex intellectual and erotic relationship wi th the La tv ian Communis t theater director As ja L a c i s " (70). Benjamin himself describes this trip as a turning point: in a letter to his friend Gershom Scholem he refers to "vital l iberation" and "intense insight" (Correspondence 245). I w i l l examine Benjamin ' s becoming a M a r x i s t in terms o f how the various discourses outlined above intersect and, in so do ing , w i l l provide a multidimensional understanding o f his trip to Capr i . In Chapter 5, I discuss how Benjamin's lifelong cri t icism o f institutional scholarship was intensified by his experience o f what he and Lacis referred to as "Porosi ta t" [porosity]. A l though the concept is implici t in Benjamin's pre-Capri writings, it is in "Naples , " the essay he wrote wi th Lac i s , that he first explici t ly discusses and names it. The essay resulted from their observation and analysis o f the porous boundaries between public and private life in Naples . This notion was further developed in Benjamin 's considerations concerning the porosi ty o f life and work , o f theory and practice, and the shift to interior and exterior that came to the fore years later in the "Arcades Project ." I explore how this concept is made material in architecture and in Benjamin's writ ings about his chi ldhood. L a c i s and Benjamin began their examination o f Naples wi th a discussion o f the porosity o f Neapol i tan architecture and the ways in which it both constructs and is constructed by the daily lives o f the people l iv ing in the city. The body is vital to their understanding o f porosity, for physical and conceptual boundaries restrict the body not only in its movement and activities, but also in its enjoyment o f sensual pleasures. Fo r Benjamin and Lac i s , an examination o f the key sensual forms o f sleeping, eating, and sexuality led to an understanding o f porosity. The relationship between L a c i s and Benjamin can, itself, be described as porous, as it occurs at the intersection o f various sensual, emotional, poli t ical , and intellectual dimensions. H i s erotic passion for L a c i s is due, at least in part, to her being somewhat exotic — neither German nor Jew. Furthermore, her assertive, independent sexuality made her unlike either a "mother" or a "whore ," the t w o basic roles assigned to women within a Western patriarchal system. Pol i t ica l ly , L a c i s was a l iv ing example o f both intellectual exploration and practical progressive poli t ical change — and Benjamin wished to engage in both (particularly in the face o f the social and economic upheavals o f Weimar Germany) . L o o k i n g back at his o w n sexual awakening, Benjamin sees how various dimensions o f his subjectivity intersected: the religious, the erotic, and the intel lectual . H e found the fact o f his thinking t w o contradictory thoughts simultaneously to be orgasmic. H o w e v e r , he fails to see such interconnections in his relationship wi th Dora . D o r a was his first intellectual, pol i t ical , and sexual partner, yet when she became his wife and Stefan's mother, his physical, intellectual, and poli t ical attraction to her seems to have dwindled and died. She was no longer his partner and support but a hindrance. A l though he attempted a materialist social analysis, he continued to subscribe to a wor ldv i ew that defined women ' s roles with little regard for their l ived realities. In fact, most o f his wr i t ing fails to address the situation o f women at all. This is a blind spot, and it stands in contradiction to the fact that his own intellectual work relies, in part, on women. Benjamin does, however, examine the complex intersections o f the poli t ical , intellectual, and sexual both in his chi ldhood reflections and in his relationship wi th Lac i s . H e further develops the themes and analysis o f "Naples" in " O n e - W a y Street," an essay in which his dedication names L a c i s as the engineer o f this street. M o r e than an Ariadne (as she has often been described) who leads Benjamin through the labyrinth o f the city, Lacis is the creator o f the path they fo l low in order to study the porous and shifting boundaries o f modern urban life and to critique bourgeois life and values. She provides him with an example o f an alternative means o f being an intellectual. Lac i s not only engages in intellectual discussions and activities, but in M o s c o w she works wi th one o f Russ ia ' s most marginalized groups — the street children. She combines theory and practice in order to affect progressive social change, something Benjamin repeatedly admires and learns from. Lac i s literally grounds Benjamin 's work , g iv ing him the basis for his material social analysis and a model for integrating theory and practice. Chapter Six Chapter 6 recounts how Benjamin travelled to M o s c o w , first to escape the many difficulties o f his life, and second, to be with Lacis and attempt to find a point o f convergence for his erotic, pol i t ical , and intellectual passions. Crucia l to this chapter is the constellation formed by Lac i s ' work with children, her pedagogical and theatrical interests, her activism in the cause o f the Russian Revo lu t ion , Benjamin 's pedagogical interests, his renewed poli t ic izat ion, his understanding o f porosity, and his w o r k in the new medium o f radio. The way in wh ich the dimensions o f this constellation converge illustrates Benjamin's theoretical and practical engagement wi th new forms o f cultural product ion. Rather than rejecting and condemning popular culture, as did his colleagues A d o r n o and Horkheimer , Benjamin embraced its positive potential not only for disseminating knowledge, but also for producing it, and for creating new cultural forms. H i s radio plays and talks have a didactic intent that is traceable to his early involvement in the Student R e f o r m Movemen t , to his relationship wi th Lac i s , and to his knowledge o f her work in the proletarian children's theatre. Unl ike the professors who gave traditional lectures on the radio, Benjamin made the medium part o f the message. H i s emphasis on sound drew the listeners' attention to the functioning o f this new medium, and helped them understand i t . H i s perhaps naive hope was that this understanding w o u l d also make them critical rather than passive. 17 U n l i k e other didactic radio plays o f the time, Benjamin's radio work did not attempt a one-way dissemination o f knowledge, but encouraged thought and feedback. H e hoped to break wi th the traditional forms o f formal education in order to involve the audience directly as participants in making knowledge rather than in merely consuming it. H e was, moreover , one o f the few intellectuals involved in the early days o f radio who considered the ramifications o f br inging public education into the private sphere o f the home. The examination o f Benjamin 's and L a c i s ' relationship in Chapters 5 and 6 provides a step towards examining interrelations between "whole persons," as A l i s o n Jaggar calls them, rather than disembodied ideas. Such whole persons consist o f emotions as well as intellects, bodies as wel l as minds, and private as wel l as public lives; and all o f this is interrelated and shaped by gender, location, class, and religion — those discourses identified by M o i in discussing her method o f personal genealogy. A l l these relationships play a part in making intellectual labour and the product ion o f knowledge possible. B y examining these relationships, I attempt to recover those dimensions o f scholarship that have, as yet, received little attention; namely, those traditionally categorized as private and thus constructed as having little relevance to academic endeavour. B y demonstrating some o f the ways in wh ich the private is constitutive o f the intellectual's subjectivity, identity, and work , I hope to provide a fuller understanding o f intellectual labour and intellectual figures than that to wh ich most n o w subscribe. That such an endeavour is crucial to cultural studies and cri t ical pedagogy is self-evident. 18 Chapter 1 Literature Overview: Identifying the Issues Introduction N o t only has Walter Benjamin been (re)claimed by Germanists re-examining his w o r k in light o f its significance for literary criticism, but he is also now being examined by such disciplines as philosophy, sociology, art, and histoiy, to name only a few. Interest in his work is strong not only in established disciplines, but also in new ones. Some, such as cultural studies and cri t ical pedagogy, wh ich not only critique and attempt to disrupt disciplinary boundaries but wh ich are often explici t ly anti-disciplinary, celebrate Benjamin as a founding father and regularly cite his w o r k to authorize their own . Benjamin 's wri t ing has prompted numerous analyses, some o f which examine specific aspects o f his work , some o f which provide an overv iew o f his entire oeuvre. These studies are conducted from many ideological standpoints and are both discipline-specific and interdisciplinary. Benjamin 's w o r k resonates in many areas, and this has resulted in ever-growing amounts o f research that construct and reconstruct his significance. The process o f constructing and reconstructing Benjamin as a leading twentieth-century intellectual figure is at the heart o f this thesis, wh ich attempts to address h o w scholars understand intellectual figures and how cultural polit ics affect these understandings. Ea r ly Benjamin studies categorize his work as messianic, while many later studies categorize it as materialistic. Examinat ions o f his work that attempt to illustrate how he combines the former with the latter in fact merely trace one or the other o f these two poles throughout his work , in order to "prove" that he was primarily messianic or materialistic. W h i l e these tendencies are primarily observable in German-speaking scholarship (which has access to all o f Benjamin 's work ) , Eng l i sh -speaking scholarship tends to analyze Benjamin primarily on the basis o f only three essays: "The Storyteller," " O n Some M o t i f s in Baudelaire ," and "The W o r k o f Ar t in the A g e o f Mechan ica l Reproduc t ion , " — the three works that Jameson refers to as "the great symbolic t r i logy" (Jameson 269) . 7 It is also evident that many Benjamin studies are ahistorical and decontextual ized, easily leading to the mistaken conclusion that Walter Benjamin is a disembodied mass o f ideas floating in a metaphysical realm. This conclusion tends to produce an attempt to apply Ben jamin ' s ideas universally. Such understandings, o f Benjamin in particular and o f intellectuals in general, are more interesting for what they silence and ignore than for what they appear to say. B y reducing Benjamin and his significance to the sum o f his work , his life is either totally ignored or stands as mere background information. This split between "career" and " l i fe" is one o f the key strategies employed in the cultural polit ics o f understanding intellectual figures. Assuming that w o r k is separable from life, such scholarship detaches the person in question from her/his social reality. This manner o f dealing wi th Benjamin is to be found not only in the areas o f literary and social theory, but also in critical pedagogy and cultural studies. Feminist theory has long cri t icized this split, showing how it is used to validate and perpetuate a perspective that devalues and silences not only women, but all marginalized social groups involved in the construction o f knowledge. Based on a wealth o f evidence taken from lived reality in conjunction wi th academic analysis, feminist thought has demonstrated that categories such as poli t ical/personal, public/private, are historical constructs. Generally, binary opposit ions 7 Based on an examination of the bibliographies of English-language scholarship, it appears that many English-speaking scholars have been limited to only those works that have been translated into English. Jameson goes so far as to suggest that one of the reasons for Benjamin's popularity in North America is that the few works that have been translated provide a tantalizing glimpse of fragments of his work (268). Menninghaus has also observed that the "American" Benjamin consists of only a limited number of translated texts (199). 20 such as public/private not only pr ior i t i ze one pole (public) over the other (private), but by associating dominant social groups wi th one over the other they perpetuate positions o f social privilege, authorizing practices that limit social justice. It is the limitations that binary opposit ions impose on the making o f knowledge that provide the starting point for my invest igat ion o f Walter Benjamin. I propose that the still prevalent distinction in Benjamin scholarship between public and private, in conjunction wi th the desire both to classify Benjamin and to understand his w o r k as a coherent body o f ideas, serves to exclude far too many dimensions. This strategy o f separation has resulted, among other things, in As ja L a c i s ' influence on Benjamin remaining virtually unexplored. W o m e n , love, the erotic — these are all traditionally relegated to the private sphere. A n d so there is no examination o f the intersection o f the erotic and the intellectual, as it plays i tself out in the relationship between Benjamin (a rich, young, Jewish, philosophically and religiously inclined German husband and father) and L a c i s (a Christ ian, La tv ian , Marx i s t activist, mother, and life-partner o f a successful theatre director). H o w can w e claim to understand Benjamin until this relationship has been examined? This split between public and private is a widespread strategy that, for the most part, remains unarticulated and unexamined in literary and social criticism, and in cultural studies — fields in wh ich the majority o f Benjamin scholarship is still found. The first goal o f my project is, therefore, to critique this bifurcation o f Benjamin into man versus scholar. I do this wi th the support o f a large body o f feminist research that clearly illustrates the ideological nature o f the public/private split and the insufficiency o f attempting to understand an intellectual figure in an ahistorical, universalizing manner. M y second goal is to disrupt and problematize the public/private distinction by engaging the texts o f Benjamin 's work and life together with the texts produced about him. This engagement takes into account Benjamin's national, religious, soc ioeconomic , gender-specific, historical 21 position. W h i l e focusing primarily on the dimension o f gender, I wi l l indicate where this overlaps wi th other dimensions. In other words , I w i l l examine the intersection o f Benjamin 's writ ings not only w i th his being male, but also wi th his being a middle-class Jewish intellectual l iv ing in Germany during the We imar R e p u b l i c / The result w i l l raise important questions about the canonical intellectual figuration o f Walter Benjamin. T o accomplish these goals, I employ the method o f personal genealogy, as developed by M o i in her ground-breaking study o f the making o f an intellectual woman, Simone de Beauvoi r . Personal genealogy refers to a way o f charting the intersections between life and work . Rather than attempting to disclose an original identity by means o f a linear, causal narrative, as is generally done in biographies and intellectual history, personal genealogy "seeks to achieve a sense o f emergence or product ion and to understand the complex play o f different kinds o f power involved in social phenomena" ( M o i 7). Personal genealogy does not attempt to situate an intel lectual within a particular intellectual lineage; rather, it situates her/him within a specific historical, spatial, social context (i.e., the context o f her/his lived life). It explicates knowledge product ion as a relational rather than as a causal process. In other words, the public and the private, the intellectual and the emotional, are not kept separate but are investigated at the points where they intersect. F r o m this perspective, the question o f power is addressed by asking how institutions and the individuals wi th in them define who is an intellectual, what knowledge is worthwhi le , and what questions are wor th asking. W i t h regard to Benjamin, I attempt to determine how and why he was constructed as a failure during his o w n lifetime and as an intellectual "superstar" after his death. 8 The Weimar Republic existed from the end of the First World War and the abdication of William II (1918) until Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor (1933). This first German republic was named after the city of Weimar, where the new constitution was forged by the National Assembly (1919). 22 In order to understand the processes involved in knowledge product ion, I w i l l examine those traditional Western assumptions (especially the public/private split) that inform decisions concerning wh ich aspects o f an intellectual's life and w o r k should be addressed and which should not. These decisions determine which writ ings are considered worthwhi le and thus find their way into the canons o f various fields o f study. I am interested in the processes that go into making all " important" intellectual figures, and Benjamin provides an excellent example o f h o w these processes operate, especially wi th regard to how certain elements come to be excluded. I begin wi th an overview o f Benjamin scholarship, first in critical pedagogy and cultural studies, then in literary cri t icism and social theory, in order to indicate a number o f gaps in current understandings. These gaps are a result of: (1) bifurcating Benjamin into a public and private entity; (2) attempting to come to an overall understanding o f Benjamin by classifying him as a particular kind o f scholar; and (3) conflating Benjamin the man with Benjamin the scholar. Overview In the various areas identified as critical pedagogy, specific references to Benjamin are relatively few. Wi th in one strand o f Amer ican critical pedagogy, some scholars, for example Peter M c L a r e n and Henry A . G i roux , often refer to Benjamin but without engaging wi th his w o r k in any way. M c L a r e n uses pertinent quotes from Benjamin to int roduce an essay, and G i r o u x ' s use o f Benjamin consists primarily o f references to his idea o f "rubbing his toiy against the grain"; usually, G i r o u x does not even cite a source. 9 In the work o f M c L a r e n and G i r o u x , Benjamin functions as 9 See Henry A . Giroux, Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture (New York/London: Routledge, 1994) 105, 120; Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education (New York/London: Routledge, 1992) 78, 106, 195; "Introduction," Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, Paulo Freire and Donaldo Macedo (Westport. Connecticut/London: Bergin & Garvey. 1987) 16; and Peter McLaren, "Multicultural ism and the Postmodern Critique," Between Borders: Pedagogy and the Politics of Cultural Studies, Ed. Henry A . Giroux and Peter McLaren (New York/London: Routledge, 1994) 192; "Schooling the Postmodern Body," Postmodernism, Feminism, and Cultural Politics,. Ed. Henry A . Giroux (Albany: 23 an icon for a particular attitude. These examples, and numerous others, refer to Illuminations, the col lect ion o f w o r k s most often cited in social sciences and cultural studies. 1 0 One o f the best k n o w n Benjamin essays in the English-speaking wor ld is from this col lect ion: "The W o r k o f A r t in the A g e o f Mechan ica l Reproduc t ion . " 1 1 In the field o f cultural studies, Iain Chambers has product ively engaged wi th this essay in his two ground-breaking studies on popular culture, Urban Rhythms and Popular Culture. Popular Culture is a general overview, or mapping, o f the various dimensions o f Br i t i sh popular culture and o f how they inform everyday knowledge. N e w forms o f popular art, which require no specialized knowledge and are not institutionally sanctioned, are juxtaposed wi th the preserved forms o f "off ic ial ," or institutionalized, culture, which are based on cultivated tastes and formal knowledge. Popular culture is not abstractly contemplated as though it exists in a separate sphere, as has been the case with high culture, but is l inked to everyday informal knowledge as it is used, examined, and understood through "distracted reception" (Popular Culture 12). Urban Rhythms, based on this same understanding o f popular culture, traces popular music in Br i t i sh white working-class male culture, examining its various forms and meanings as well as its intersections wi th the pol i t ical , social, and economic landscape o f Bri t ish pop music from the mid-fifties to the late seventies. Chambers builds on Benjamin's understanding o f changing modes o f cultural production. A s Benjamin has shown, "conditions o f perception, reception, and artistic p roduc t ion [have] irreversibly changed" (Chambers, "Contaminat ion" 608). M o r e specifically, "[t]he request for 'authenticity ' [has been] rendered meaningless by mechanical reproduct ion" (Chamber, Urban State University of New York Press, 1991) 144. 1 0 Hannah Arendt edited and wrote the introduction to this collection, which represents her (successful) attempt to acquaint American readers with Benjamin. 1 1 Hereafter this essay wi l l be referred to as ' W o r k of Ar t . " 24 Rhythms 15). This means that there are "no longer any f ixed 'sources, ' no 'pure ' sounds, no untainted 'aura ' against wh ich to evaluate the continual combination, reproduction, and transmission o f sounds, images, and objects that circulate in the heterogenous flux o f the modern ci ty" (Chambers, "Contaminat ion" 608). Urban culture, not institutionalized cultural forms, is Chambers ' referent, and "mechanical reproduction is its privileged mode o f cultural product ion" (Chambers, "Contamina t ion" 612) In " W o r k o f A r t , " Benjamin argues that one cannot continue to examine cultural product ion wi th outmoded theoretical frameworks and assumptions. H e specifically refers to the "aura" o f works o f art, which , in the past, was closely linked to the uniqueness o f the art object. It is this uniqueness — the uniqueness o f the original — that provided the ar twork wi th its "authenticity" and placed it wi th in institutionalized intellectual traditions that were separate from everyday reality. W i t h the possibility o f mechanical reproduction, the aura is no longer the defining feature o f art; and, i f w e are to understand new art forms made possible by new means o f production, then the distinction between high and popular culture is no longer viable. This being the case, art can no longer be considered as existing in a separate, autonomous sphere; rather, it must be considered as pol i t ical : "In dem Augenbl ick aber, da der MaBstab der Echtheit an der Kuns tprodukt ion versagt, ... tritt ihre Fundierung auf eine andere Praxis: naml ich ihre Fundierung auf P o l i t i k " (Benjamin, "Das Kuns twerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkei t" 1 2 482) ["But the instant the criterion o f authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic product ion ... it begins to be based on another practice -- pol i t ics" ( "Work o f A r t " 226)]. The continuity and rituals o f tradition are broken by these new means o f production: " D i e Reprodukt ionstechnik ... lost das Reproduzier te aus dem Bereich der Tradi t ion ab" (Benjamin, 1 2 Hereafter this essay wil l be referred to as "Kunstwerk." 25 "Kuns twe rk" 477) ["The technique o f reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain o f t radi t ion" ( "Work o f A r t " 223)]. N e w means o f product ion precipitate a change in the relationship between the author and the readers: "die Unterscheidung zwischen A u t o r und P u b l i k u m [ist] i m Begriff , ihren grundsatzlichen Charakter zu verlieren" (Benjamin, "Kuns twe rk" 493) ["the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character" ( " W o r k o f A r t " 234)]. A t this point, the public is more than a mass o f consumers, it is also a mass o f cultural producers and critics. Benjamin, unl ike his Frankfurt School associates Theodor A d o r n o and M a x Horkheimer , saw the necessity o f redefining culture, particularly wi th regard to the dist inction between high cul ture and mass culture, while still maintaining the positive potential o f both the new forms o f technology (such as photography, f i lm, and radio) and the cultural forms they produced. B y contrast, Adorno ' s and Horkhe imer ' s analysis focused on mass culture, which they understood to be a tool for the manipulation o f the masses wi th in the social and bureaucratic structures o f late capitalism. In "The Cul ture Industry"(first published in 1944), A d o r n o and Horkhe imer analyze mass culture within the context o f their experience o f fascist Europe and Amer ican mass culture. They are clear in their condemnation o f it: " M o v i e s and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth is that they are just business made into an ideo logy in order to justify the rubbish they produce" ( A d o r n o and Horkhe imer 121). T o them, television is "the tr iumph o f invested capital" (Adorno and Horkhe imer 124). They are equally clear about the vic t im status o f the consumers o f mass culture: "The consumers are the workers and employees, the farmers and the middle-class. Capitalist product ion so confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless victims to what is offered" ( A d o r n o and Horkhe imer 133). The two main threads o f this analysis are: (1) the public is an undifferentiated mass o f consumers that w i l l do what is expected o f them; and (2) cultural 26 products are commodit ies that are dominated by propaganda, advertising, and consumerism ~ they have nothing to do with art. In short, A d o r n o and Horkhe imer maintain the distinction between high and mass culture, understanding the latter to be negative and detrimental as wel l as structurally determined by the institutions o f late capitalism. Benjamin, although aware o f the potential for the abuse o f new cultural forms and the new technology that produced them, also recognized the positive, potentially liberating and pedagogical capabilities o f this new technology. H e believed that it was necessary to understand art and culture in new ways. Where A d o r n o and Horkhe imer saw the control exerted by the means o f product ion during the w o r k d a y being continued and reinforced in mass culture, Benjamin envisioned the possibility o f bursting the workday wor ld asunder by means o f new cultural forms: Unsere Kneipen und GroBstadtstraBen, unsere B i i r o s und moblierten Z immer , unsere Bahnhofe und Fabriken scheinen uns hoffnungslos einzuschlieBen. D a kam der F i l m und hat diese Kerkerwel t mit dem Dynamit der Zehntelsekunde gesprengt, so daB w i r nun zwischen ihren weitverstreuten Trummern gelassen abenteuerliche Reisen unternehmen. (" Kuns twerk" 499-500) ' 3 ["Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this pr ison-world asunder by the dynamite o f the tenth o f a second, so that now, in the midst o f its far-flung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go travell ing." ( "Work o f A r t " 238)] 1 3 It s h o u l d be noted that Benjamin ' s use o f G e r m a n is somewhat id iosyncrat ic , often not conforming to standard punctuat ion, orthography, or syntax. 27 The (then) new cultural medium o f the film, by being able to split time into fractions o f a second, explodes the perception o f time as a f lowing continuum that is difficult, i f not impossible, to stop or even alter. It is not only institutions that are prison-like, but also the places where people l ive and work . Y e t , unl ike A d o r n o and Horkheimer , who emphasize these systemic controls , Benjamin indicates possibilities for tearing them asunder. F i l m , for example, can provide excit ing new means o f perceiving and experiencing the wor ld , thus enabling the dismantling o f established frameworks and systems. W i t h this dismantling, new understandings become possible, which may include previously excluded elements. B y extension, it now also becomes possible to intervene in those systems that seem to exercise complete control . I w i l l come back to this form o f disruption in Chapter 5, when I examine the modern urban landscape and how Benjamin 's understandings o f it intersect with social, intellectual, and emotional elements. (In Chapter 6,1 w i l l examine the positive potential o f the new medium o f radio.) Chambers ' w o r k on popular culture builds on Benjamin 's idea o f breaking d o w n confining frameworks that priorit ize institutionalized culture over-popular culture. In this view, the public is not control led by a culture industry, as A d o r n o and Horkhe imer argue, but, rather, both consumes and produces culture. Benjamin's insights in " W o r k o f A r t " are important referents for Chambers ' arguments in particular, and for the project o f cultural studies in general. It is primarily, though by no means solely, on the basis o f this article that Benjamin has been made an icon in cultural studies. B y l imit ing him to only a few major, now canonized, articles, we exclude numerous aspects o f his w o r k and life, particularly those concerning the issues pertaining to the intersections o f the public/private spheres. These issues wi l l be discussed in more detail in the fo l lowing chapters, as I attempt to illustrate the multiple ways in which Benjamin's life and work provide productive sites for cultural studies and critical pedagogy. 28 The link between cultural studies and critical pedagogy has been explored by R o g e r S imon, among others. The intersection o f the two fields enables the investigation o f the relation between learning and the social and cultural practices from the perspectives o f one or more o f the fo l lowing questions: Whose particular symbolic and socia l practices regulate and normalize the formation o f skills and subjectives [sic] for whom? H o w has this come to be and how does this continue to happen? What social inequalities are produced within such normalizations? What possibilities for w h o m are opened up by such practices: What resources and discourses might help support alternative educational practices? In other words , what is at stake ... is the way in which the cultural politics inherent to education sets up the o rgan iz ing frameworks o f research and academic study. (Simon, "Broaden ing the V i s i o n " 113) S imon further argues that "education is polit ical in the sense that it is part o f a value-based determination o f the field o f material, social and symbolic resources that both set limits and enable particular possibilities across a full range o f daily activity" ("Broadening the V i s i o n " 113). That education is poli t ical in the ways identified by Simon has been wel l established in both cultural studies and crit ical pedagogy. S imon attempts to address "the contradiction that exists between the openness o f human capacities that w e encourage in a free society and the social forms that are provided and wi thin wh ich we must live our l ives." H e does this in order to achieve the wider aim o f "the transformation o f the relation between human capacities and social forms ... [that] requires both the expansion o f forms to accommodate capacities and the expansion o f capacities to make the realization o f new forms possible" ("Empowerment as a Pedagogy o f Poss ibi l i ty" 372-73). This is S imon ' s pedagogy o f possibility, which understands educational practice "as a form o f cultural polit ics and as a 29 particular way in which a sense o f identity, place, wor th ... is informed by practices which organize knowledge and meaning" ("Empowerment as a Pedagogy o f Poss ibi l i ty" 373) . 1 4 W i t h i n this general form o f critical pedagogy, informed by cultural studies, S imon engages wi th Benjamin 's w o r k in specific projects concerning how past events are learned and commemorated. In "The Pedagogy o f Commemora t ion" and "Remember ing the Obl iga t ion ," the latter co-written wi th Claud ia Eppert , S imon explores ways o f understanding the past, asking " h o w particular ways o f apprehending the past might be implicated in our understanding o f a complic i ty wi th current unjust social relations and the prospects for a personal and communal renewal o f identities and the possibilities which structure our everyday lives" ("Forms o f Insurgency" 82). For , contrary to the ax iom that holds that learning about the past can enable us to avoid repeating its mistakes, remembering the past can mean engendering or justifying the hatreds, violence, and injustices o f the present. The pedagogical question then becomes: "What forms o f memory can give just recollection to this violence without reproducing relations o f hate? .... [We must] recognize that the task is not to forget that past, but to remember it differently" (S imon, "The Pedagogy o f Commemora t ion" 6). "' The discourse of empowerment is problematic in a number of ways, beginning with the questioning of the basic premise that educators are liberated and that their students need to become so by means of the power possessed by the former. The discourse of enabling presupposes the kind of hierarchical power structure that assumes that empowerment is given by someone who has power to someone who does not. Thus the teacher possesses power, which can be given, taken back, or even withheld. Teachers retain the power of validation and posses a superiority of understanding that problematically positions them as controllers of students' agency. For more detailed analyses, see, for example, Elizabeth Ellsworth, "Why Doesn't This Feel Empowering? Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy," Harvard Educational Review 59.3 (1989): 297-324"; Magda Lewis and Roger Simon, " A Discourse not Intended for Her: Learning and Teaching Within Patriarchy," Harvard Educational Review 56.4 (1986): 457-72"; Jennifer Gore, "What We Can Do for Y o u ! What Can "We' Do For 'You ' ? : Struggling over Empowerment in Critical and Feminist Pedagogy," Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy, Ed. Carmen Luke and Jennifer Gore (New York/London: Routledge, 1992) 54-73: and Deborah Britzman, "Decentering Discourses in Teacher Education: Or, the Unleashing of Unpopular Things," Journal of Education 173.3 (1991): 60-80. 30 Simon ' s questioning is based on Benjamin's "ongoing dialectic between the past and the present" (S imon , "Forms o f Insurgency" 76). S imon engages wi th Benjamin 's "Theses on the Phi losophy o f H i s t o r y " ("Uber den Beg r i f f der Geschichte") in order to quest ion the notions o f history and culture that have been passed on, as tradition, through education and the media. L i k e Benjamin, he "rubs history against the grain" (Benjamin, " U b e r den Begr i f fde r Geschichte" 701, 702, 703) in order to begin dismantling its context. In other words , history has been written by victors and rulers and thus expresses not culture and civi l izat ion but barbarism (Benjamin, " U b e r den B e g r i f f der Geschichte" 696). T o address these issues, one needs a critical pedagogy in which "past forms o f encounter are not grasped as inevitable consequences o f history ... but as constituted through the actions o f people" (S imon, "Forms o f Insurgency" 85). Such a pedagogy asks how history is made "visible, accessible and understood by whom, for w h o m and with what consequences both for legitimation o f action and interest and in accordance with what notions o f whose desire?" (S imon, "Forms o f Insurgency" 83). Us ing Benjamin to help show the discontinuities and breaks in history, as we l l as its constructedness, enables Simon to ask further questions: What should be remembered, why, and how? H o w can the testimony, remembrance, and representation o f the past be put to use to help prevent future injustices? For Simon, the dialectical entwining o f the past and present make history not a matter o f recollection but, rather, o f movement towards greater social justice. This is how, in everyday life, remembrance operates to orient actions and to project desires onto the future. F r o m S imon ' s work , it is clear that Benjamin speaks to and can inform current debates in critical pedagogy. In Chapter 5, where I consider his concept o f porosity and his attempts to map out his o w n life in the cities in which he lived, it w i l l become clear that Benjamin has much more to offer. Julian Roberts , in one o f the first English-language attempts "to provide a general critical account o f Benjamin 's w o r k ... [and] a general introductory framework for the interpretation o f his 31 texts" (3), characterizes Benjamin as "the highly respected enigma" (1). Roberts observes that there are no w o r k s that "tackle Benjamin as a completed corpus o f theory," (2) and he attributes this to the fact that "Benjamin is undeniably a difficult figure, partly because much o f his wr i t ing is i tself extremely concise and opaque, and partly because his opinions do not always appear to be consistent" (3). Rober t s ' goal is to "overcome these difficulties" (4). The strength o f his overview lies precisely in the fact that he rejects, and warns against, what he identifies as two o f the most problematic tendencies in Benjamin scholarship: (1) strict classification and (2) "biographical hero-worsh ip ." Rober ts concludes that "[t]he attempt to extract single-minded purpose from a biographical subject is only a reflection o f what Benjamin himself attacked as the intellectuals' mythology o f ' c r ea t ive personality. ' In this sense there is not really any conclusion to draw about Benjamin" (5). The conclusion to which Roberts refers is the classification o f Benjamin as a particular k ind o f scholar: messianic as opposed to materialist, or, alternatively, l i terary cri t ic as opposed to philosopher. Roberts recognizes that such classifications are based primarily on only one o f Benjamin 's multiple dimensions and that they seek a mythical unity. T o Rober t s ' insights I w o u l d add that this way o f understanding an intellectual figure lends support to particular assumptions. The first assumption is that a person's career is somehow separate from the person her/himself, from wh ich it fo l lows that intellectual life can be separated from emotional life, and that intellectual w o r k occurs within a space that does not have anything to do with the private sphere. Roberts tacitly accepts such assumptions. Al though he does recognize that "[i]t is necessary to attend to the question o f ' b a c k g r o u n d , ' " which he defines as "a set o f influences and traditions" (Roberts 4), the influences he refers to are primarily intellectual. Whi l e acknowledging the social , pol i t ical , and his tor ica l dimensions o f Benjamin's life (such as Benjamin 's involvement wi th the Student Re fo rm Movemen t and the impact o f the First W o r l d War) , Rober ts ' primary concern is 32 Benjamin 's intellectual lineage. H e chronologica l ly traces the influences on Benjamin 's work , beginning wi th Gus tav Wyneken , Benjamin's teacher and a prominent educational reformer. Rober ts explicates Benjamin 's relationships to: (1) Z ion i sm, as exemplified by the assimilationist Hermann C o h e n and the nationalistic M a r t i n Buber ; (2) Communi sm, as exemplified by Ernst B l o c h and Ber to l t Brecht ; and (3) the Frankfurt School , as exemplified by T h e o d o r A d o r n o . Roberts further situates Benjamin within the intellectual movements o f the time, which include neo-Kant ian ism, Heideggerianism, the philosophical socialism o f Lukacs , and the Stefan George literary circle. In other words , Roberts provides a wealth o f information and a comprehensive, even-handed overview o f Benjamin within the framework o f standard intellectual history. The elements Roberts refers to as "background" are the ones I wish to move to the foreground, as it is my thesis that it is the interrelationship between the latter and the former that "made" Wal ter Benjamin. Richard W o l i n discusses "the often acrimonious debate over which is the authentic Benjamin, the 'materialist ' or ' theo log ica l ' " (108). H e observes that " [ v i r t u a l l y every contribution to the ever-growing voluminous secondary literature on Benjamin has felt compelled to take one side or the other in this debate" ( W o l i n 288). W o l i n ' s solution is to retain the split and to see Benjamin 's work in two chronological phases. However , rather than emphasizing one phase over the other, he attempts to elucidate each as a separate entity. In his overv iew o f previous Benjamin scholarship, Michae l W . Jennings further elaborates on the theological versus the materialist debate: Benjamin's critics have tended to resolve the contradictory character o f much o f his work, by presenting two distinct Walter Benjamins. Scholem and A d o r n o themselves ... initiated the tendency. Scholem's writ ings on Benjamin emphasize the early works and those later pieces most clearly marked by the theological tendencies o f the early work . ... A d o r n o privileges the late, Marx i s t Benjamin. . . . 33 Thus, in Benjamin's commentators, one finds, in the years up to 1924, a "metaphysical" thinker deeply indebted to Jewish mysticism, Romant ic aesthetics, and Idealist philosophy. After 1924, the argument goes, Benjamin develops into a historical materialist who ... r igorously differentiates between writ ings o f a metaphysical and a polit ical cast. (5-7) This split between a fundamentally different early and late Benjamin has a long tradition, which began at the inception o f Benjamin scholarship. L i k e A d o r n o and Scholem, those who followed in their footsteps have sought to fix Benjamin into a particular intellectual identity. Roberts , as discussed above, attempts to work against this tendency, yet he explains Benjamin's early w o r k as being the background to his "real" work o f historical materialism: "historical materialism[,] which Benjamin reached at the end o f his long apprenticeship[,] cannot be fully understood without the sometimes rather arduous negotiation o f what led up to it" (103). Al though Rober ts claims not to arrive at specific conclusions, and al though he attempts to avoid any strict classification o f Benjamin, he ultimately fails to heed his o w n advice. Roberts, in his narrative o f progress and development, does not discount Benjamin's early thought; instead, it becomes a training ground for attaining the goa l o f becoming a historical materialist. A l though aware o f the inadequacies o f making either/or distinctions, Roberts ends up doing just that. M i c h a e l Jennings endeavours to break away from the either/or questions concerning Benjamin by stressing the continuity throughout his work: The conceptual model o f life as a series o f discrete stages is, however, inappropriate to Benjamin, not least because he himself repeatedly stressed the paradoxical continuity o f his thinking. ... I w i l l argue for one Benjamin, for a thinker whose late work combines mysticism and M a r x i s m . ... Benjamin is w i l l i ng to a l low those contradic t ions to clash with one another in order to explore the "paradoxical 34 reversals"... that occur when such apparent contraries as radical poli t ics and theology meet. (7-8) Jennings rightly takes issue with those who attempt to describe Benjamin in terms o f a number o f developmental stages that culminate in a position located on an intellectual map. H e also disagrees w i t h those w h o insist that Benjamin can only be identified wi th one pole or the other o f a binary opposit ion. Jennings seeks to look at all aspects o f Benjamin's work , and he recognizes the value o f the tension between positions previously thought to be incompatible, i f not mutually exclusive. This recognit ion al lows him to examine that productive tension, and he acknowledges that Benjamin himself v iewed his work as connected rather than disjointed. In a letter to M a x Rychne r 1 5 he wrote: "there is a bridge to the way dialectical materialism looks at things from the perspective o f my particular stance on the philosophy o f language, however strained and problematical that bridge might be" (Correspondence 372). Howeve r , merely combining two aspects o f Benjamin's thought that were previously perceived to be incompatible over-simplifies the complexi ty o f Benjamin 's w o r k . 1 6 Pierre M i s s a c crit icizes this attempt to resolve the complex contradictions in Benjamin and his w o r k as amounting to the use o f "convenient oxymorons ," such as Marx i s t rabbi (8), and he accuses critics w h o attempt such a synthesis o f "making do with formulas that are at best descriptions, posing the problem without making headway on it" (22-23). Further to this, it should be noted that such practices reify binary oppositions by posit ing that they w o r k together rather than against one another. Instead o f being classified as either messianic or materialist, Benjamin 's w o r k becomes a 1 5 Rychner (1897-1965) was a literary critic, professor of literature and editor of a literary journal, Neue Schweizer Rundschau. See Jeremy Gaines, "Research on Walter Benjamin," Theory. Culture and Society 10.3 (1993): 149-167, for further criticism of Jennings. According to Gaines, although Jennings claims that one of his major goals is to examine the link between the theory and practice of literary criticism, he severs that link by examining only Benjamin's theory. 35 kind o f dialectical mixture, in wh ich opposites are overcome by a harmonious blending. Benjamin himself, by refusing to commit to either one or the other polarity, kept the various contradictory aspects o f his w o r k in constant tension wi th one another, always rubbing against the grain o f given systems by choosing tension over harmony. A t the core o f my project is the separation o f the public from the private Benjamin — a separation that occurs by virtue o f the underlying assumptions concern ing what constitutes an intellectual. In the previously discussed studies, as wel l as in numerous others, Benjamin the intellectual is assumed to have had a day-to-day lived reality, emotions, and a personal life, but they are presented as irrelevant to his intellectual production. Benjamin's o w n w o r k provides us with direction, in that it emphasizes the examination o f those things that established systems o f knowledge product ion disregard. One such disregarded element is the interconnection between the intellect and the emotions. Al though he has not further examined the significance o f these experiences, M i s s a c has observed that "it is surely not insignificant that the three Liebeserlebnisse — which one could translate here as 'experiences o f romantic passion' — accompany (or are accompanied by) the composi t ion o f Benjamin's first three critical works (to which we should add Cme-Way Street)" (7 ) . 1 7 Al though not considered in early Benjamin scholarship, the intersection o f the intellectual and emotional, the public and the private, has recently begun to be acknowledged. H o w e v e r , as yet there are only a few theoretical frameworks that provide a means o f exploring those dimensions in conjunction wi th his philosophical and literary influences. When one begins to examine those intersections, it becomes clear that gender plays a significant role. The private and emotional have 1 7 The critical works he refers to are Benjamin's dissertation, "Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik" ["The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism"], his essay "Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften" [Goethe's Elective Affinities"], and his habilitation "Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels" ["The Origin of the German Tragic Drama"]. 36 long been associated with women, and Benjamin's relationships wi th women are only gradually beginning to be explored. The fo l lowing overview o f the treatment o f Benjamin 's relationship with A s j a L a c i s illustrates h o w this relationship was initially dismissed. A n d , although it has recently been acknowledged, it has not yet been closely examined. Benjamin 's and L a c i s ' relationship began wi th their first meeting in Capr i in 1924, and it coincided wi th the beginning o f Benjamin 's serious engagement wi th M a r x i s m . M a n y critics have been all too quick to dismiss L a c i s as solely a love/sex object. A d o r n o , for example, dismisses the possibili ty that Lacis co-wrote "Naples" : "Dann war ich sehr beeindruckt von einem groBeren Aufsatz, ... den er publizierte unter seinem Namen und dem von Frau As ja Lacis , obwoh l schwer ein Zwei fe l daran sein kann, daB diese Arbei t ganz und gar das Produkt Benjamins war" (Uber Walter Benjamin 10) [Then I was very impressed by a longer essay ... published under his o w n name and that o f M r s . Asja Lacis , although there can hardly be any doubt that this w o r k was absolutely produced by Benjamin] . I S Benjamin's first biographer, Werner Fu ld , discounts any influence L a c i s may have had on Benjamin and presents by far the most negative picture o f her. In his discussion o f their months together in Capr i he disputes L a c i s ' role in Benjamin ' s interest in M a r x i s m : " D e r E inbezug marxist ischer Perspektiven in Benjamins Denken erfolgte nicht durch Vermi t t lung von Asja Lac i s , die sein Interesse nur vertiefte, sondern durch Ernst B l o c h " (Fuld 158) [The inclusion o f Marx i s t perspectives in Benjamin 's thought was not the consequence o f any mediation by Lac i s , who only deepened his interest, but rather came about through Ernst B l o c h ] . F u l d seeks to establish a clear lineage regarding who influenced w h o m . H i s crit ical stance towards 1 8 Trans la t ions are mine unless otherwise indicated. 37 Lac i s is ostensibly based on the fact that her memoirs are "unrel iable"(156) , ' 9 although he does not substantiate this contention. F o r F u l d , L a c i s is a beautiful, naive girl who is attracted to Benjamin because she perceives him to be wealthy: " F u r die scheme, aher naive Asja , die sich Benjamin als wohlhabend dachte, muBte dieses unregelmaBige Leben als Boheme erscheinen" (Fuld 157; emphasis mine) [For the beautiful but naive Asja , who thought Benjamin was wealthy, this irregular life must have appeared bohemian (emphasis mine)]. H i s dismissal o f her co-authorship o f "Naples" is based solely on A d o r n o ' s opinion (Fuld 157) — an opinion that has been proven incorrect. Benjamin himself made a number o f references to L a c i s ' co-authorship o f " N a p l e s . " 2 0 F u l d dismisses Lac i s ' ability to understand Benjamin , other than at a very basic, unsophisticated level, because, according to him, she had no understanding o f philosophical concepts. When Benjamin remarks that Lacis was surprised to hear him speak about communist ideas in connection with something he had been reading, F u l d believes that Benjamin was merely being polite about her lack o f comprehension: damit ist sehr vornehm ausgedriickt, daB d ie jungeKommunis t in seine unerwarteten Lektiireerfahrungen und ihre Beziehung zu seinem philosophischen Denken iiberhaupt nicht verstand. Was sie verstand, war, daB Benjamin sich scheinbar plotzl ich fur den Kommuni smus interessierte. Tatsachlich war fur Benjamin durch die Lukacs -Lek t i i r e nun auch die politische Praxis der Kommuni s t en ins B l i ck fe ld geriickt, aber er war dadurch nicht einfach "bekehrt." (160) 1 9 "In ihrem nicht sehr zuveiiassigen Erinnerungsbuch erzahlt sie, wie sie Benjamin auf Capri kennenlemte" (Fuld 156). [In her not very reliable memoirs she tells how she met Benjamin in Capri], 2 0 See, for example, his letter to Scholem, ca. 20-25 May 1925 (Briefe Vol 3, 37; Correspondence 267). 38 [that was merely a polite way o f saying that the young communist did not understand his unexpected reading material (meaning Lukacs) and its connection to his work . What she understood was that Benjamin appeared to suddenly be interested in communism. In fact by reading L u k a c s the poli t ical practice o f communism became a topic o f interest for Benjamin, but he was not thereby simply "converted."] F u l d assumes that L a c i s ' l imited reasoning abilities and fervent Marx i s t beliefs could only a l low her to believe that Benjamin had been "converted." T o counter Fu ld ' s assertion regarding L a c i s ' alleged l imited capabilities, one need only be aware o f her numerous accomplishments. F o r example, her list o f La tv ian , Russian, and German publications in respected literary as wel l as poli t ical journals is six pages long (Mig lane 250-55). A s a theatre director ("Dramaturg"), she almost single-handedly turned a small provincial La tv ian theatre into one o f the leading theatres in the Soviet Union (Haus 146). In spite o f evidence to the contrary, Fu ld repeatedly attempts to demonstrate Lac i s ' weak mental faculties and insists that her belief in Communi sm tainted every facet o f her life, thus making her incapable o f understanding Benjamin's work , much less having any influence on it. Consider Fu ld ' s explanation o f Lac i s ' reaction when Benjamin told her he was analyzing German Baroque tragedy o f the seventeenth century (his habilitation). In her memoirs, Lac is writes that she responded by making a face and asking: " w o z u sich mit der toten Li teratur beschaftigen?"(Lacis 43) [Why busy oneself wi th dead literature?]. F u l d interprets this as her inability to understand what Benjamin was work ing on: A l s Kommunis t in , die ihren K o p f mit vermeintlich aktuellen Tageskampfen fullte, konnte Asja Lac i s nicht wissen, da(3 es keine tote Li teratur gibt, auBer der, welcher die gerade Lebenden nicht genugen konnen. Benjamin aber, in Unkenntnis so einfaltiger Verdrangungstechnik, war irritiert. (157) 39 [As a Communis t , whose head was probably filled with current daily battles, As ja L a c i s could not k n o w that there is no dead literature, except for that wh ich those presently l iv ing are unable to satisfy. Benjamin, however, who was not knowledgeable about such simple-minded suppression techniques, was irritated]. In F u l d ' s interpretation the reader is witness to a clash between a humanistic v iew o f the arts, which places them in a noble realm above the mundane concerns o f critical social engagement, and a communistic v iew. F u l d is derisive, dismissing Lacis without considering her critique o f Benjamin 's work . Certainly Benjamin was irritated, but, l ike Susan B u c k - M o r s s , I attribute that irritation to the fact that Lacis appears to have understood why he was having such difficulty wr i t ing the theoretical part o f his study o f tragic drama. B u c k - M o r s s credits L a c i s wi th provid ing one o f the clearest summaries o f the intent o f Benjamin's study. H e r cri t icism "hits the mark. Benjamin was having great difficulty wr i t ing the theoretical introduction to the piece, not only because o f the distractions o f being in love, but also because the ' thematic restrictions' o f the study were making it ' a w k w a r d ' for him to express his own thoughts" (Dialectics of Seeing 15). Lacis had an understanding o f Benjamin 's work ; she was not a naive golddigger, as Fu ld w o u l d insist. The evidence concerning Lacis points rather to a remarkable person who had a great deal o f intelligence, a strong commitment to her work , and much to offer the people wi th w h o m she associated. F u l d ' s reasons for this inordinately negative treatment o f Lac is could be explained in a number o f ways. First, he seems to have been influenced by A d o r n o ' s negative attitude towards her. Second, it is possible she is his means o f passing a moral judgement: Benjamin was a married man wi th w h o m L a c i s had a lengthy affair. I f this is the case, then there is clearly a gendered double standard, for this negative judgement applies only to Lacis and not to Benjamin. Th i rd , one could surmise that F u l d was strongly opposed to Communi sm (although this should be noticeable in his 40 discussion o f Ber tol t Brecht , which it is not). Four th , he may have an underlying assumption that women should remain in the private sphere, as they are, by definition, incapable o f the intellectual r igour required in the public sphere. G iven the type o f arguments F u l d uses against Lac i s , all o f which centre on the deficiency o f her mental capabilities, the fourth explanation seems the most probable, although the others may play a role as w e l l . 2 1 Where F u l d consistently dismisses and derides Lac i s , later biographers Hans Puttneis and G a r y Smith almost completely ignore her. B y contrast, Brodersen, whose biography attempts to weave together the public and private strands, gives Lac i s and her relationship wi th Benjamin more serious and balanced considerat ion. 2 2 H e states, for example, that Benjamin's " love for As ja Lac i s was to open up to him a sphere o f intellectual product ion" (Waller Benjamin 140). This form o f acknowledgement o f Lac i s ' role in Benjamin's life and work has become relatively common. Terry Eagle ton, for example, asserts: There were rather more pleasurable reasons for this i l lumination [concerning the poli t ical practice o f communism] than ploughing his way through Lukacs : on Capr i Benjamin had also met Asja Lacis , the Let t ish Bolshevik and theatre director w h o m 2 1 Fuld's references to Lacis are biting, and he insists that she had solely a negative influence on Benjamin, always distracting him from his "real" work. Further evidence for the possibility of the gendered assumptions I have indicated is his treatment of another "career woman." Benjamin's sister-in-law, Hilde Benjamin. Fuld's references to her are equally acerbic and dismissive. 2 2 Although his work has become widely read, analysed and cited, there are, to my knowledge, only three biographies of Benjamin (those by Fuld, Witte, and Brodersen). There are also a number of personal reminiscences, including: Theodor Adorno, Uber Waller Benjamin (Frankfurt/M: Sulukamp, 1968), which contains reminiscences by Adorno himself, Ernst Bloch, Max Rychner, Gershom Scholem and Jean Selz; Herbert Belmore. "Some Recollections of Walter Benjamin," German Life and Letters 28.2 (1975): 119-27 and "Walter Benjamin," German Life and Letters 15(1962): 309-13;Edouard Roditi, "Meetings with Walter Benjamm^Partisan Review 53.2 (1986): 263-67; Lisa Fittko, ' "Der alte Benjamin': Flucht iiber die Pyrenaen," Merkur 403 (1982): 35-49, which recounts Benjamin's last days crossing the Pyrenees; and Gershom Scholem, Waiter Benjamin. The Story of a Friendship. Trans. Harry Zohn (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1981), probably the most well-known recounting of Benjamin's life by his life-long friend. 41 he described as one o f the most remarkable women he had ever encountered, and w h o was to become his lover. (153) Here Eagle ton indicates L a c i s ' significance to Benjamin, however, the reader is left without any explanation o f h o w or why she was so "remarkable ." 2 3 A s Eagle ton makes no further mention o f L a c i s , the reader only knows that she provided Benjamin's "pleasurable i l luminat ion," which could be interpreted as sexual innuendo, particularly given that he ends his comments about L a c i s by stating that she became Benjamin 's lover. B y not offering anything further, Eagleton leaves his version o f this relationship open to the assumption that love/sex, represented by Lac i s , merely made the difficult task o f theoretical analysis (serious, intellectual, "real" w o r k ) more pleasant, without actually contributing to it. A s M o i found in her study o f de Beauvoir , "[fjhe implication is that whatever a woman says, or writes or thinks is less important and less interesting than what she is" (78; emphasis in original). She illustrates how critics tend to have difficulty dealing with a woman who refuses to stay in the private sphere and how especially infuriating they find someone, l ike de Beauvo i r , whose explicit ly poli t ical participation in the w o r l d cannot be ignored ( M o i 82-84). In the case o f Lac i s , she is sometimes labelled as "beautiful but naive" (Fuld I 57), sometimes simply as Benjamin's lover, as though these comments were sufficient to explain her life and her relationship with Ben jamin . 2 4 This emphasis on what a woman is rather than on what she does has also been observed by B i d d y M a r t i n in her study o f the nineteenth-century intellectual figure, L o u Andreas-Salome. In 2 3 Eagleton takes this phrase from one of Benjamin's letters to Scholem: "eine der hervorragendsten Frauen, die ich kennengelernt habe" (Briefe Vol 2. 473). ["one of the most splendid women I have ever met" (Correspondence 245) |. 2 , 1 This has also been found to apply to other marginalized social groups. For example, in her analysis of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt points out how the exclusionary practices of dominant groups force marginal groups to justify what they are rather than what they do (Morris B. Kaplan 126). 42 her critique o f h o w the critics deal with Salome's relationships to famous men, M a r t i n comes to a conclusion similar to M o i ' s : Salome has been variously construed as murderous seductress, phallic mother, narcissistic parasite, and total disciple or, more positively, a muse, inspiration, support, and interpreter. What is striking, o f course, is the structural similarity o f those positions, always the guarantee o f "his" identity, "his" significance, and the cr i t ic ' s "truths" ... H e r significance to Nietzsche, R i l k e , or F reud ... is not easily contained by conventional stereotypes o f the adoring daughter, the domesticated wife, or the femme fatale. (1 1 - 1 2 ) 2 5 What Salome is has been the most important dimension in attempts to understand her, but M a r t i n adds an important insight. What the intellectual woman, in this case Salome, is must never get in the way of, or overshadow, the importance o f the "great man/men" in her life. Similarly, critics and biographers alike tend to undermine L a c i s ' significance in Benjamin's life by referring to her either as a love/sex interest or as a catalyst who brings about changes in him. In this way , whether intentionally or unintentionally, they avoid having to explain a woman whose life does not fit the stereotypes o f feminine existence. In spite o f L a c i s ' accomplishments as a social activist, theatre director, and founder o f a proletarian children's theatre, not to mention the important role she played in Benjamin 's life, even Benjamin scholar Susan B u c k - M o r s s reduces her to a mythical figure. A l though B u c k - M o r s s ' treatment o f L a c i s is generally more nuanced than most, at one point she describes L a c i s as Benjamin's Ar iadne ( I I ) . Ariadne, the woman who provided Theseus with the thread that enabled him to traverse the labyrinth, is the archetypal helping, nurturing female. She leads the hero out o f 2 5 When referred to by last name only, Lou Andreas-Salome is often called "Andreas-Salome," however Martin uses only "Salome." I have chosen to stay with Martin's usage. 43 trouble at a crit ical moment, a l lowing him to continue on his heroic quests, only to be discarded and forgotten once she has served her purpose in furthering his narrative. Because B u c k - M o r s s does not analyze how L a c i s ' life and work intersects wi th Benjamin's, L a c i s remains an Ar iadne — a w o m a n w h o is reduced to being a catalyst or, at best, a muse. Rober ts acknowledges that Lac i s "awakened his [Benjamin's] interest in art as a form o f poli t ical act ion" (51), but he provides no further explanation o f how this happened or what form it took. In addition, there is clearly a gendered difference in the manner in wh ich Rober ts explains influences in Benjamin 's life. A woman who sparks an interest is in a different category than a man w h o writes a book. Roberts tells us that " L a c i s was a Latvian theatrical producer who w o r k e d with important left-wing dramatists such as Piscator and Brecht ... she was thirty-three, and on holiday wi th her daughter Daga . H e r lover ... was also intermittently wi th her" (50-51). B y contrast, Roberts informs us that Lukacs had gone through a development similar to that now experienced by Benjamin. H i s early w o r k in literary cri t icism was a brilliant extension o f the crit ical modes dominant at the time ... In 1918, on the general wave o f disgust wi th the war ... he joined the Hungar ian communist party ... History and Class Consciousness documents the conversion o f an avant-garde neo-Hegelian ... to a practice-oriented M a r x i s m . (51) The information about Lac i s refers to the important men with w h o m she worked , her age, her lover, and the fact that she is a mother — in short, details concerning her private life. Lukacs , by contrast, is described only in terms o f his career — his public, or intellectual, life. Jennings deals wi th Lacis and Lukacs in much the same way when he explains that Benjamin dated his espousal o f M a r x i s m to a stay on Capr i in 1924, during w h i c h he established a complex intellectual and erotic relationship wi th the La tv ian 44 Communis t theater director Asja Lacis . A s important as this relationship was, his reading o f Lukacs ' s monumental History and Class Consciousness was equally important for Benjamin's turn to M a r x i s m . (70) A l t h o u g h he professes the equal importance o f L u k a c s and Lac i s , Jennings devotes eleven pages to explaining L u k a c s ' influence and only five lines to Lac i s ' (i.e., those quoted above). Aga in , the subtext appears to be that, as a woman, Lac i s could only influence Benjamin in so far as his love for her made him interested in what she did. L u k a c s ' influence, however, came in the form o f a scholarly book written within an identifiable intellectual tradition and, therefore, is more deserving o f attention. In the scholarly tradition o f explaining and understanding theories only in relation to other theories, the task becomes one o f understanding how Benjamin "connects to other 'great ' figures," as B u c k - M o r s s has observed {Dialectics of Seeing 52). In these examples, Lac i s is reduced to an object whose function is to propel Benjamin 's w o r k . She is o f interest only in so far as she fulfills a specific function in Benjamin 's intellectual life. Clear ly , these researchers possess the scholarly tools and methods for examining relationships between ideas and for tracing generally male scholarly lineages. What appears to be missing, however, are the tools to examine the intersection between publ ic and private spheres and to appreciate the significance o f social relationships for intellectual production. I discuss L a c i s and her relationship to Benjamin in detail in Chapters 5 and 6. One strand o f the various threads that connect public and private consists o f h o w social institutions, particularly the university, make intellectuals. What institutional processes make an intellectual? B y what means does an individual become a failure or a success? H o w and by w h o m is failure and success determined? Obviously , these processes change according to historical and social circumstances. In the case o f Benjamin, during his life he was considered to be a failure, whereas today he is considered to be a success. 45 H i s alleged failure has been explored from various psychological and institutional perspectives, and it remains a much debated subject. Hans M a y e r , in an address given on the occasion o f Benjamin 's 100th birthday, focuses on Benjamin as a failure. H e repeatedly refers to Benjamin 's failure to qualify as a university lecturer. Throughout M a y e r ' s speech, Benjamin is the "gescheiterte German i s t " (18) [failed scholar o f German literature] who is constantly revisited throughout his life by the "Schock der gescheiterten Habi l i ta t ion" (40) [the shock o f his failed habilitation]. A c c o r d i n g to Mayer , the pain o f this failure was so great that it remained wi th Benjamin his entire life: " D e r Schmerz iiber die abgelehnte Habilitationsschrift lieB niemals nach" (Mayer 52) [The pain inflicted by his rejected habilitation dissertation never subsided]. Y e t , according to M a y e r , this failure should not be understood merely as the result o f external circumstances, but, rather, as one o f his o w n making. M a y e r argues that Benjamin 's affinity for Romant ic i sm caused him to live by the motto " N i c h t - V o l l e n d u n g , " (33) [imperfectiblity and incomplet ion]; that is, nothing can be finished, for to be finished wou ld be to be perfect, which is impossible, as the perfect is the infinite. This is the reaction o f the German Romant ics to the ideal o f the complete and perfect whole o f Classicism, which was seen in "Lebenswerk und Kuns twe rk" [life's w o r k and w o r k o f art]. The art and life o f the Romant ic thus had to be unharmonious and incomplete, leading Benjamin to his own "produktives Scheitern" (Mayer 33) [productive failure]. Thus, in M a y e r ' s estimation, Benjamin, who does not achieve his habilitation, is never able to overcome this failure. Further, M a y e r links Benjamin's failure to Ernst B l o c h ' s question: " U n d wie, wenn ich nun gar nicht w i rk l i ch berufen bin, es mir folgl ich nur einbilde?" [sic] (55) [ A n d what i f I am not really chosen, but only imagine myse l f to be so?]. Rather than being forced to consider this question, M a y e r asserts that Benjamin simply avoids it by becoming a failure: "Benjamin lieB einen solchen Augenbl ick der Wahrheit gar nicht erst zu: er kam ihm zuvor. Das Schei tern hatte er selbst 46 programmiert" (55) [Benjamin did not even tolerate such a moment o f truth: he forestalled it. H e programmed his failure himself], M a y e r contends that Benjamin made sure he was a failure in order to avoid facing the possibility that he was a failure — that he might not have been destined for this particular calling. M a y e r draws a parallel between Benjamin and his friend, Ernst B l o c h , in order to provide evidence for the former 's alleged failure. This parallel is drawn from Bloch ' s one-page story, " K e i n Gesicht" [Without a Face] , about a young girl who runs away from home and is temporarily successful as an actress, but ultimately fails and returns home to become a secretary. A few weeks later she becomes an inmate in a mental institution. The story ends with questions regarding the nature o f being talented and the role o f coincidence in making someone appear talented when she/he really is not. The final question is: " W a r u m miissen wir , die wi r in allem begrenzt sind, so unbegrenzt leiden?" ( B l o c h 40) [Why must we, who are limited in every way, suffer such unlimited suffering?]. M a y e r maintains that the gender o f the protagonist is irrelevant: " E s war keine Frauengeschichte" (55) [It was not a woman ' s story]. H e interprets the tale as asking universally applicable questions concerning being truly chosen for a particular call ing versus imagining that one has been chosen. H o w e v e r , I contend that this story is obviously a "Frauengeschichte" [woman's story]. It contains the stereotypical situations in which women find themselves, both in literature and in life: i f they leave the constraints o f home (i.e., patriarchal discipline and control) , then they are doomed to be punished and sent back. The disobedient woman often ends in a mental institution, for, so the script goes, any woman who does not maintain her proper place in society must be crazy. The eternal suffering is that o f women burdened by these stereotypes and ideologies. 47 M a y e r ' s appropriation o f this story obliterates the gender o f the protagonist, which, far from being irrelevant, is utterly c ruc i a l . 2 6 M a y e r ' s attempt to portray Benjamin as a failure is problematic on a number o f counts. First , it is one thing to fail to become a university professor, it is quite another to fail in one's life and work . M a y e r ' s analysis appears to conflate these t w o things, and this raises a number o f questions that I w i l l address later in more detail: Why do we implicitly accept the institution o f the university as the arbiter o f intellectual success and failure? If intellectual success can only be bestowed by the academy, then what does this say about how we understand Benjamin today? W h y is he enjoying such posthumous popularity and success? What does this say about his induct ion into the canon? The second problem with M a y e r ' s portrayal o f Benjamin as a failure is that he places him within the rarefied stratum o f pure mental life, thus reducing him to the sum o f his works . F r o m those works , M a y e r carefully selects passages that paint a picture o f Benjamin that corresponds to his (Mayer ' s ) o w n particular theory, method, and ideology. In short, we learn more about M a y e r than w e do about Benjamin . 2 7 Benjamin 's relationship to the institution o f the university bears further investigation, as it is the university that made him. One o f Benjamin's biographers, Brodersen, maintains that Benjamin 2 0 The issue of the social construction of women's madness and how it has been employed to control women's behaviour includes a large body of (auto)biographical, literary and filmic works, and academic analyses in numerous disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. While it is beyond the scope of this project to examine this issue in detail, a number of ground-breaking works should be noted: Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Mac/woman in the At lie: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978); Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women. Madness, and English Culture. J830- J980 (New York/London: Penguin Books. 1987); and Dorothy Smith, The Conceptual Practices of Power (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990). 2 7 Jeffrey Grossman comes to much the same conclusion in his overview of Benjamin's reception in the Anglo-American literal}' institution (426). 48 failed in his university career because his work did not conform to the disciplinary and methodological norms o f the faculty to which it was submitted: A s i d e from the power struggles and intrigues within the philosophy faculty, which presumably played a decisive part in the rejection o f Benjamin's Habilitation thesis, the question remains whether, and i f so which , "objective" arguments were levelled against the work . O n the basis o f the word ing o f the report commissioned by the faculty board, Benjamin was only accused o f having made one mistake: applying to the w r o n g address. (Walter Benjamin 149) Whi l e Brodersen acknowledges that there were problematic polit ics and power struggles at the university, he appears to dismiss them in favour o f the simple fact that Benjamin 's w o r k was sent to the w r o n g address — so to speak. In other words, he should have perhaps been associated wi th a different faculty — one that wou ld have accepted his habilitation. H o w e v e r , this judgement o f Benjamin 's w o r k goes beyond its suitability within a particular discipline and is indicative o f his cri t ical stance towards the insti tution o f the university and the ways in which it produces knowledge. A s Brodersen notes, "Benjamin's treatise was indeed a quite provocat ively 'unacademic ' work , at least in the customary understanding o f the term.... the book was a complete parody i f what German professors understood to be a systematic, methodological ly reasoned w o r k " (Walter Benjamin 149). The verdict o f the university, then, is failure for not heeding disciplinary boundaries and not con fo rming to established modes o f practice and knowledge making. B y not attaining his habilitation, Benjamin becomes, according to the structures and normative understandings o f the institution, a failure. In other words, not conforming to disciplinary boundaries results in failure. It should be noted, however, that not only were Benjamin's feelings about jo in ing the academic 49 communi ty ambivalent, but he was also consistently critical o f the university as an institution and o f the type o f scholarship it produced. W h i l e M a y e r ' s interpretation o f Benjamin's failure is dubious, Brodersen ' s interpretation is plausible in so far as it offers an account o f that failure within the structure o f the university. H o w e v e r , Benjamin 's failure to be accepted by the university came about through a combinat ion o f many complex factors: strong anti-Semitism at the universit ies; 2 8 the r igidity o f the German university, wh ich was loathe to accept w o r k that did not conform to disciplinary boundaries and particular methodologies ; 2 9 the power pol i t ics o f the professors involved; and the incomprehensibili ty o f Benjamin 's work , which, to use Grossman 's words , " introduced a discourse so foreign to the intellectual and cultural discursive formation at the time, its readers failed to comprehend i t" (415). This refers not merely to Benjamin's style and language, as is often the case, 3 0 but, more important, to his conceptualization o f the literary, aesthetic, cultural, phi losophical , and historical themes that he addresses. Certainly Benjamin's own needs and desires also played a role in his failure to get his habilitation. H o w e v e r , perhaps these needs and desires had more to do wi th his socio-economic posit ion and his strong misgivings about the university as an institution than they did w i th an affinity for the German Romant ics or doubts about his own abilities. Hav ing been brought up the eldest son in a wealthy family, he generally expected to do what he pleased without having to w o r k and earn money. This situation was complicated by his parents' declining affluence, which was brought about 2 8 For example, one of the reasons Benjamin decided not pursue his habilitation at the university of Heidelberg was that there was scant hope for his success there, due to pervasive anti-Semitism. See, for example: Witte, Walter Benjamin mil Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenlen 50; Benjamin's letter to Scholem, dated 30 December 1922 (Briefe V o l . 2, 299; Correspondence 204): and Donald L . Niewyk, The Jews in Weimar Germany (Baton Rouge/London: Louisiana State University Press, 1980), especially his chapter on anti-Semitism. 2 9 This has been discussed at length in many places. See Wohlfarth, "Resentment Begins at Home"; Brodersen, Spinne im eigenen Netz, 163-65; and Grossman 414-15. 3 0 See, for example, Scholem, The Story of a Friendship 129. 50 by the extreme inflation o f the early 1920s (culminating in the currency collapse o f 1923). In addition, his parents were (understandably) simply tired o f supporting their adult son and his family, and they felt that it was time for him, at the age o f thirty-three, to earn his o w n l iving. I offer a close examination o f Benjamin 's failure in Chapter 4, which explores the traditional discourse o f universi ty success and failure, the actions o f Benjamin's supervisors, and Benjamin 's relatively unanalyzed relationship with Gottfried Salomon-Delatour during his years at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt. Conclusion This chapter has identified a number o f forms o f engagement with Benjamin 's w o r k in different academic fields. In the field o f (English-speaking) cr i t ical pedagogy, particularly at its intersection wi th cultural studies, engagement with Benjamin has been restricted to a small number o f his translated works . Whi l e some studies draw on Benjamin for insights into popular culture and ways o f comprehending history and tradition, it is much more common to find him reduced to an icon for one specific attitude or idea. This results in a limited and distorted understanding o f both Benjamin the scholar and Benjamin the man. The ongoing discussion in the academy, which seeks to categorize Walter Benjamin as a particular k ind o f scholar (usually as either messianic or materialist) or as a failure (usually by virtue o f his unclassifiability) has also been addressed. I have outlined h o w these understandings o f Benjamin have been determined, and I have attempted to explain why they are problematic, provid ing only a partial picture o f him. Unarticulated in these accounts is the prevalent assumption that w e can understand an intellectual figure solely by interpreting the corpus o f his (or her) written work . Not iceab ly missing from such accounts o f Benjamin are sustained attempts to examine the significance o f the multiple intersections o f the public and private spheres and how this relates to 51 his intellectual labour. This lack is most apparent in how Benjamin's relationship wi th As ja Lac i s had been portrayed. 52 Chapter 2 Personal Genealogy: Methodology and Theory " A h , but what is a public person?" ... " O n l y a nude body wearing slightly better clothes." C a r o l Shields, Swarm A s previously noted, my study o f Walter Benjamin draws on M o i ' s method o f personal genealogy as she develops it in her examination o f Simone de Beauvoi r . M o i uses this method, first o f al l , to make an important distinction between her project and that o f both biography and literary cri t icism. F o r the most part, as was demonstrated in the previous chapter, the study o f an intellectual figure not only subjects her/him to a process o f categorization, but also implici t ly assumes that her/his life and work are separable. This assumption is not value-neutral, for, as M o i observes: W h e n it comes to biography and literary cri t icism, the life/text distinction normally carries an explicit or implicit value judgement: biographers often consider life more "real" or more "true" than text; many literary critics have a tendency to think o f the text as a pure aesthetic object that can only be defiled by the mess we usually call life. (4) It is not only the bifurcation o f life and work (and its implicit value judgement) that is problematic for M o i , but also the very nature o f how a traditional biography understands its subject. A s M o i asserts: L i k e traditional history, biography is narrative and linear, argues in terms o f origins and finalities and seeks to disclose an original identity. Genealogy, on the other hand, seeks to achieve a sense o f emergence or product ion and to understand the complex play o f different kinds o f power involved in social phenomena.... Personal genealogy assumes that every phenomenon may be read as a text, that is to say as a complex network o f signifying structures. (7) M o i crit icizes biography for attempting to uncover a person's presumed essence. The chronological tell ing o f a person's life intends to show how events and circumstances led to that person achieving a specific identity. Genealogy, by contrast, explores the process by which a person — a subjectivity — evolves, never coming to a final conclusion in a fixed identity. B y examining processes rather than attempting to establish a fixed identity, genealogy is able to show how the discourses o f a people 's lives shape their identity in different ways at different times. In other words, genealogy examines the product ion o f intellectual figures as a social and cultural phenomenon shaped by individuals and the institutions wi th in which they operate. One could extend what she says o f literary cri t icism to other disciplines and fields o f study. The separation o f work and person relegates intellectual w o r k to an abstract realm o f ideas, separate from the material realm o f the writer-theorist. This, o f course, harks back to the Cartesian mind/body split and the assumption o f a neutral knower seeking universal truth. Wi th in this paradigm, intellectuals are no more than the sum o f their wri t ing. A s Sigr id Weige l has noted in her re-reading o f Benjamin, most understandings ofBenjamin place him within a male tradition o f influence and classify his work accordingly. What most often results from this are repeated complaints about contradictions within Benjamin 's work and between Benjamin and the lines o f tradition (Weigel , Body- and Image-Space x i i ) . We ige l ' s o w n analysis begins from the premise that the reconstruction o f lines o f influence misses the point o f Benjamin 's w o r k , wh ich attempts to disrupt those very lines (Body- and 1 mage-Space x i ) . H e r solution is to examine his use o f images together with his practice o f thinking in an interdisciplinary manner, thus provid ing new insights that are applicable to philosophy, gender studies, and critical theory. True 54 to her intentions, Weige l removes Benjamin from any specific disciplinary tradition and lineage; however, her study retains the split between the man wi th a life history and the intellectual wi th ideas. W e i g e l provides a ground-breaking interdisciplinary study, disrupting disciplinary lineage and boundaries, whi le still abiding by the traditional scholarly practice o f splitting the public from the private. Personal genealogy examines not only inter- but also extra-disciplinary intersections through a relational analysis o f the private and the public. Rather than unravelling one or two strands o f Benjamin and attempting to transform them into a linear, causal narrative, I w i l l examine specific points o f intersection and attempt to show how such strands mutually influence one another and shape Benjamin 's material conditions o f existence (including, o f course, the matrix o f power relations). The usual division between public and private has long been cri t icized by feminists in many fields. Par t icular ly research in the social sciences has shown how the public sphere, generally associated wi th men and traditionally male activities, has become normative. Wi th in this paradigm, women , w h o are generally associated with the private sphere and the body rather than with the public sphere and the mind, are often ignored. Attent ion paid to women tends to be determined by their deviation from the male norm. These arguments are w e l l - k n o w n , and I w i l l therefore only briefly mention a few o f the more influential ones. Al though the fo l lowing three scholars — Joan K e l l y , Doro thy Smith, and Al i son Jaggar — work within different disciplines (namely, history, sociology, and polit ical philosophy, respectively), they reach comparable conclusions. In the 1970s Joan K e l l y conducted ground-breaking research that " looked simultaneously at the public and private spheres and at their l inkages" (ix). She describes feminist theory as a paradigm shift that moves away from a bifurcated v iew o f social relations; that is, male-public/female-private. She maintains that feminist thought examines sets o f socially formed social relations that "are seen to obtain for women and men, and to do so at the same time" (Ke l ly 58; emphasis in original). D o r o t h y Smith demonstrates that knowledge that was previously (and often still is) represented as universal was (is), in fact, knowledge determined from a standpoint located in the public w o r l d , traditionally the sphere o f men. F r o m the time the public/private split began in the seventeenth century, the public sphere has gradually g r o w n to include government, administration, and all areas o f waged labour. Concurrently, the sphere o f women was gradually reduced to the private — that is, the domestic — sphere ( D . Smith, The Everyday World 5-6). A s a result o f this, research did (does) not problematize the everyday wor ld o f experience and social relations (D . Smith, The Everyday World 98-99). Smith convincingly argues that, i f our knowledge is to amount to more than the tracing o f abstract and limited lineages, we must go beyond a narrowly defined public sphere and situate knowledge in the everyday wor ld . B y analyzing how liberal, Marx i s t and radical feminisms understand human nature, Jaggar demonstrates the constructed, ideological nature o f the split between public and private, as wel l as its negative consequences. She arrives at the conclusion "that it is misleading to think o f there being t w o distinct spheres [public and private] at a l l " (Feminist Politics 146). K e l l y , Smith, and Jaggar provide sociological depth to M o i , whose insights are based chiefly on psychoanalytical principles and whose primary concern is the recognit ion and acceptance o f women intellectuals, particularly in fields such as philosophy (where women still tend to be under-represented). Moreove r , these studies are relevant beyond the confines o f the academy. First, they point out that there are real, material effects to the split between public and private and that, because they produce knowledge based on this split, academics bear some responsibility for those effects. Second, they point out that all knowledge must be re-examined to take into account the fact that it is socially grounded rather than abstract. 56 Research in the sociology o f education brings a slightly different, yet related, perspective to the issue o f the public/private split and its relationship to the product ion o f knowledge. Madele ine M a c D o n a l d distinguishes between the private (home life, family, friends, and peers) and the public (institutes o f formal learning). K n o w l e d g e within the context o f formal learning is generally detached from lived experience. M a c D o n a l d maintains that "numerous sets o f opposit ions ... divide and distance forms o f knowledge and their associated activities. F o r example we can find the dichotomies o f public and private knowledge, polit ics and psychology, reason and emotion, science and art, technology and nature, reality and fantasy. ... [TJhere are also the methodological distinctions between hard and soft data, objectivity and subjectivity" ( M a c D o n a l d 166). She elucidates the consequences o f such divisions as fol lows: the informal everyday experience and everyday communicat ion wi th in the family and peer groups which shape social identities feed into and create procedures and performances fundamental to formal education. H o w e v e r , formal education also selects, and re-focuses and abstracts from such experiences and in so doing de-contextualizes it [sic]. The behaviours and competences invoked in the contexts o f the home and community ... are thus freed from their dependence on evoking contexts and, through a process o f recontextualizing, become generalizable and abstract. ( M a c D o n a l d 167) In other words , even though institutional forms o f knowledge are informed by the everyday, the role o f the latter in the production o f formal knowledge is rarely acknowledged. The point o f these insights into the public/private, formal/informal forms o f knowledge is, first, to acknowledge the constructed nature o f their separation and, second, to examine the processes by which one constitutes the other. The pedagogical implications are far-reaching in that institutional knowledge is no longer seen as an abstract truth separate from everyday life and other 57 forms o f knowledge. In other words, knowledge is no longer seen as causal or linear but, rather, as relational. The significance o f M a c D o n a l d ' s findings for my study o f Benjamin lies in the educational consequences o f t radit ional forms o f knowledge production. The form o f education that M a c D o n a l d describes and criticizes has as its goal reproduction; namely, the maintenance o f the status quo.The issue is not the status o f knowledge but its social organization — the processes by w h i c h it is produced. I f knowledge production is to be understood as taking place wi th in both formal and informal settings, then public and private spheres must be looked at relationally rather than separately. Personal genealogy, as it relates to Benjamin, seeks to make clear the interconnection between knowledge and social organization. It draws on feminist research that critiques knowledge based on the public/private split, and it elucidates the role o f the latter in the cultural polit ics o f understanding intellectual figures. Break ing down the assumed boundaries between public and private necessitates, among other things, methodological considerations. T o overcome the bifurcation o f life and work , M o i proposes "that there can be no methodological distinction between ' l i fe ' and ' text ' " (3-4) and "that every phenomenon may be read as a text" (7). M y understanding o f M o i ' s proposal does not presuppose a conflation o f life and text that leads to the conclusion that everything is text; rather, M o i ' s methodological move al lows life and text to be examined in conjunction wi th one another. It is a move that enables an examination not only o f the processes by which meaning is determined, but, beyond that, o f h o w knowledge is constructed. Thus numerous texts, from both work and life, intersect to "make" the person being analyzed. M o i deliberately chooses the verb "to make" to indicate, first o f al l , "the making o f her [de Beauvoir ] as an intellectual in the most literal way: by studying her education" ( M o i 6). Thus the intellectual is understood as both a subject producing 58 knowledge and as an object o f knowledge production. A s wel l as using "make" in the sense o f the institutional "mak ing" o f an intellectual figure, M o i uses it in the more general sense o f emphasizing "the idea o f product ion or construction, and thus to indicate that 1 see 'S imone de Beauvo i r ' as an extraordinary effect o f a whole network o f discourses" (6). L i k e M o i , I v iew the project o f understanding what constitutes Benjamin as a social subject as an on-going process that must take into consideration his writ ings and his life as they unfolded within a specific historical and social context. Furthermore, the project must take into account attempts to make him change over time and according to different contexts. A l though M o i claims that she wi l l examine how the institution produces de Beauvoi r , she does not do so. Furthermore, it is not clear how she conceives o f and analyzes the university as text. H e r notion o f institution as text is somewhat weak, particularly given her Freudian ideas concerning how texts are to be understood. A psychoanalytic theory developed to understand an individual 's subjectivity loses much o f its explanatory power when applied to an institution. M o r e o v e r , M o i seems to indicate that de Beauvoi r ' s psychological life was the primary determinant o f her career. A s a consequence o f emphasizing the psychoanalytical rather than the social in her analysis o f the educational institutions in which de Beauvoi r was involved, M o i ends up measuring her against Sartre — something she had wished to avoid. 1 attempt to provide the institutional analysis that M o i claims, but fails, to provide. 1 do this by clearly specifying what is meant by discourse and by clearly emphasizing the social rather than the psychoanalytical. W i t h regard to avoiding presenting educational institutions as abstract entities, separate from both the knowledge they produce and the scholars who produce it, Kathryn Pyne Adde lson ' s concept o f "social w o r l d " is helpful. In her examination o f the intersection o f philosophical w o r k and feminist epistemology, she states that "a social wor ld consists o f people who , over a period o f time, perform some sort o f collective action together" (Addelson 280). F o r the purposes o f this study, this socia l wor ld consists o f academics involved in the process o f understanding the life, work , and significance o f intellectual figures in general and o f Walter Benjamin in particular. A l t h o u g h such "wor lds" represent loosely defined and associated groups, they are based on a vital premise: "[w]hat is important in this notion o f a social w o r l d is that we can ask detailed, empirical questions to specify what is done and who does it rather than talk abstractly about 'posi t ions ' or 'the patriarchy' or 'the ruling class '" (Addelson 281). F r o m this it fo l lows that "who makes knowledge makes a difference. M a k i n g knowledge is a poli t ical act" (Addelson 267). This necessitates an analysis o f the product ion o f authorized knowledge and o f how disciplines (and the individuals within them) participate in p roduc ing authorized readings ( D . Smith, Conceptual Practices of Power 15). It should be noted here that the concept o f "social w o r l d " is constituted by the social, geographical, and historical dimensions as wel l as individual dimensions such as race, class, and gender. It is for this reason that my analysis o f Benjamin begins wi th his social wor ld , focusing on those aspects o f it that have, to date, not been examined: the social context o f his familial situation, particularly his relationship wi th his wife (see Chapter 3). A problematic aspect o f Addelson ' s notion o f social wor ld is that it somehow occurs spontaneously (and only when a group communicates): The relationships among members o f a social wor ld are founded in communicat ion, whether it be face-to-face activity with little talk, regular meetings, electronic mail , telephone calls, or form letters. Fo r example, "the philosophy profession" and "feminist phi losophy" name social wor lds o f related, quite complex sorts, held together by a multitude o f communicative modes that includes department meetings, conferences, journals, and electronic media. (280-81) 60 M i s s i n g from this concept o f the social wor ld is any sense o f accountability to the communi ty o f w h i c h one is a member, consciousness o f one's membership in a particular community, and h o w and why that communi ty came to be formed. These vital missing elements are to be found in the w o r k o f Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade M o h a n t y , who offer an explanation o f feminist genealogy. They stress the importance o f "figuring out our communities o f belonging, and therefore those communit ies to wh ich we are accountable" (Alexander and M o h a n t y ix). These communities do not simply happen, as Adde lson infers, but are consciously built. Such bui lding is a task that first requires "accountabil i ty in envisioning, forming, and maintaining communi ty" (ix). F o r i f we, as scholars and educators, agree that knowledge formation is a polit ical act, and i f we engage in asking who does what, then it is also necessary to ask why; that is, in whose interest and to what ends does this process occur? M u c h o f the current "Benjamin industry" appears to have little accountability in Alexander ' s and M o h a n t y ' s sense. A s Pierre Mi s sac has suggested, "[tjhe critics who swarm around an oeuvre that is becoming increasingly famous seem to want to flock to the scene o f victory" (19). A l though M i s s a c could be accused o f cynicism, one need not denigrate Benjamin scholarship in order to acknowledge that intellectual work , including this project, is motivated, to varying degrees, by one's desire to further one's career and by one's publisher's desire to make money. Benjamin's iconic status ensures interest in, and more publishing opportunities for, research dealing wi th this increasingly famous intellectual figure. Al though it is seldom discussed, scholars, l ike other professionals, are interested in furthering their careers. In fact, they are under increasing pressure to do so ("publish or perish"). These circumstances do play a role in the product ion o f knowledge and, as such, should not be ignored. This dimension o f the product ion o f knowledge needs to be seen within the larger context o f the university as an institution; and the university as an institution needs to be seen within the larger context o f society in general. In this way, we can more clearly 61 understand the success or failure o f intellectuals, the interest or lack o f interest in various objects o f study. It is in the sense o f "making oneself important through Benjamin" (Missac 15) that I refer to a "Benjamin indus t ry ," in which the publication o f ever more research virtually takes on a reproductive life o f its own . This is certainly not to suggest that a morator ium should be placed on Benjamin research, or that all research should be based on pure selflessness, but, rather, that these dimensions o f research should be acknowledged and that research itself should be accountable in a way that w o u l d satisfy Alexander and Mohanty . In other words, we need to ask: What are the researcher's responsibilities to Benjamin and to her own academic communities as she attempts to make sense o f him and his w o r k and to construct him as a subject? F o r example, by choosing this topic, I recognize that I, too, run the risk o f becoming part o f the Benjamin industry, as I am bui lding one o f the bases o f my intellectual career on the investigation a "hot" subject that w i l l have a good chance o f "se l l ing." A s Alexander and Mohan ty have explained, accountability involves not only devising crit ical analytic tools and taking responsibility for them, but also taking on the challenge o f crafting more nuanced and accurate ways o f understanding the wor ld in order to work towards a vis ion o f social justice ( ix-x) . Alexander and Mohan ty understand genealogy as a matter o f commitment and as a matter o f having a stake in a particular community — elements missing from both Adde l son ' s philosophy and M o i ' s personal genealogy. L i k e M o i , I understand my subject to be an intersection o f many personal and social dimensions — dimensions that can be investigated by analyzing the discourses that explain and produce them. Mo\ explains her analysis o f texts as fol lows: [A] l l sorts o f texts (conversations, phi losophical treatises, gossip, novels, educational institutions) wi l l be considered elements participating in the same 62 discursive network. The point is not to treat one text as the implici t meaning o f another, but rather to read them all wi th and against each other in order to bring out the points o f tension, contradictions and similarities. (5) I w i l l proceed in a similar manner, by reading different texts, both by and about Benjamin (such as essays and philosophical and autobiographical wri t ings) , with and against one another. I also assume, along wi th M o i , that life can be read as text and that, as such, it is both constituted by and constitutes various strands o f discourse. M o i ' s use o f the terms "discourse" and "discursive network" is somewhat unclear. She conceives o f de Beauvoi r as "an extraordinary effect o f a whole network o f discourses or determinants" (6). In describing text as an overdetermined process, she lists the factors that exert pressure on that process as " 'determinants, ' 'discourses, ' ' vo ices , ' 'structures, ' etc.," each one another "strand in the textual weave" ( M o i 7). She fol lows this wi th a reference to a "strand ( 'discourse, ' 'genre, ' etc.) o f phi losophy" ( M o i 7). She seems to equate all o f these terms — discourse, determinant, voice, structure, and strand — in that she sees them as synonymous wi th the institutional product ion o f the intellectual. In yet another variation, M o i describes factors that contribute to the making o f de Beauvoi r : "class, gender, religion, locat ion as so many different social discourses" (37). M o i sees these terms as equal in their power and as equal social determinants, all o f wh ich affect h o w de Beauvo i r is made. It is difficult to k n o w how structural interests function as social determinants, as these dimensions are treated as solely discursive. It is not clear how M o i accounts for class, rel igion, location, and gender as interests that play a role in how a person is made as a scholar. In fact, she renders material and structural determinations almost invisible and subordinates them to vague notions such as class, gender, and location, which she never defines. Thus she fails 63 to show h o w power works and she provides no evidence o f its w o r k i n g (although she claims to provide such evidence). A l though "strands o f a textual weave" is a descriptive and appealing metaphor that evokes the complexi ty and interconnectedness o f various elements, it is perhaps too benign to grasp tensions and contradictions in the process o f signification. Furthermore, it seems that the explicat ion o f the weave is the sole function o f M o i ' s analysis. B y this I mean that, when she identifies the different strands and explains how they are woven together, her task is complete. This precludes any examination o f what the material results o f such a weave might be (e.g. , unequal power relations). F o r example, one could explain the complex interaction o f individual and social factors that led to the rejection o f Benjamin's habilitation. The question o f success and failure, and o f who decides what constitutes success or failure, wou ld be an analysis o f the "textual weave." However , it is important to go one step further and to take into account the real consequences o f Benjamin's rejection: it added to his precarious financial situation and it placed additional responsibility on D o r a (not only to tend to all domestic chores revolving around the household and child rearing, but also to provide the sole income for the family). N o t being affiliated with the university gave Benjamin the time to travel wherever and whenever he chose, but not the financial means to do so. B e i n g outside o f academia afforded Benjamin an intellectual freedom he wou ld not otherwise have had. There was no need for him to align himself with a particular discipline or even wi th a specific school o f thought -- he could be equally critical o f everyone and everything and take his research in directions that might not otherwise have been possible. H e was also free from the time constraints o f teaching and other responsibilities that he w o u l d have had as a member o f the university community. In this complex interaction o f factors, Benjamin's reality is shaped by many different discourses, as are his texts, but they are also formed by his material reality, as w i l l be demonstrated in more detail in Chapter 5. 64 T o return to M o i ' s analysis o f de Beauvoir , it is the plurality o f meaning that takes priority. H e r personal genealogy is primarily concerned wi th signification and the process o f arr iving at multiple possible meanings. M o i demonstrates that meaning is always contested and in flux, but in my project I am more interested in the effects o f that contestation and fluctuation on the making o f Wal te r Benjamin. T o take the investigation in this direction, it is necessary to define precisely what is meant by discourse, rather than simply to equate it with numerous other concepts, as M o i does. In order to adequately address the problems o f power relations and materiality, I suggest an understanding o f discourse that is more consistent wi th M o i ' s genealogical intentions; namely, discourse is an ever-changing process rather than an object, a means rather than an end. Here discourse amounts to an ideological use o f language that privileges certain social groups and certain kinds o f knowledge over others. Bo th privileged and marginal groups partake in discourse in order to support and/or contest meanings; however, their relative effectiveness is dependent on their posi t ion wi th in social and institutional structures. The other concepts that M o i tends to equate wi th discourse — voice, strand, genre, and structure — can affect or be part o f discourse, but they are not the same thing. M i i r d o c k further explains: the cultural field appears as the site o f a continual struggle between competing discourses, each offering a particular way o f l ook ing at or speaking about the social wor ld ... and engaged in a contest for visibil i ty and legitimacy across a range o f social institutions.... the radically unequal nature o f discursive struggles aris[es] from the fact that some discourses are backed by greater material resources and have preferential access to the major means o f publicity and pol icy-making. (63) Discourse affects and is affected by the material, not only the ideational, wor ld . The process o f making meaning has material effects that vary from group to group and individual to individual . The product ion o f meaning that occurs through discourse is not fixed in terms o f process or 65 outcome, but is ever-challenged and ever-changing in historically and socially specific ways. This means that discourse is ambiguous, often contradictory, and never used in the same manner by all members o f a social wor ld . There is no simple equation regarding which discourse belongs to w h o m , as individuals are positioned differently in terms o f their relative power and the material effects o f the discourses in which they engage or from which they are excluded. Unders tood in this way, discourse is neither reality nor a reflection o f reality; rather, it is a social process that attempts to give reality meaning. A n d , in doing so, discourse is shaped by reality and, in turn, shapes the reality it attempts to understand. Stuart H a l l describes the discursive as fol lows: M y o w n view is that events, relations, structures do have conditions o f existence and real effects, outside the sphere o f the discursive; but that only wi th in the discursive, and subject to its specific conditions, limits and modalities, do they or can they be constructed within meaning. Thus, while not wanting to expand the territorial claims o f the discursive infinitely, how things are represented and the 'machineries ' and regimes o f representation in a culture do play a constitutive, and not merely a reflexive, after-the-event, role. Th is gives questions o f culture and ideology, and the scenarios o f representation — subjectivity, identity, polit ics — a formative, not merely an expressive, place in the constitution o f social and poli t ical life. ( " N e w Ethnicit ies," 252-53; emphasis in original) Engaging in discursive analysis is therefore not simply a way o f understanding something once it is finished (such as look ing back over Benjamin scholarship in order to produce an analysis o f discursive processes and what they mean); rather, it is a way o f contributing to the structures and processes that one is analyzing. Thus, my engagement with Walter Benjamin becomes part o f the process o f "mak ing" him, not an analysis o f something already made and completed. I am not only 66 putting words on the page and attempting to explain Walter Benjamin, I am actively taking part in constructing him. H a l l ' s not ion o f the constitutive aspect o f discourse is important to my use o f personal genealogy. Wha t academics produce in attempting to understand the wor ld is formed by, and in turn forms, reality. In other words , current canonical representations o f Benjamin play a formative poli t ical role. It is for this reason that I take the issues o f accountability seriously. A s indicated earlier, Alexander and Mohan ty , in their explorat ion o f the genealogy o f their o w n "intellectual neighbourhoods," have recognized that it is crit ically important to build and understand our intellectual communit ies and, therefore, to be accountable to them (ix). Personal genealogy, as formulated by M o i , occurs at sites where conflict ing discourses converge. " T o approach Simone de Beauvoir is to find oneself enmeshed in a web o f hotly disputed opinions and entrenched public myths, and in this situation 'S imone de Beauvo i r ' is not simply the name o f a person w h o wrote novels, essays and memoirs, but a site o f ideological and aesthetic confl ict" ( M o i 74). Similarly, Walter Benjamin is much more than a person who wrote extensively in many genres and fields. Ideological conflicts have shaped Benjamin scholarship, wh ich has always been punctuated by g lowing accolades and damning cr i t i c i sm. There are frequent heated and acrimonious debates concerning whether Benjamin is messianic or materialist; whether he is a literary or a cultural crit ic; whether his work is essentially aesthetic or poli t ical ; or whether he occupies some middle ground between these opposing poles. A s I have said, regardless o f which o f these arguments is put forward, they all have one underlying assumption: the intellectual is the sum o f his w o r k . 3 1 H i s "private" life remains quite separate. 3 1 I deliberately use "his," as the discussion of women intellectuals, i f they are recognized as such at all, differs significantly from the discussion of male intellectuals. As Moi has observed, what a woman is becomes of paramount importance, and she is most often viewed through the lens of myths that cast her in predetermined roles, such as the unfeminine woman, the hysterical woman, or an imitator of her male 67 B y conceptualizing Benjamin as a site o f the intersection o f numerous conflict ing discourses, I am able to examine the interconnectedness o f various social factors in certain instances o f his life. I propose to accomplish this much the way M o i does with regard to de Beauvoi r : T o understand the social process that contributed to the making o f Simone de Beauvo i r as an intellectual woman, I have found it helpful to imagine these factors (class, gender, religion, location) as so many different social discourses, and to consider "Simone de Beauvoi r" as a site where the various strands o f the social text intersect. (37) A n analysis o f the intersection o f multiple points o f interaction provides a way o f avoiding the still prevalent tendency to theorize in polarities. It also al lows for an understanding o f the processes by which knowledge about intellectual figures is produced (rather than simply attempting to define such figures). A closer look at four o f the discourses listed by M o i — class, gender, religion, locat ion — w i l l elucidate the similarities and differences between her personal genealogy and mine. M u c h like M o i , I w i l l analyze my subject as a site where various social texts and discourses intersect. Al though I w i l l focus on the discourse o f gender, which has been the most neglected o f the four, I w i l l indicate where it intersects with religion and different kinds o f European identity. The discourse o f class, in the case o f Benjamin, is more complex than it w o u l d at first seem. H i s family was clearly o f the middle-class, yet this was complicated by two things: (1) they were Jewish; and (2) their financial situation changed quite radically as a result o f the economic upheaval in Germany during the early years o f this century. A s a result, Benjamin 's class posit ion was anything but obvious, especially during the last years o f his life, whi le he was in exile and earned mentors. B y contrast, what a man does: that is, his work in the so-called public sphere, is the focus of discussion. 68 a very meagre income. H i s early bourgeois upbringing and later financial destitution are often mentioned in Benjamin research; however, his socio-economic position has not yet been examined in conjunction wi th gender. The discourse o f rel igion clearly had the most devastating consequences for Benjamin. The obvious results o f his being Jewish were his exile and death. F o r D a g m a r B a r n o u w , Benjamin 's life ended in this manner: "Seriously ill and in despair over an unredeemable cultural crisis, he could not muster the energy necessary for survival" (Weimar Intellectuals 152). The cultural crisis referred to is the rise o f European, and especially German, fascism as the culmination o f the "disintegration o f a new and therefore threatening ideological pluralism into a polarization so intense that it caused the socially and culturally destructive desire for making total one particular ideology which w o u l d then br ing about cultural redemption" (Weimar Intellectuals 4). B e y o n d his exile and suicide, Benjamin 's Jewishness produced him as a man and an intellectual in numerous ways — too numerous for a detailed analysis here. 3 2 Howeve r , I wi l l attempt to indicate where the discourse o f Judaism intersects wi th other dimensions. A more comprehensive analysis w o u l d be the stuff o f future research. The discourse o f location, which is not static, provides both temporal and geographical contexts. W i t h regard to temporal context, 1 refer to a specific historical constellation: the interwar years k n o w n in Germany as the Weimar Republic. Beyond this, temporal context also refers to the 3 2 Authors who deal specifically with Benjamin's Jewishness include: Anson Rabinbach, "Between Enlightenment and Apocalypse: Benjamin, Bloch and Modern German Messianism," New German Critique 34 (1985): 78-124; Gershom Scholem, "Walter Benjamin f On Jews and Jitdaism in Crisis: Selected Essays. Ed. Werner J. Dannhauser (New York: Schocken, 1976) 172-197 and "Walter Benjamin and his Angel"6>? Jews and Judaism in Crisis: Selected Essays. Ed. Werner J. Dannhauser (New York: Schocken, 1976) 198-236; Gar\ ' Smith. : "Das Judische versteht sich von selbst': Walter Benjamins friihe Auseinandersetzung mit dem Judentum,"Deutsche Vierteljahresschrifi fiir Uleraturwissenschafi undGeistesgeschichte 65.2 (1991): 318-34; and Irving Wohlfarth. "On Some Jewish Motifs in Benjamin," The Problems of Modernity: Adorno and Benjamin, Ed. Andrew Benjamin (London/New York: Routledge. 1989) 157-215 and " 'Manner aus der Fremde:' Walter Benjamin and the 'German-Jewish Parnassus,'" New German Critique 70 (1997): 3-85. Basically, these articles analyze Benjamin's relationship with Judaism as an element of intellectual history. 69 non-linear, synchronic porosity o f time, which enables past and present to be examined simultaneously. Benjamin practises this, for example, when he revisits his chi ldhood and imbues his past w i th the knowledge he possesses in the present. H e sees, for example, images o f Capr i and his relationship wi th L a c i s in the surroundings o f his chi ldhood. I w i l l exp lore these connections in detail in Chapter 5. W i t h regard to geographical context, I refer not only to the places where Benjamin actually lived (Ber l in , Capr i , M o s c o w , Paris, etc.), but also to the fact that he l ived in a E u r o p e that was defined by exclusionary principles. The Europe in which he l ived considered itself to be the pinnacle o f civilization. H o w the colonial powers o f Europe sought to assimilate the rest o f the globe to their particular understanding o f the wor ld has been wel l documented . 3 3 Postcolonia l studies have demonstrated the various ways in which Europe and European identity have been constructed by colonial ism and the juxtaposition o f Europe /Whi te /c iv i l i zed with A f r i c a / B l a c k / u n c i v i l i z e d . Against this backdrop o f colonial discourse what interests me is the German relationship to the "inferior" Europeans — those who inhabit the southern or Mediterranean regions. The German discourses o f the "other" Europeans are similar to what has been called new rac ism, which is "based not on ideas o f innate biological superiority, but on the supposed incompatibil i ty o f cultural traditions" (Donald and Rattansi 2). Differences between various ethnic, cultural, and religious groups tend to be based primarily on cultural practices and values. "They" are lazy, dirty, slovenly, and tardy — all the things that Germans are not. There are instances o f such 3 3 See Gauri Viswanathan, "English Literary Study." "Race, " Culture and Difference, Ed. James Donald and A l i Rattansi (London: Sage, 1992) 149-170; Robert Young, "Colonialism and Humanism," "Race, " Culture and Difference, Ed. James Donald and A l i Rattansi (London: Sage, 1992) 243-51; Sander Gilman, "Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art , Medicine and Literature," "Race, " Culture and Difference, Ed. James Donald and A l i Rattansi (London: Sage, 1992) 171-197; Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1994); and Gayatri Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana, 111: University of Illinois Press, 1988) 271-3 13. 70 discursive practices concerning Italians in many o f Benjamin's "Denkbi lder" [Thought Images], including "Naples , " which he wrote with Lac is . W o v e n through Chapters 3, 4, and 5 is the final social/polit ical discourse identified by M o i — namely, gender. One o f the conflicts at the site o f Benjamin, as both a life subject and a textual subject, concerns h o w masculinity and femininity are constructed and defined. In the studies summarized in Chapter 1, it is clear that the masculine is the taken for granted perspective for understanding Benjamin. Similarly, the vast majority o f recently produced analyses o f Benjamin lack any recognit ion o f the discourse o f gender. It wou ld , o f course, be a mistake to frame this debate solely in terms o f "women versus men" or "feminism versus patriarchy." First , this w o u l d assume a binary split, and, second, it wou ld assume that women and men form homogenous groups that are always pitted against each other. In fact, the dynamics o f gender are far more complicated than this. M y study assumes that: (1) all subjects are gendered and, therefore, that gender analysis is relevant to the construction o f all forms o f subjectivity; (2) gender should be analyzed along with other dimensions that comprise subjectivity; and (3) gender is an issue not only when analyzing women as subjects, but also when analyzing men as subjects. M y project contributes to the debate over how to reconceptualize the scholarly analysis o f intellectual figures in v iew o f feminist and postcolonial insights. Paula M L . M o y a has observed that it is primarily women who address gender issues, and primarily people o f co lor who address racial issues. The unspoken assumption is that only women have gender and only people o f color are racialized beings. This assumption reflects itself in the w o r k o f many male academics who only talk about gender when they are referring to women, and in the work o f many white academics who only talk about race when they are referring to people o f colour. (381) In other words , critical scholarship moves beyond understandings that separate men and women and divide subjects into public and private selves. M a r t i n and M o i have shown how traditional scholarship reduces both Salome and de Beauvoi r , respectively, to their relationships with "great men" and measures them against the latter in order to find them lacking. A s important as is the w o r k o f M a r t i n and M o i , it once again associates the issue o f gender solely wi th women. In my analysis o f Benjamin, the questions become: what can be learned about gender i f one looks at a life and work from the perspective o f the privileged gender o f that time? What has been missed by not paying attention to the private life o f the person being studied? In other words , what has been missing is an analysis o f the intersection o f public and private when examining a privileged (masculine) rather than a marginalized (feminine) gender position. I believe that my choice o f a male subject o f analysis, an intellectual whose life and w o r k has been left relatively unexplored by feminist analysis, brings a new and necessary critical dimension to studies o f gender. 72 Chapter 3 Benjamin's Social and Familial Situation In this chapter I examine the intersections o f Benjamin's larger social context wi th his familial situation shortly before and during the time o f his attempted habilitation. This examination takes a step towards reconceptualizing how intellectual figures are understood when institutions o f formal learning are recognized as providing the only viable context for knowledge both about and by such figures. A s discussed in previous chapters, such knowledge can be greatly expanded by including an analysis o f the intersections o f the public and private spheres. Ange la M c R o b b i e ' s cri t icism o f Paul W i l l i s ' analysis o f a working-class youth subculture makes these points clearly: The family is the obverse face o f hard, working-class culture, the softer sphere in which fathers, sons and boyfriends expect to be, and are, emotionally serviced. It is this link between the lads' hard outer image and their private experiences — relations with parents, siblings and girlfriends — that still needs to be explored. W i l l i s ' emphasis on the cohesion o f the tight-knit g roups tends to blind us to the ways that the lads' immersion in and expression o f working-class culture also takes place outside the public sphere. It happens as much around the breakfast table and in the bedroom as in the school and the workplace. ( M c R o b b i e , Settling Accounts 41) W i t h regard to the members o f academic cultures, this means that an explorat ion o f their class affiliations and family relationships wi l l provide a fuller, less distorted, understanding o f how they come to be constructed. In the case o f Benjamin, this means exploring the specific links between his membership in a German-Jewish middle-class family and an intellectual community. 73 I f one accepts, as I do, the assertion that knowledge is produced not only by individuals but also by the positions they inhabit, then the binary opposi t ion o f work/ l i fe can no longer be taken for granted; rather, it becomes necessary to examine its ideological underpinnings and the effects it has on scholarship, the product ion o f knowledge, and the product ion o f intellectual figures. A n examination based on the preceding assumptions requires a new understanding both o f what "counts" as intellectual w o r k and the processes by which such work is produced. N e w questions need to be asked a long wi th those directed at the textual products and their place wi th in an intellectual tradition. Such questions include asking whether an intellectual is someone who cleans toilets and changes diapers. What does it mean to conduct research and to do scholarly w o r k i f an intellectual has the financial capability to hire domestic labour or procures such labour through marriage? F r o m what standpoint and with which particular set o f assumptions does such a person set about conduct ing his/her scholarship? H o w do societal and institutional structures and processes intersect wi th that individual situation? This chapter attempts to find preliminary answers to these questions by focusing on the nature and effects o f assumptions concerning the public and the private as they relate to gender. A s pointed out in Chapter 2, the women in a "great" man's life tend to be placed within the private sphere, a move that obfuscates many issues. M o s t often this move is based on what a woman is (wife, mother, mistress) rather than on what she does, and it silences the dimensions o f intellectual w o r k that include social relations in the private sphere. D o r a Benjamin is much more than an insignificant appendage o f her husband, just as Asja L a c i s is much more than Benjamin 's lover. M a n y o f Benjamin 's male friends and their particular intellectual positions have been discussed in great detail. Mos t o f their reminiscences o f him have been written, published, reprinted, translated, and analyzed. However , one person with w h o m he discussed his w o r k and his reading, 74 and w h o helped him both directly and indirectly to write numerous works , has been virtually ignored because she has been pigeon-holed as his "wi fe . " H e r assistance to and maintenance o f her husband, and later ex-husband, are taken for granted and subsumed within the discourse o f the wife. W i t h i n this discourse, she is the one who scrubs the toilet, gives birth, cooks meals, and provides emotional support. In short, she engages in reproductive rather than in productive activities. Les l i e R o m a n provides an explanation o f the inadequacies o f the productivist logic that separates pr ivate-reproduct ion and public-production. This logic "holds that the labor women perform in the family, such as childbearing, parenting, domestic maintenance, consumption, and the emotional servicing o f family members — the so-called ' reproduct ive sphere' — is ... outside the sphere o f p roduct ion"(Roman, "Intimacy, Labor , and Class" 144). Produc t ion , it should be noted, refers not only to goods, but also to cultural and intellectual production. R o m a n continues by cit ing a number o f feminist relat ional analyses that "provide evidence that the r igid distinctions which productivists make between the publ ic and the private spheres and among forms o f labor are, in reality, blurred" (144). The advance made by relational analysis is that it does not subsume the necessary labour o f the family under economic requirements (Roman 144). T o this I w o u l d add that the work that is necessary to maintain the family and its members is also subsumed under a general notion o f support — often expressed as the "woman behind a great man." Whi l e this "support" contributes to cultural and intellectual production in concrete and specific ways, it is rarely examined. In the case o f Benjamin, the discourse o f the wife, based on productivist logic , leaves D o r a ' s contributions unrecognized, which means that the intersection o f her input and support wi th the other dimensions o f her husband's life and work are, as yet, an unwritten chapter in our understanding o f Walter Benjamin. In addition to his relationship with his wife, Benjamin's own particular social situation wi th in the wider German context also contributed to making him. A s M a r i o n K a p l a n ' s research on 75 the Jewish-German middle-class has shown, the home played a particularly significant role for the Jewish middle-class at that time. Kaplan has found that the "home was where they experienced the ambivalences and contradictions inherent in the dual desires to maintain their family, Jewish community, and heritage, and to integrate into the social and cultural life wi th other Germans.. . . The home was the juncture at which gender, class, and ethnicity confronted one another" ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 25). W h i l e not wishing to abandon their Jewishness, there was a strong desire among the majority o f middle-class Jewish families to acculturate, and the site o f much o f this acculturation was the home. It was considered the mother 's responsibility to teach appropr ia te behaviour (according to bourgeois criteria) and to provide the proper forms o f music, literature, and social engagements. H o w e v e r , this was only made possible by the father's financial success ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 25). A s for most middle-class Jewish families, for the Benjamins the home was where "Jews absorbed the impact o f their economic success and prepared to achieve the social status commensurate wi th it" ( M a r i o n Kaplan 25). Benjamin 's father, E m i l , belonged to the new class o f entrepreneurs and financial speculators who experienced a rapid growth in wealth, status, and power soon after the turn o f the century — a growth brought about by Germany 's extremely swift economic expansion fo l lowing unificat ion in 1871. Benjamin 's chi ldhood was spent in the comfortable middle-class district o f Charlot tenburg in Ber l in , where the family employed numerous domestic servants. 3 4 Whi l e nannies generally looked after Wal ter and his brother and sister, the children accompanied their mother on carefully routinized shopping expeditions, during which they engaged in the conspicuous consumption expected o f the wife and children o f a wealthy and successful man. A l though the M Benjamin's childhood years are discussed in Brodersen (Walter Benjamin 1-36), Fuld (17-34), Puttneis and Smith (8-30), Tiedemann, Godde and Lonitz (9-28), and Witte, (Walter Benjamin mitSe/bstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenlen 7-17). 76 women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were most often "not a l lowed to k n o w the slightest thing about f inancial matters ... [they] remained important status symbols and were expected to assume consumption patterns which reflected the wealth and enhanced the prestige o f their husbands and fathers" (Mar ion K a p l a n 169). Benjamin wrote about his mother's "consumption patterns" when he revisited his chi ldhood, in some o f his more autobiographic writings o f the 1930s. H e described how his mother "made the rounds" among the well-established, highly reputable Ber l in firms. After purchasing specific items in particular prestigious stores, they completed their outing by dr inking hot chocolate, always at the same establishment: " E s stand ebenso fest, daB bei solchen Gelegenheiten unsere Kinderanzi ige bei A r n o l d M i i l l e r , Schuhe bei Stiller und KofTer bei Mad le r gekauft wie daB am Ende aller dieser Veranstaltungen die Schokolade mit Sahne bei Hi l lb r i ch bestellt wurde"[sic] (Berliner Chronik 72) ["On such occasions it was as certain that our suits w o u l d be bought at A r n o l d M i i l l e r ' s , shoes at Stiller's, and suitcases at M a d l e r ' s , as that at the end o f these commissions our hot chocolate wi th whipped cream w o u l d be ordered at H i l l b r i ch ' s " ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 36)]. The ritual o f shopping, as Benjamin later recognized, was about being seen to be spending money in the right places. H e also observed that it was his father's money that made these trips possible and that determined their form: "In jenen friihen Jahren lernte ich 'die Stadt ' nur als den Schauplatz der 'Besorgungen ' kennen, bei denen zum ersten M a i sich erwies, wie uns das vaterliche G e l d eine Gasse zwischen den Ladentischen und den Verkaufern und den Spiegeln und den B l i c k e n der M u t t e r bahnte" (Berliner Chronik 79) ["In those early years I got to k n o w the ' t o w n ' only as the theater o f purchases, on which occasions it first became apparent how my father's money could cut a path for us between the shop counters and assistants and mirrors, and the appraising eyes o f our mother ( " A Ber l i n Chron ic le" 40)]. It was Emi l Benjamin's financial success and standing that opened the paths for Pauline Benjamin and her children. 77 Rather than enjoying the preferential treatment they received, Benjamin and his siblings found these outings to be unpleasant. They only began to feel comfortable when the purchases were completed and they reached the confectioner's: "[I]n der Kond i to re i erst wurde uns besser und w i r flihlten dem Gotzendienst uns entronnen, der unsere Mut t e r vor den Idolen erniedrigte" (Berliner Chronik 79). [(I)t was only in the confectioner's that our spirits rose wi th the feeling o f having escaped the false worship that humiliated our mother" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 40). The special treatment Benjamin 's mother received was, in hindsight, humiliating. It was a form o f worship o f the false god o f money that altered the shopkeeper's behaviour and falsified social relations. F r o m his early chi ldhood, Benjamin associated the city with consumption and commodificat ion, a recurrent theme in his wri t ing, particularly in his later work . H i s last unfinished work, the "Arcades Project," for example, was an examination o f nineteenth-century Paris that paid close attention to the consumption o f goods and the commodif icat ion o f both goods and people — processes that began in the nineteenth century and became hallmarks o f modernity. In his attempt to make his chi ldhood experiences meaningful from his perspective in later life, Benjamin described h o w he first came to k n o w "the city" as the "Schauplatz der 'Besorgungen ' " (Berliner Chronik 79) ["theater o f purchases" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 40)]. H e reconstructed his earliest impressions as fol lows: " E i n e Reihe unerforschlicher Mass ive nein Hoh len von Waren - das war 'die Stadt '" (Berliner Chronik 80) [ "An impenetrable chain o f mountains, no, caverns o f commodit ies — that was the ' t o w n ' " ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 40)]. In his writ ings about cities, Benjamin explored these cities as "theaters o f purchase" (especially Naples) and "caverns o f commodi t ies" (especially Paris). In Chapter 5 I wi l l return to the city as the site o f consumption in Benjamin's wri t ing, showing how it intersects wi th his relationship with Lacis and their time in Naples and Capr i . Al though Benjamin was critical o f the "false worship" o f material wealth, for the most part he took the privilege and comfort it provided for him and his family for granted. H i s father's wealth 78 and social standing increased, and Benjamin spent his youth cushioned by his middle-class existence in the luxurious surroundings o f the family 's large vi l la in Grunewald , Ber l in . H e also travelled through much o f Europe , beginning with a trip to Italy upon complet ing his secondary education ( " A b i t u r " ) . H e then spent 1912 to 1915 studying philosophy at the Universi t ies o f Fre iburg and Be r l i n , and 191.5 to 1917 at the Universi ty o f M u n i c h , after which he completed his doctorate in B e r n , Switzer land, where he studied from 1917 to 1919. 3 3 It was this combinat ion o f formal education and education through travel that provided access to the social elite known as the "Bi ldungsb i i rger tum" [educated bourgeoisie], a class predicated on material success in conjunction with higher education. 3 6 Weal thy acculturated Jewish families, l ike the Benjamins, particularly aspired to this social status, as it both coincided with a tradit ional Jewish veneration for education and aligned them with the most powerful groups in society. 3 7 This alignment was vital during the late 1800s as wel l as in the early years o f the twentieth century, and Jewish middle-class families worked hard to become visibly and publicly as similar to German middle-class families as possible. Jews had only recently gained poli t ical emancipation in Ge rmany , 3 8 and they lived in a society that could be characterized as generally conformist, highly competit ive, and intolerant o f differences, which made this alignment and assimilation necessary, at least outwardly ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 31). 3 5 It was the usual practice at the time for the sons of wealthy German families to study at more than one university. Benjamin's university years are discussed in Brodersen (Walter Benjamin 37-78), Fuld (35-114), Tiedemann, Godde and Lonitz (29-49), and Witte, (Walter Benjamin mil Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten 18-29). 3 6 For a detailed discussion of the "Bildungsburgertum." see Huerkamp, "Weibliche Konkurrenz auf den akademischen Arbeitsmarkten." 3 7 At least they thought so until the 1930s, when they discovered, as Wiggershaus has observed, that no amount of conformity could secure their position in society (4). 3 8 In 1867 the North German League annulled discriminatory residency laws; in 1869 religious discrimination was forbidden: the Citizenship Law of unified Germany, 1871, removed special conditions for Jewish applicants. 79 The conflict caused by this necessity, however, had to be dealt wi th in the private sphere, where Jewish traditions were practised and Jewish identity was nurtured. A s various forms o f Jewishness became increasingly privatized and relatively invisible in the public sphere, mediating between them and German bourgeois culture became an increasingly difficult task — one that was performed primari ly by mothers ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 31). D u e to the lack o f attention to the private sphere in much o f Benjamin scholarship, this dimension o f his Jewishness and its relation to his home and mother (and wife) has not yet been examined. Benjamin and most o f his friends and associates belonged to this class, the educated bourgeoisie — a class that, in the 1920s, began to lose both its highly privileged status and the cohesiveness provided by common wealth and education. Those were the years in which the lower classes and women began to gain increasing access to the universities. They were also the years in which the nature o f university education began to change: rather than providing a general education, the institution now began providing specialized learning for particular professions (Huerkamp 275). It was not only university education that changed in the 1920s, but also the financial situation o f many members o f the middle-class. Whi le Benjamin's comfortable l ifestyle 3 9 was easily maintained by his parents while he obtained his doctorate, their financial situation weakened after 1918. A l though the First W o r l d W a r had bolstered the German economy, after 1918 reparations payments, coupled wi th the social and polit ical struggles determining the future direction o f the new democracy fo l lowing the abdication o f Empero r Wi l l i am II, contributed to economic instability in general and a large loss o f wealth for the Benjamin family in particular. 3 9 His parents paid all of his expenses and financed the various apartments in which he lived (first alone and then with his wife, Dora, and son, Stefan). In the early years of his marriage, Benjamin continued to travel extensively with his new family and was also able to hire a live-in nanny. In other words, Benjamin continued to enjoy the privileged lifestyle in which he had grown up. 80 A s a result, shortly after the completion o f his doctoral dissertation in June 1919, Benjamin wrote to his friend Scholem that finances were one o f his two crucial considerations: " D i e Entscheidung [in der Schweiz oder anderswo weiterzustudieren], wenigstens die vorlaufige, hangt nicht v o n Geldfragen allein (wenn auch sehr wesentlich) ab, sondern auch davon, wie sich die Arbei t an meiner Habili tationsschrift gestalten w i r d " (Briefe V o l . 2, 68) ["The decision (to continue studying in Switzer land or elsewhere), at least the provisional one, depends not only (even i f to a significant extent) on the question o f money but also on how the w o r k on my habilitation dissertation shapes up" (Correspondence 156)].Until that time, cost had never been an issue for Benjamin. Soon after the complet ion o f his doctoral dissertation, when Benjamin 's parents w o u l d no longer financially support him, he, D o r a , and Stefan were forced to move into Pau l ine and E m i l Benjamin's v i l la in Ber l in . H i s parents' refusal to continue to assist him stemmed not only from their o w n diminished financial situation, but also from their convic t ion that it was time for their son to finally find gainful employment and support his own family — a course o f action he was extremely reluctant to fo l low. The constant b icker ing between the older and younger Benjamins is often referred to in letters dating from that period. In references to this part o f Benjamin's life it has generally not been noted that his younger siblings, his brother G e o r g and sister D o r a , both also obtained university degrees. 4 0 Benjamin himself makes no reference to this fact in his letters, in which he describes what he considers to be an unfair and untenable situation — at least from his perspective. H e seemed to feel that his parents were behaving unfairly towards him by not permitting him to live and study in the manner to which he had g rown accustomed. H e felt the need to escape from his dependence on them, made all the Georg received a degree in medicine: Dora in political economy. 81 worse by their "Kle in l ichke i t und Herrschsucht" (Briefe V o l . 2, 278) ["pettiness and need for cont ro l" (Correspondence 202)]. F r o m Wal te r ' s perspective, the situation with his parents became unbearable, g rowing into an "alle Arbeitskraft und Lebenslust verschlingende Tor tur" (Briefe V o l . 2 278). ["torture devouring all the energy I have to work and all my joy in life" (Correspondence 202)]. H e and D o r a soon moved in with their friends, the Gutkinds , as their o w n income from Wal te r ' s publications and Dora ' s part-time secretarial jobs was insufficient to support the family in an apartment o f their 41 own. After finally deciding to continue his studies at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt, Benjamin attended some seminars there during the summer o f 1923 and began his research. Y e t by November he was experiencing difficulties that he blamed primarily on his difficult financial situation. In a letter to Scholem, he wrote: Ich sehe — selbst mit Habil i tat ion — keine Mog l i chke i t meinen Aufgaben auch nur halbwegs ungeteilt mich zuwenden zu konnen. W e r in Deutschland ernsthaft geistig arbeitet ist v o m Hunger in der ernsthaftesten Weise bedroht. Ich spreche noch nicht v o m Fe/'hungern, aber immerhin aus Er ichs und meiner (in dieser Hinsicht sehr verwandten Lage und) Erfahrung heraus. (Briefe V o l . 2, 370) [1 do not see any possibility, even as far as my habilitation is concerned o f devoting anything approximating my undivided attention to my endeavours. Hunger poses a most serious threat to anyone ser iously engaged in intellectual pursuits in Germany. 1 am not yet talking about starving to death but what I am saying is Stefan remained with his grandparents because there was no room for him in the Gutkinds' apartment (Scholem, Friendship 89 and Brodersen, Spinne im eigenen Nelz 120). 82 nonetheless based on Er ich ' s and on my (in this regard, very similar situations) and experiences. (Correspondence 216 ) ] 4 2 The reference here is to Benjamin's friend Er ich Gu tk ind , who, l ike Benjamin, was the son o f a wealthy Jewish family and, unable to earn a l iv ing as an intellectual, resorted to becoming a "Stadtreisender fur Marga r ine" [margarine salesman] (Briefe V o l . 2, 270; Correspondence 200). B o t h Gu tk ind and Benjamin had lost their parents' financial support. A t the time G u t k i n d decided to earn a l iv ing as a salesman, Benjamin's father set him an ultimatum: " M e i n Vater hatte vo r einiger Zei t erklart, jede weitere Unterst i i tzung an die Bedingung zu binden, daB ich in eine B a n k gehe" (Briefe V o l . 2, 277) [ " M y father declared some time ago that any further support w o u l d be contingent upon my taking a job in a bank" (Correspondence 201)]. Benjamin flatly refused; however, wi th his father-in-law mediating between E m i l and Walter, Wal ter finally agreed to the fol lowing: "fur meinenErwerb ta t igzu sein, jedoch unterder doppelten Bedingung, daB dies erstens in einer Weise geschieht, die mir die ktinftige akademische Laufbahn nicht versperrt, ... zweitens, daB mein Va te r mir sogleich ein Kapi ta l auszahlt, mit dem ich mich an einem Antiquariat beteiligen kann" (Briefe V o l . 2, 277) ["to earn my own l iving, but under two conditions: first, I would do so in such a way 1 wou ld not be cut off from a future academic career, ... second, my father immediately gives me enough money to set up in a used bookstore" (Correspondence 201)]. After unsuccessfully attempting to buy and sell used books, Benjamin began to rely on selling his o w n wares ~ his intellectual production -- in the form o f journal articles. Howeve r , even at best, although his meagre earnings al lowed him to make a few new purchases for his treasured library, they did little to pay for his family's l iving expenses. The astronomical level o f inf la t ion 4 3 *2 It should be noted that the first line of the English translation is slightly inaccurate. It should read: I do not see any possibility even with my habilitation... . 4 3 In 1919 the value of the German mark was 8.9 to US$ I; by August 1921 the value had dropped to 550 to $ 1; by M a y 1923, it was 54,300 to $ I; and by November 1923, US$1 was worth 4.2 billion marks, its 83 coupled wi th an extremely high unemployment rate made for a precarious financial situation for even some o f the wealthiest Germans at the time. A s for the Benjamins, D o r a had virtually no income at this point and Walter was involved in an ongoing battle with his publisher, WeiBbach , for payment for his published essay on Baudelaire. Y e t one could ask, how bad were these early years o f "poverty"? T o what degree were Benjamin 's complaints based on his changed situation — a situation that no longer let him enjoy those things to which he had become accustomed? These questions attempt to re-examine the picture o f Benjamin as the poor struggling genius, who is ostracized from a society that no longer values its intellectuals ( i f rejected by the university) and, ultimately becomes the vic t im o f extreme racist persecution. There is certainly no doubt that Benjamin, because he was Jewish, bore the bunt o f N a z i racist ideology, which, certainly, had very real and devastating consequences. H o w e v e r , the image o f Benjamin 's status as an outsider and his ever-increasing suffering and ostracism is, in part, questionable. It is, in particular, his outsider status that constitutes Benjamin 's often iconic standing in cultural studies, where some, like M c R o b b i e , have idealized him as a "model for the practice o f being a cultural intellectual" (151). However , his position in German society was very complex. In fact, when one considers both his socio-economic standing and his gender, it is clear that Benjamin occupied a position o f privilege. Benjamin considered himself first and foremost an intellectual, a member o f a social group that was beginning to undergo a change in its membership but that still remained composed primarily o f men from wealthy families. In her analysis o f the academic job market in Germany in the 1920s, C laud ia Huerkainp has shown how the perceived financial suffering o f intellectuals was in fact no more than that — a widespread perception not based on fact. Compar ing the purchasing lowest point. (Kaes, Jay and Dimendberg 765-68). 84 power o f their salaries before the war to what it was in the late 1920s, shows that they had lost about 10 percent, whereas labourers had lost 15 percent to 25 percent. In a further salary comparison, before the war , a professor had earned three to four times as much as a worker , whereas in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he/she earned four to six times as much. These figures belie the complaints about the diminishing value o f intellectuals in society, at least in economic terms. The educated class' belief in a much lamented, systematic discrimination directed specifically against them was their way o f understanding the drop in their material standard o f l iving. Accord ing to the members o f the "Bi ldungsburger tum," their class had been particularly burdened wi th the sacrifices demanded by the reparations payments required by the Treaty o f Versa i l l e s . 4 4 In fact, intellectuals were one group that faired relatively wel l . There was no factual basis for the perceived diminishing gap between their incomes and the incomes o f labourers; nonetheless, this perception was often understood by the educated middle-class as a devaluation o f their w o r k and social status (Huerkamp 274). F r o m this perspective, Benjamin's observation that to be an intellectual in Germany was to be seriously threatened by hunger proves to be somewhat exaggerated. T o be sure, there were numerous under-employed and unemployed intellectuals; however, as a group, their situation was not as lamentable as Benjamin describes it. His own loss o f financial support from his parents, combined wi th his perceived diminished status as an intellectual, both contributed to the making o f Benjamin as an outsider and a vict im o f circumstances, when in fact he still occupied a relatively privileged social position. H e could look for paid employment and, failing that, he had both friends and family to rely on for support. H i s occupational choices were limited by his o w n preferences as wel l as by what was available on the job market. H e had already rejected the possibility o f going 4 4 At the Paris Conference in January 1921, reparations were set at 269 billion gold marks payable over forty-two years. (Kaes, Jay and Dimendberg 766). 85 into business l ike his father, and, as wi th many men o f his class, he w o u l d only accept a job commensurate w i th his social standing and education (Wier l ing 373). H i s attempt at selling books, for wh ich his father provided some capital, was unsuccessful, and he felt that this left him wi th only two career choices: to be a university professor or an independent intellectual. Benjamin 's options were quite different than they w o u l d have been had he been a woman. First o f al l , middle-class women were not expected to go to university, as were their male counterparts. Thei r roles were understood to be those o f housewives and mothers — people who mediate between the public and private spheres, thus ensuring tranquillity and harmony in the home and presenting the family in an acceptable light. The maintenance o f the appearance o f achieved social standing was often accomplished at a high price. In the early years o f this century, many middle-class women performed paid work in secret (e.g., doing laundry and painting porcelain) in order to earn sufficient money to pay their domestic servants ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 30-33). F o r men, the choice was w o r k commensurate w i th their standing and education; for women, the task was to ensure that at least the appearance o f that standing remained intact. The fact that Benjamin attended university is taken for granted; however, it should be remembered that the expectation that he wou ld become an intellectual was gendered: it w o u l d not have been considered had be been a woman. That being said, once Benjamin decided to embark on an intellectual career, one possibility open to him was to obtain a posi t ion at a university. Y e t , given the overabundance o f academics and their relatively high unemployment rate, securing such a posit ion (along with its relatively stable income) w o u l d be difficult. A s a further complicat ion, Benjamin was ambivalent about associating himself with a university for two reasons: (1) it w o u l d require him to conform, at least to some degree, to a particular organizat ion and method o f producing o f knowledge; and (2) the time he wou ld be required to devote to students w o u l d be time away from his research and writ ing. He was also cognizant o f the fact that the anti-Semitism he was 86 already facing in his attempts to enter the academy w o u l d continue to affect him negatively i f he became a lecturer or (perhaps later) a professor. 4 5 Anothe r possible career choice was freelance cr i t ic and writer, which , although it w o u l d have given h im freedom, wou ld have provided Benjamin with an uncertain and generally meagre income. H e appears not to have considered a third possibility; namely, obtaining a job to ensure that at least some o f the bills w o u l d be paid. Benjamin seems to have preferred to leave paying the bills to his parents, his wife, and, later, his friends. This is in keeping with the general expectations held by many young, university-educated, middle-class men at that time. Wier l ing , in her comparison o f male and female university students in German in the early years o f this century, has demonstrated that whi le w o m e n were generally expected to perform all manner o f menial tasks to help support themselves and their families, the sons o f these families typically refused, or accepted only as an absolute last resort a job they considered below their dignity and standing (372-374). This is evidenced by Benjamin 's remarks concerning his friend Gu tk ind ' s job as a margarine salesman. The "freedom" o f the crit ical , freelance intellectual located outside the institution was, as Benjamin qu ick ly learned, subject to the market forces o f an increasingly dominant capitalism, the ability and inclination o f the publisher to pay, and the particular ideological constellation o f both the publishing house and the reviewers o f his work . B y choosing "independence" over being a member o f the institution, Benjamin traded one set o f restrictions and power structures for another (in wh ich many similar processes and ideologies were at work) . 4 5 Had he obtained a university position, like all Jewish professors and lecturers, he would have eventually been forced to leave. On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor. And on that same day the house where Benjamin's associate and director of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer, lived was occupied by the S A (storm troops). In Apr i l , the Reconstitution of the Professional C iv i l Service Act was implemented in order to remove all Communists, Social Democrats, and Jews from the civil service. In May, the institute, which had been full of all three targeted groups, was closed and searched, and everything that had been left there was seized. Horkheimer and the inner circle of the institute escaped arrest by moving to Geneva. In the following five years, 45 percent of all tenured academic positions in Germany were reappointed (Wiggershaus 127-29). 87 O n t w o fronts — the university and the publishing wor ld (represented by one seemingly unscrupulous and/or ineffective publisher, Hans We i Bb ach ) 4 7 — Benjamin directly felt the effects o f the material w o r l d on his intellectual production. A t the same time as he experienced the staictures o f the university and its authorization processes, he also experienced similar processes in society at large. Howeve r , his understanding o f his situation was limited because, when considering the construction o f his work , he only took into account the effects o f the public sphere. H e considered what occurred in the private sphere only insofar as it distracted him from his intellectual w o r k or made it more difficult. H e repeatedly commented on his need for peace and quiet and on the double distractions o f earning sufficient money to survive and o f an i l l wife and c h i l d . 4 8 Certainly these are very real considerations; however, they are understood by Benjamin and his critics as annoyances and distractions from, rather than as constitutive elements of, his work . They do not all acknowledge that it was through Dora ' s efforts that the family was able to survive financially and Wal ter was able to pursue his habil i tat ion. 4 9 The interesting contradiction is that both his writings and his life illustrate that the public and private are, in fact, interconnected and constitutive o f one another. Wal ter was able to continue his studies due to Dora ' s work in both the public sphere o f waged labour and in the private wor ld o f domestic, unpaid labour. In fact, as M a r i o n Kap lan has noted, the "household was both a private and a public phenomenon, touched by and affecting the public sphere. In fact, it epi tomized the interactions between the private and the public spheres" (4-5). Benjamin received at least some of the small honorarium owed him. Others were paid nothing, and some were forced into financial ruin. ''8 At some point near his first birthday, Stefan became extremely ill, and for some time his survival was uncertain. Dora experienced ill health for many years, however, the exact nature of her illness is never addressed. 4 9 This fact has been noted by Brodersen (Waller Benjamin 97), Tiedemann. Godde and Lonitz (151), and Witte, (Walter Benjamin mil Selbslzeugnissen unci Bi/cklohimenlen 50). 88 Benjamin 's posit ion outside the academy, as wel l as parts o f his work , focus attention on the violat ion o f socially constructed boundaries and the contradictory' subject positions resulting from such violations. In his examination o f the concept o f porosity, particularly in his and L a c i s ' essay "Naples , " and the combination o f public and private, which is prominent in "One W a y Street" as we l l as in his wr i t ing about M o s c o w , Benjamin provides insights into how to conceptualize intersection rather than separation. I now pick up the strands o f the intersection o f Benjamin 's married life wi th his work . Dora Sophie KeUner/PoUak/Benjamin/Morser and the Discourse of the Wife 50 Walter has already started his work ; mine wi l l have to wait. D o r a Benjamin In contrast to the analysis o f Wal ter ' s male friendships, 5 1 which are invariably linked to both his life and work , Benjamin scholarship has only just begun to recognize the importance o f the w o m e n in Wal te r ' s life. F o r example, Puttneis and Smith dedicate a chapter o f their biographical w o r k to the Ben jamins ' marriage. It is entitled: "Benjamins ungeschriebenes Meis te rwerk , seine 'Educa t ion sentimentale'" [Benjamin's unwritten masterpiece, his "education sentimentale"]. A l though they have presented a great deal o f previously unknown information about D o r a and the Benjamin marriage, Put tneis and Smith 's discussion o f this information occurs solely within a 5 0 Dora's father, Leon Kellner, was a professor of English and a close associate of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. Dora's mother is not mentioned. When Dora and Walter first met and started their relationship, she was married to Max Pollak, who has been described as a wealthy philosophy student (Puttneis and Smith 136) and journalist (Witte, Walter Benjamin mil Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten 30). Her marriage to Morser is considered to have been a marriage of convenience, which allowed her to seek refuge in England with her son Stefan in 1939 (Tiedcmann, Godde, Lonitz 154). Her many names draw attention to the men in her life rather than to her as an individual and to her own accomplishments. 5 1 While discussing Dora Benjamin, I wil l refer to both Benjamins by their first names in order to avoid any possible confusion. 89 traditional biographical context and, therefore, remains distinct from the analysis o f Wal ter ' s work . Furthermore, the title o f the chapter refers to Gustave Flaubert 's novel o f the same name, which takes as its theme learning about life and education through love. This reference places the Benjamins ' relationship within the discourse o f a particular understanding o f love — one that, for the man, serves an idealized function. The hero o f the novel undergoes a "life education" when he experiences the romantic passion o f unrequited love. In this tale, the woman is important only as an unobtainable love object, it is the man's idealized experience that is central. This idea o f learning through unrequited love and romantic pursuit has little, i f anything, in common wi th the Benjamins ' marriage, in which Wal ter was able to pursue his desires only because D o r a both earned a l iv ing and took responsibility for the domestic sphere. This extremely practical side o f their marriage is not captured in the "sentimental" v iew o f love. In look ing back at the institution o f marriage in Germany at the beginning o f the twentieth century, one must remember that, among the middle-class, arranged marriages were the norm. A s M a r i o n K a p l a n has noted, love as the foundation for marriage first received public attention wi th the development o f the Romant ic school in the nineteenth century. H o w e v e r , it took more than a hundred years before it became widely accepted ( M a r i o n Kap lan 86). In the early years o f this century, the notion o f romantic love was to be found in novels far more often than in people 's lives. K a p l a n ' s examination o f Jewish middle-class marriages explains that [mjarriages were contracts between families: material factors were o f primary importance... . The families saw their goal as providing young women with economic security and a socially acceptable role, that o f wife. W o m e n in turn had to provide for their own happiness by control l ing their behavior and emotions so as not to interfere with their status and duties. (86) 90 With in this predominant understanding o f marriage, it is both interesting and instructive to observe h o w the Benjamins ' marriage both conformed to and differed from the norm. The most str iking deviation from the norm in the Benjamins' marriage is that they chose to m a n y for love rather than money. The significance Walter placed on love is evident. In his o w n estimation, the state o f being in love and the woman/women with w h o m he was in love played a decisive role in making him who he was — both as a man and as an intellectual. F o r example, in a letter to Scholem, Wal ter recounted a conversation with some friends concerning their experiences o f love. D u r i n g that conversation, Walter discovered: daB ich mich jedesmal, wenn eine groBe Liebe Gewal t uber mich bekam, von Grund auf und so sehr verandert habe, daB ich sehr erstaunt war mir sagen zu miissen: der M a n n , der so ganz unvermutbare Dinge sagte und ein so unvohergesehenes Verhal ten annahm, der sei ich. Das beruht aber darauf, daB eine wi rk l iche L iebe mich der geliebten Fran ahnlich macht. ( "Mai -Jun i 1931" 427) [that every time a great love overpowered me, I changed so completely, that I was astonished to have to say: the man, who said those totally unexpected things and w h o adopted such unforeseen behaviour, that was me. That is due to the fact that a true love causes me [to] become like the woman I love]. A l though there were numerous women in Benjamin's life, by his own account, he loved only three. 3 2 " Ich habe drei verschiedene Frauen im Leben kennen gelernt und drei verschiedene Manner in mir. M e i n e Lebensgeschichte schreiben, hieBe Aufbau und Verfal l dieser drei Manner darstellen und den K o m p r o m i B zwischen ihnen - man konnte auch sagen: das Triumvirat, das mein Lebenjetz t -2 They were Jula Radt/Cohn. Dora Kellner/Pollak/Benjamin, and Asja Lacis. 91 darstellt" (Benjamin, " M a i - J u n i 193 1" 427) [During my life, I have become familiar wi th three different w o m e n and three different men in me. T o wr i te the story o f my life is to portray the construction and the ruin o f these three men and the compromise made between them — one could also say: the triumvirate, that represents my life]. W i t h these assertions, he tells us that, in order to understand him, we must also understand his love relationships and the role they played in his intellectual product ion. The question o f love and emotions, particularly with regard to their role in making knowledge, has, in the last two decades, increasingly become the foctis o f scholarly attention. Based on findings in a number o f different fields, including philosophy, cultural anthropology, and psychology, Jaggar argues that the categories o f cognit ion and affect are cultural constructions through wh ich we understand ourselves and others and that the former is generally given priority over the latter. Emot ions , however, are vital, as they are "ways in which we engage actively and even construct the wor ld . They have both 'mental' and 'physical ' aspects, each o f which conditions the other;... they presuppose language and a social order. Thus, they can be attributed only to what are sometimes called 'whole persons,' engaged in the ongoing activity o f social l ife" (Jaggar, " L o v e and K n o w l e d g e " 391). F r o m this, Jaggar argues that we must rethink "the relation between knowledge and emot ion" in order to demonstrate "the mutually constitutive rather than opposit ional relation between reason and emot ion. Far from precluding the possibility o f reliable knowledge, emotion ... is necessary to such knowledge" (Jaggar, " L o v e and K n o w l e d g e " 394). In other words , emotions are vital to knowledge. Just as there is no knowledge without thought, so there is no knowledge without emotion. Our knowledge about Benjamin and how he arrived at forms o f knowledge wi l l be more accurate i f we take into account the emotional dimension. This kind o f analysis requires not only an examination o f his experience o f and construction o f love, but also an examination o f how love and emotions constructed him. F o r 92 "without love, without close interpersonal relationships, human beings ... cannot survive. ... The product ion o f people is thus qualitatively different from the production o f things" (Rose 83). Clear ly , then, in a study such as this, which examines the processes by which an intellectual is "made," attention must be given to emotions. Emot ions are central to a recent study by Shoshana Felman, in which she reads " A B e r l i n Chron ic le" together wi th "The Storyteller" and "Theses on the Phi losophy o f H i s to ry" in order to provide an account o f Benjamin's six years o f silence after the beginning o f the First W o r l d W a r and the suicide o f his friend Heinle . In her relational reading o f Benjamin 's autobiographical and theoretical texts, she demonstrates how that "shocking, unnarratable" (Felman 223) trauma shaped Benjamin as a person and as an intellectual. Benjamin's silence is seen in the context o f a general inability to tell stories, which occurred as a result o f having been "struck dumb by the First W o r l d W a r " (205). It was a silence bound to gr ief and mourning. Whi le Felman's analysis focuses on the relationship between intellectual work and trauma and h o w they shape one another, my analysis focuses on h o w love and passion are constitutive o f intellectual work . The Benjamins ' love marriage seems not to have met the usual expectations o f an arranged marriage. D o r a was most certainly not provided with the financial security that middle-class women expected and depended u p o n . 3 3 O n the contrary, her d o w r y and income supported the family 's material needs. H o w e v e r , D o r a ' s position was conflicted and often contradictory. A l though they had married for love, and although D o r a provided most o f their income, she still had a traditional understanding o f her role as a " g o o d " wife. A s previously noted, wives were supposed to control 5 3 Her parents did what they could in this regard. They refused to allow the marriage unless Walter signed a contract guaranteeing Dora the return of her dowry, another substantial payment ("Widerlage"), plus 300 marks per month i f a future breakdown of the marriage should be his fault (Puttneis and Smith 153). This move by her parents is not surprising, given the tensions between an "idealistic" love marriage and a "responsible" money marriage. In addition, the divorce rates among Jewish families were high at the time, much higher than those among Christians, with the husband's adultery being the main cause for divorce (Marion Kaplan 101). 93 their behaviour and emotions for the sake o f harmony within the family. This was a difficult task for someone l ike D o r a , who was intelligent and seems to have k n o w n what she wanted and pursued it, even i f it meant going against established norms. One particular set o f circumstances illustrates the conflicted nature o f D o r a ' s posit ion. W h e n Wal te r resumed a relationship wi th the first o f his great loves, Jula Radt, D o r a fell in love wi th Wal te r ' s friend o f many years, Ernst Schoen. Al though she left Wal te r for a time to be wi th Schoen, she decided to return to him, explaining in a letter to Scholem: Ich habe diese 9 M.onate in einem ununterbrochenen K a m p f gelebt urn f romm sein und gut sein [sic]. Was er [Walter] nicht weiB ... ist, daB ich, wenn ich zuri ickkehre, wieder versuchen w i l l , mit ihm zu leben wie friiher. ... Ehe ist eine Forderung , . . . das versuche ich ihm klarzumachen. (Puttneis and Smith 143-44) [Dur ing these last 9 months 1 have lived in an uninterrupted battle to be pious and good. What he (Walter) doesn't k n o w ... is that when I return I want to try to live wi th him as before ... Marr iage is a challenge ... I 'm tying to make that clear to him]. She tries to be " g o o d , " and is determined to go back and somehow keep their marriage intact. H e r desire to be good is at odds with many o f her actions and decisions. She was hardly being good by middle-class standards when she engaged in adultery first wi th Walter and later wi th Schoen. "P ious and g o o d " w o u l d certainly not have been the adjectives that sprang to the lips o f the members o f the traditional middle-class when she frequented a lesbian night club in Ber l in wi th a number o f different male friends. Her stated reason for going there was simply: "[t]hese women are authentic" (Charlotte Wolf f , Hindsight 75). This remark seems to indicate her desire for a less conflicted role 94 as a woman — one in which the norms o f her class and religion were not so often at odds wi th her o w n wishes and desires. Y e t D o r a supported Wal ter and his work in every way she possibly could , much beyond what w o u l d be expected o f a middle-class wife. " D u darfst nicht sagen, Gerhard, daB D i r seine geistige E n t w i c k l u n g wicht iger ist als mir. Dazu habe ich zu lange meine ganze Exis tenz auf ihn gestellt," she wrote to Scholem (Puttneis and Smith 151). [Gerhard, you may not say that his intellectual development is more important to you than to me. 1 have devoted my whole existence to him for too long for that]. D o r a is a complex and contradic tory mixture o f rebellion and conformity, self-sacrificing yet pleasure-loving. In spite o f her complexity, D o r a has, to date, been f irmly positioned by the discourse o f the wife. Observations concerning her are based on the assumption that a wife is supposed to take care o f all domestic matters so as to a l low her husband to devote his energies to his work all day, after which he relaxes in a wel l - run home. M y primary critiques o f discourse o f the private sphere and the posit ion o f the wife within it concern: (1) its productivist logic; (2) its inherent binarism (i.e., public/private, wi th the former being the privileged term); and (3) its assumption that worthwhi le knowledge is only produced outside the domestic sphere. A l l o f these concerns are both achieved by, and result in, separating the conditions o f product ion from what is produced, theory from practice, and ideas from material reality. In the rest o f this chapter, I wi l l attempt to analyze the intersections o f the domestic and public spheres in order to begin to reconceptualize intellectual w o r k as the product o f these intersections. The aforementioned assumptions concerning the role and place o f the wife were common to Wal te r ' s t ime and class; this was his chi ldhood reali ty. 5 4 H e grew up expecting that someone else 5 4 See Benjamin's writings based on his childhood: ''Berliner Chronik"[Berlin Chronicle] and "Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert" [Berlin Childhood around 1900], 9 (mother, wife, domestic servants) wou ld look after his material well-being and perform all domestic tasks for him. H e admitted, at the age o f forty, that " i ch mir heute noch keine Tasse Kaffee kochen kann" (Berliner Chronik 11) [even today I am unable to make myself a cup o f coffee]. D u r i n g the years o f their marriage, Dora provided these services, acted as his secretary, and raised their son. After their divorce in 1930, when Walter no longer had unrestricted access to D o r a ' s services, he turned to his sister to fulfill these functions. Siegfried Unseld recalls a visit to Walter, w h o gave him to understand that he was l iving wi th a woman: " [E] r ... sagte, er wohne hier nicht allein, so daB man annehmen muBte, er wohne mit einer Frau zusammen. Zufa l l ig habe ich viele Jahre spater erfahren, daB diese Frau seine Schwester war" (Unseld 6 8 ) [He said ... he did not live here alone, and in such a way that one had to assume that he was l iv ing together wi th a woman. B y coincidence, 1 found out years later that this woman was his sister]. Wal ter kept his sister's presence a secret even from his Paris friends and acquaintances. Benjamin 's first biographer, F u l d , assumes that Benjamin was so secretive because he did not want anyone to k n o w the extent o f his dire financial straits ( 2 2 ) . Whi l e this is possible, it is certainly unlikely, as he constantly complained to everyone he knew about the dire nature o f his financial situation, and he received financial support from many sources during his years in Paris: his ex-wife Dora , Theodor A d o r n o and his family, Gretel K a r p l u s , " and Bertolt Brecht , to name only a few. Wal ter needed his younger sister, whose name was also Dora , not only because he was unable to pay his rent, but also to perform the household and secretarial duties. F o r a brother to seek his sister's assistance was not uncommon in Jewish middle-class families, in which women often w o r k e d in, or even ran, their husbands' or fathers' business, without receiving either a salary Karplus was a common friend of Benjamin's and Adorno's, who later became Adorno's wife. 96 or recognit ion. 5 6 A l though she had been employed in the field o f social welfare in Germany, it was difficult for Wal te r ' s sister to find employment in Paris, and this was compounded by the fact that she was i l l and, most l ikely, unable to ho ld a steady j o b . 3 7 She lived o f f a small sum o f invested money she had inherited when their mother died, which she then shared with her brother when he joined her in Paris (Witte, Waller Benjamin mil Selbstzengnissen vndBilddokiimenten 124). A t the time, Wal te r was being paid only 500 francs per month as an associate o f the Institute for Social Research, wh ich was wel l be low what he w o u l d have needed to live on his o w n (Witte , Walter Benjamin mil Selbstzengnissen rindBilddokiimenlen 106). In order to survive he bor rowed money from friends and, alternately, lived with his sister in Paris, Brecht in Denmark, and in his ex-wife's boarding house in Italy. A l though Dora was no longer there to support him in his daily life, Wal ter could clearly still count on her assistance. A s B r o d e r s e n ' s research has shown, "during Benjamin 's exile D o r a Kel lne r was one o f the few people who really supported h im" (Walter Benjamin 175). Charlotte Wolff , a friend o f the Benjamins during the early years o f their marriage, observed that D o r a not only always believed in Wal te r ' s work , she was also "aware o f the significance o f her husband's work, but felt herself repressed by his compulsive behaviour" (On (he Way to Myself 205). Aga in , this comment reveals the conflicted nature o f Dora ' s situation. She seems to have wanted to support Wal ter and his work ; however, in the traditional role o f a wife, she was too bound, both by the role itself and by Walter . 5° For further discussion, see Marion Kaplan, especially Chapter 6, "Double Barriers, Double Burdens: Women's Employment." According to Fuld, Dora Benjamin suffered from a debilitating form of chronic spinal rheumatism (21). 97 E v e n though Wal te r ' s initial attraction to D o r a seems to have been connected to her intelligence and her engagement in the Free Students' U n i o n , 5 8 once she becomes his wife, different expectations come into play and gradually come to dominate. N o t only Wal ter himself, but also scholars who attempt to understand him, participate in the discourse o f the wife, thus leaving numerous assumptions intact and thereby obscuring many dimensions that w o u l d help us to gain a clearer picture. A s Charlotte W o l f f observed, "Beh ind his w o r k had a lways s tood a person he loved" (Hindsight 67). What did this mean in the case o f Dora? In their biographical study, Puttneis and Smith attempt to piece together the story o f Wal ter and D o r a Benjamin 's marriage. They make the claim that one o f the major problems wi th the relationship was the fact that they were "zwei gleich starke und intelligente Menschen" [two people o f equal strength and intelligence], which made it extremely difficult for them to share "den ganzen A l l t a g " [all o f everyday life] (Puttneis and Smith 135). Scholem's observations on his visits to the newly married couple in Switzerland wou ld seem to confirm this difficulty. H e found that "they were incomparably tender toward each other and unabashedly affectionate in my presence," however, he also "became an involuntary witness to noisy scenes" (Friendship 55). Whi l e their day-to-day relations were often difficult, in retrospect D o r a described their marriage as one o f "mutual interests," as Walter needed someone to prevent him from commit t ing suicide and she needed someone to give her life meaning (Brodersen, Walter Benjamin 96). Wal ter did contemplate suicide on a number o f occasions, and by 1931, after their divorce, he was strongly aware o f the "wachsende Bereitschaft ... mir das Leben zu nehmen" ( "Mai - Jun i 1931" 423) [increasing readiness ... to take my life]. Short ly after this diary entry, Walter not only wrote farewell letters to a number o f his friends, but he also completed his wi l l (Scholem, Friendship 187-5 8 The Free Students' Union was a group within the larger Student Reform Movement that followed the ideas of educational reformer Gustav Wyneken. 98 88). H e planned to commit suicide on his fortieth birthday but did not actually do so until he was stopped at the French-Spanish border in 1940, eight years later (Benjamin/Scholem, Briefwechsel 19). Whi l e the various stations o f Wal ter ' s life are well known, it is only recently that any attention has been paid to D o r a — and then only as a biographical footnote to Walter . What is k n o w n o f her is l imi ted , especially with regard to her life before she met Wa l t e r . 5 9 Puttneis and Smith come to the conclusion that "[s]ie selbst war schon frith einem eigenen W e g gefolgt" (136) [already at an early age she went her own way] . Brodersen summarizes the portraits o f her personality: they "depict D o r a as an engaging, socially confident, intellectual, musically talented and except ional ly beautiful w o m a n " (97). W o l f f describes her as a "beautiful, sensuous, and hypersensitive woman , an intelligent journalist" (On the Way to Myself 205). "She had striking looks which alone gave her a 'presence.' But there was more to her than that. A blonde Jewess wi th slightly protruding eyes, a heart-shaped mouth with full red lips, she exuded vitality and joie de vivre. D o r a seduced one through her very being" (Hindsight 66). At least in her physical presence, she appears to have been quite the opposite o f Walter, who has been described as aloof, wi thdrawn, lacking vitality, not attractive to women, and "so to speak, incorporeal" (Scholem, Friendship 95). A s a young woman, D o r a was actively involved in the "Freie Studentschaft" [Free Students' U n i o n ] , where she met both o f her husbands. She was extremely impressed by Wal te r ' s inaugural speech as the chair o f the group and wrote to Herbert Blumenthal (later Be lmore) , then a common friend o f theirs: "Benjamins Rede — D u kennst ihn. Es war wie eine Er losung. M a n atmete kaum" (Puttneis and Smi th 136) [Benjamin's speech — you k n o w him. It was l ike salvation. Everyone Attempting to understand Dora in the context of Walter's life and work is made all the more difficult by the fact that many of her letters have not been published. Most of them are to be found either in the Walter Benjamin Archive in Jerusalem or the Walter Benjamin Estate that is housed, in part, in the literature archive of the Akademie der Kfmste in Berlin as well as in the Adorno Archive in Frankfurt. 99 hardly breathed]. In fact, she was so impressed that she presented him wi th roses, a gesture that strongly affected Walter: " D o r a brachte mir Rosen, wei l meine Freundin nicht in Ber l in sei. N u n ist es wahr: noch niemals haben mich Blumen so begliickt, wie diese, die D o r a ... brachte" (Briefe V o l . 1,216) ["Dora brought me roses because my girlfriend was not in Ber l in . It is true that f lowers have never made me as happy as these, which D o r a ... brought" (Correspondence 60)]. They continued to see each other and shared a passion for their work in the Free Students' U n i o n , in wh ich D o r a ' s husband, M a x Pol lak , was also act ive. 6 0 Dora was particularly involved in the group 's discussion meetings, where she often initiated discussion topics and was an enthusiastic par t ic ipant . 6 1 After one long discussion between D o r a and Walter , " v o m Sprechsaal, von D r . Wyneken , objektivem Geist und R e l i g i o n " ["about the Discussion H a l l , D r . Wyneken , objective spirit and religion"] Walter confided to Blumenthal that he knew they were in agreement wi th one another: "daher weiB ich, daB wir iibereinstimmen" (Briefe V o l . 1, 222) ["therefore I k n o w that we are o f one mind" (Correspondence 63)]. Their common interests in educational reform seem to have been the basis for their agreement with one another. D o r a and Walter married in 1917, and, as Brodersen notes, she protected "her husband from the adversities o f daily life and above all provided him with assistance in practical matters" (97). One o f her first accomplishments o f this nature was to enable Wal ter ' s avoidance o f conscription, as he was totally opposed to the war. A t that time he broke off his association wi th the entire Student Re fo rm Movement and one o f its prominent leaders, Gustav Wyneken , when the latter and his fol lowers (primarily in the Free Students' U n i o n ) enthusiastically supported the war. 0 0 Walter was engaged to Grete Radt at the time — and still was when he married Dora. 6 > Contraiy to Fuld's assertion that Dora's involvement with the youth movement consisted solely of her participation in its social life (79), Walter's letters provide evidence of her intellectual participation. See, for example, Briefe V o l . 1,216 and 222; Correspondence 60 and 63. W i t h D o r a ' s assistance, Walter was able to feign symptoms o f sciatica, which a l lowed his family doctor to certify him unfit for military service. H e was exempt from service for a number o f months, after which he obtained further medical certification that a l lowed him to travel to a sanatorium in Switzerland. Once in Swi tze r l and , he registered at the Univers i ty o f B e r n and completed his doctoral studies. There, D o r a ' s own wri t ing waited wh i l e Walter completed his doctorate, and, in 1918, before its complet ion, their son Stefan was born. D o r a provided for the material existence o f her family primarily through her w o r k as a translator, journalist, and foreign language secretary. L i k e many young women who had to w o r k to finance their own studies, she took secretarial w o r k to feed her family and to finance her husband's studies. H e r income was vital , as she was often paid in foreign currency, which somewhat reduced the worst effects o f the skyrocketing inflation o f the time (Tiedemann, Godde, Loni tz 151). There was, however, little security in her income, as her secretarial jobs were usually only short-term positions. In addition to those jobs, she also wrote numerous "kleinere Feuil letons" [smaller literary works ] (Tiedemann, Godde , Lon i tz 152) and worked for Be r l i n radio. D o r a later became a bilingual secretary for an Engl ish company 6 2 and w o r k e d as a translator and journalist. In 1927 she became the editor o f a we l l -known magazine, and she also achieved "ein gewisses Renommee" (Tiedemann, Godde, Lon i t z 152) [a certain name for herself] as a translator and writer under the first o f her many names: D o r a Sophie Kel lner . Al though she earned her l iving by wri t ing , Puttneis and Smith, true to the discourse o f the wife, seem surprised that she was actually able to write wel l : " M e h r noch: Dora schreibt gut" (139) [ M o r e yet: D o r a writes wel l ] . In addition to translating numerous novels from English into German and wri t ing articles and book reviews for various journals, in 1930 Dora also wrote a novel, Gas gegen Gas [Gas 6 2 She was fluent in English, having spent some time living in England as a child ~ a stay probably due to her father being a scholar of English literature. Against Gas] . Tiedemann, Godde , and Loni tz describe her book as "ein ansehnliches Stuck Trivial l i teratur" (152) [a respectable piece o f trivial l i terature]. 6 3 The social context to wh ich her title refers, however, is anything but tr ivial : the use o f gas as a weapon o f war. H e r choice o f title indicates that the danger o f using gas as a weapon is not the background to a t r iv ia l story but, rather, a central motif. D o r a ' s novel prefigures many o f the arguments uti l ized in the debate concerning the employment o f gas and, by extension, in the current debate concerning the employment o f chemical and biological weapons. One o f W a l t e r ' s earlier newspaper articles, " D i e Waffen von M o r g e n " [Weapons o f T o m o r r o w ] , foresaw the possibility o f the employment o f gas in the Second W o r l d War . Based on this article, Tiedemann, Godde , and Lon i t z ask whether or not Walter had anything to do wi th D o r a ' s novel (153). This is certainly conceivable, as they discussed many issues — both literary and po l i t i ca l — particularly during the earlier years o f their marriage. 6 4 Wal ter took D o r a ' s opinions seriously, as can be seen from his discussion o f a controversial essay by his friend, Florens Rang : " ich [sage] D i r kurz, wie ich und wie D o r a zu dieser Arbei t stehen" ["I w i l l briefly summarize how D o r a and I v iew i t"] . H e fol lowed with a critique o f both the fo rm and content o f the essay and concluded his comments by stating that, although he and D o r a generally agreed on these critiques, they differed in one respect: "[Sie] schrankt die Anerkennung des Posi t iven, die ich darin gebe, sehr Q\VL\Briefe V o l 2, 200-01) ["(She) is much less enthusiastic about what I see as the essay's positive values" (Correspondence 189-90)]. It is clear from this letter that they discussed the essay in some 6 3 As the novel in its entirety is unavailable in North America, 1 am unable to comment on it as a whole. It is very likely, however, that the label "trivial literature" or "light reading" has been assigned to Dora's work because it deals with interpersonal relationships ~ matters that may be deemed trivial only when one attempts to categorize according to the binary oppositions of public/private, high culture/popular culture. 6 4 See, for example, Briefe V o l . L 402, 463, 488; V o l . 2, 147; Correspondence 103, 129, 136, 178. detail and that Wal te r acknowledged both their agreements and their disagreements. In other words, D o r a had a mind and opinion o f her own , and did not merely echo her husband. The possibil i ty o f deploying gas as a weapon may wel l have been one o f the Benjamins ' ongoing topics o f discussion. In 1924, Wal ter was already concerned about the possibility o f another war, and he takes notice o f an item in the paper concerning the potential deployment o f gas, chemical , and bacteriological weapons (Briefe V o l . 2, 470). However , the manner in which Tiedemann, Godde , and L o n i t z formulate their question concerning Wal te r ' s influence on D o r a ' s novel reveals something important. It is a question that is only viable wi th in a framework that seeks the or ig in o f an idea in an individual and then attempts to establish the causal influence o f one individual on another within an assumed "tradition." A n d much o f academic discourse, as M o i and Mar t in point out, generally places women in marginal positions from which , by definition, they can only produce "derivat ive" work . Furthermore, the discourse o f the wife assumes that it is the wife's role to support, thus she is only capable o f engaging in "reproduct ive" work . A l l o f these assumptions preclude the examination o f D o r a as an influence on, or contributor to, Wal te r ' s work . Brodersen sums up the current v iew o f D o r a as fol lows: " D o r a Sophie Ke l lne r did not exert a profound influence on her husband's thinking and creative output" (Waiter Benjamin: A Biography 96). H o w e v e r , as Brodersen himself discovered, D o r a , not Walter, authored at least one article, " D i e Waffen von morgen" ["Weapons o f T o m o r r o w " ] . A l though the manuscript was signed wi th her initials, Brodersen determines that Walter must have been the author because the title appears in a list o f his publications (Waiter Benjamin 279-80). It is no longer surprising to discover that works attributed to we l l -known men were, in fact, completed, all or in part, by the women in their lives. It seems highly l ike ly , g iven Dora ' s initials on the manuscript and the fact that her novel explored the issues it raises, that she was the author o f that essay. What I am concerned with is not individual authorship per se but, rather, the complex ways in which convergent interestsintersect and the way in which intellectual product ion occurs at these intersections. D o r a not only discussed many issues wi th Walter, but he also often dictated his w o r k to her, and she often recopied his writings into neat versions ("Reinschrift"). It is highly unlikely that someone as intelligent and strong-minded as D o r a , w h o had many o f the same intellectual interests as did Walter , w o u l d have simply copied or transcribed without making any comments or suggestions. It has been established that she wrote part o f at least one more o f Wal te r ' s essays, "Leben und Gewa l t " [Life and Violence] (Tiedemann, Godde , Lon i t z 149). Closer examination o f the various archives o f both Wal ter ' s and D o r a ' s work and correspondence is needed to determine which o f his other works were, at least to some degree, co-authored by Dora . A g a i n , this must be done not in order to establish a causal relationship or to attempt to discover the individual or igin o f an idea, but, rather, to illustrate the complexity o f the product ion o f knowledge. Al though , on the one hand, Wal ter appears to have taken Dora ' s opinions seriously and discussed many matters with her, on the other hand, he had an extremely l o w opinion o f women ' s intellectual capabilities. Whi l e researching his doctoral dissertation, for example, he came across an academic w o r k concerning German Romant ic i sm written by a woman. H i s response was: "Das Grausen das einen uberkommt wenn Frauen in diesen Dingen entscheidend mitreden w o l l e n ist unbeschreiblich" (Briefe V o l . 1, 468) ["The horror that grips you when women want to play a crucial role in discussing such matters is indescribable" (Correspondence 133)]. In a later book review he dismissed the work as "eine typische Frauenarbeit" [a typical work by a woman] ( "Eva Feisel , D i e Sprachphilosophie der deutschen Roman t ik" 96). The book was a revised version o f a doctoral dissertation that Walter first praised for being far above average, yet he then attacked the author for being a woman. A c c o r d i n g to his review, Eva Feisel lacked "innere Souveranitat" [inner sovereignty] and had neither a deep interest in, nor any real insight into, her subject matter. Further, he found that a l though it was "eine tiichtige Arbe i t " [an industrious piece o f w o r k ] , it was also typical in its l imitat ions: "typisch fur einen unmannlichen His tor iz i smus" [typical for an unmanly historicism] ( "Eva Feisel, D i e Sprachphilosophie der deutschen Romant ik" 96-97). There is almost no mention o f the actual content o f the book, and the review concludes by censuring its author for being "unerzogen" [ill-bred] because she failed to cite her sources adequately. A l though cri t iquing an academic w o r k for failing to include a bibliography is certainly justifiable, Wal ter does this in a manner that is reminiscent o f a father scolding a naughty c h i l d . 6 5 The reader o f the review ends up k n o w i n g virtually nothing about the content o f the book — only that its formal aspects are lacking and that it cannot possibly be worth reading because its author was a woman. This k ind o f patronizing hostility towards women in the academy was prevalent in Wal ter ' s time. In Wal te r ' s case, both the German and Jewish traditions considered too much education "unfeminine," and such views were reinforced by the attitudes towards women wi thin the academy. 6 6 These attitudes concerning the intellectual inferiority o f women and the belief that women were naturally destined to be mothers and nurturing helpmates were all seemingly taken for granted by Walter , even though his lived reality contradicted them. D o r a was an intel lectual ly capable partner with a university education — a person with whom, at least in the early years o f their relationship, he discussed his thoughts and ideas. However , Walter accepted the dominant gendered division o f labour, and he expected his wife to perform all manner o f secretarial and domestic work for him. A telling example o f his expectations occurred when they visited D o r a ' s aunt's spa in 1919, 6 5 The reviews ends as follows: "Wer eingeladen ist und die Tiir , durch die er eintrat, hinter sich zuschlagt, verfahrt nicht anders als wer iiber die "Sprachphilosophie der deutschen Romantik" ein Buch ohne Literaturangaben verfaBt. Namlich unerzogen" ("Eva Feisel, Die Sprachphilosophie der deutschen Romantik" 97). [Whoever is invited in and then slams the door through which he entered behaves no differently than the person who wrote "Philosophy of Language of German Romanticism" without a bibliography. Namely ill-bred]. 6 6 For a detailed analysis of the "scientific" arguments used against women in higher education, see Glaser, Huerkamp, Wierling, and Marion Kaplan, especially her chapter "Jewish Women Confront Academia." shortly after he had completed his doctoral dissertation. The reason for the trip was to allow them both some time to relax and recuperate from the stressful years they had just gone through. There were some difficulties with their luggage, and although D o r a was in il l health, she, not Walter , was the one w h o had to travel to Vienna to straighten things out . 6 7 B e y o n d the question o f Dora ' s direct participation in Wal ter ' s work , there is the issue o f her indirect participation. A s has been shown, it was Dora who , in numerous ways, supplied the material condit ions that enabled Walter to continue to pursue his studies. H o w crucial her income was becomes clear in a letter to Schoen: "In B e r n ist mir, ganz wider mein kiihnstes Erwar ten , Aussicht auf eine Habi l i ta t ion erbffnet worden. N u n ist dies unannehmbar, wenn nicht eine nach A r t und Gehalt angemessene Stellung fur meine Frau sich findet die uns den Aufenthalt in der Schweiz e rmogl ich t" (Briefe V o l . 2, 63) ["Contrary to my wildest expectations, the prospect o f an opportuni ty to w o r k for my habilitation has opened up for me in Bern . But I wi l l not be able to accept such an opportunity unless my wife finds a posit ion that is appropriate in terms o f the nature o f the w o r k and the salary and wou ld enable us to stay on in Swi tzer land" (Correspondence 154)]. A s Wal te r ' s parents were both unwil l ing and unable to provide him with continued financial support, his ability to remain in Switzerland depended on Dora ' s ability to earn a sufficient income. The tensions o f the contradictory positions she occupied, together with the demands o f both her paid and unpaid work , compounded the physical toll o f childbirth on Dora ' s heal th. 6 8 This is evident in Wal te r ' s numerous references to her ill health, beginning shortly after Stefan's birth on 6 7 After arriving at the spa he writes to Hi'me Caro: "Dem Kinde geht es gut, meiner Frau nicht. ... Meine Frau [ist] freilich gegenwartig in Wien. wo sie sich bemiiht unser Gepack zu erhalten" (Briefe V o l . 2,52-53). ["My son is well, my wife is not... M y wife is in Vienna at the moment, where she is making an effort to get our \uegage."(Correspondence 150)]. °8 Childbirth was (and still often is) erroneously believed to be a natural event that is unproblematic for most women. Usbome refers to "an unsatisfactory record of maternal mortality or morbidity" in Germany during the Weimar Republic (20). Her chapter "Maternity," 31-68, discusses the triple burden of wage labour, maternity and housework that many women shouldered. 11 A p r i l 1918: " M e i n e Frau liegt an der Gr ippe krank" (Briefe V o l . 1, 484) [ " M y wife is i l l w i th the f l u " (Correspondence 135)]. In July 1919 he wrote: " M e i n e Frau leidet unter schwersten monatelang gehauften Anstrengungen, auf die sie die erhoffte Erho lung jetzt nun nicht findet, schwer; Blutarmut und schlimme Gewichtsabnahme" Briefe V o l . 2, 33) [ " M y wife is suffering terribly as a result o f the pressure she has been under for months, in addit ion to not getting the rest we hoped for; anaemia and severe weight loss" (Correspondence 143)]. B y the end o f the fo l lowing year, her health seemed to be improving somewhat: " D o r a scheint es nur sehr langsam besser gehen zu wol len . A u f ihr gegenwartiges Aussehen mochte sie sich nicht festlegen lassen" (Briefe V o l . 2, 107) ["Dora seems to be improving only very slowly. She wou ld rather that there not be a record o f the way she has been look ing o f late" (Correspondence 167)]. Howeve r , she is not work ing , as Wal te r wrote to Scholem soon after: "Dorageh t vorlaufig nicht i n s B u r o und erholt sich allmahlich. Sicher nicht zum wenigsten durch die freiere Aussicht [auf E inkommen von einer Veroffent l ichung]" (Briefe V o l . 2, 120) ["Dora is not going to the office for the time being and is gradually recovering. Certainly not least because o f our better prospects ( o f income from having something published)" (Correspondence 171)]. B y the end o f the fo l lowing summer we learn: " D o r a geht es — zum mindesten gesundheitlich — noch nicht gut. D ie Operat ion ist nicht ganz glatt verlaufen und macht eine hauslich Nachkur notwendig" (Briefe V o l . 2, 195) ["Things are still not go ing right for D o r a — at least as far as her health is concerned. The operation was not entirely without complicat ions, which made it necessary for her to recuperate at home" (Correspondence 188)]. The exact nature o f the operation is not known. N o r is it k n o w n who cared for her and the family during that recovery period, as the work o f look ing after ill or convalescent family members was almost always done by the women in the family (with the assistance o f paid nurses, i f finances al lowed). D o r a ' s health did not improve after the surgery. T w o years later Wal ter wrote to his friend Florens Christ ian Rang: "Doras Gesundheit halt mich unablassig in A tem. Sie wi l l von Schonung im Augenbl ick , da unsere wirtschaftliche Exis tenz auf ihrer Stel lung steht, im Augenb l i ck nichts wissen" (Briefe V o l . 2, 362) ["Dora 's health keeps me in a constant state o f suspense. A t the moment she does not want to hear anything about taking it easy because we are financially dependent on her j o b " (Correspondence 212)]. The previously ment ioned tensions and demands, the physical burdens o f childbirth, her concerns for her son's health during his long illness, and the pressure to keep w o r k i n g outside the home all contributed to D o r a ' s poor health. She took on the expected role o f sacrificing her o w n concerns, desires, and well-being to those o f her husband and family; and Wal ter accepted this. Wal ter ' s expectations o f his wife were typical o f the time, even though he did not fill his half o f the marriage bargain by providing financial security. D o r a completed numerous secretarial tasks in addition to typing many o f Wal te r ' s manuscripts. F o r example, Wal ter wrote to Scholem about an address that D o r a was attempting to find for him, even though it wou ld have been easier for him to get it himself. When Walter needed to catalogue his library because he had to sell it, he remarked: " Im iibrigen bin ich mit dem K a t a l o g meines kleinen Biicherlagers beschaftigt, den ich in Gemeinschaft mit meiner Frau verfertige" (Briefe V o l . 2, 327) [By the way, I 'm busy complet ing a catalogue o f my small col lect ion o f books together with my w i f e ] . 6 9 After the books were sold without hav ing been completely catalogued, Walter expressed his relief, as otherwise Dora w o u l d have had a great deal o f work : " D o r a hatte sich beim V e r k a u f die Finger lahm schreiben mussen" (Briefe V o l . 2, 335) [For the sale D o r a w o u l d have had to write her fingers lame]. This and the two following cited letters are not included in the volume of Benjamin's translated letters. Furthermore, D o r a was responsible for social niceties, such as returning invitations, as is seen in her letter to Wal te r ' s friend Rang : "auch ich danke Ihnen beide a u f s [sic] herzlichste fur Ihre liebevolle Gastfreundschaft Walter gegeniiber. Hoffentl ich kann ich sie in nicht zu ferner Zeit erwidern" (Briefe V o l . 2, 306) [I, too, wou ld l ike to express my heartfelt thanks for your kind hospitality to Walter . Hopeful ly I wi l l be able to reciprocate in the not too distant future]. A s a wife, D o r a was expected to enable and nurture, quietly and without recognit ion. The traditional role o f the wife is to be in the background, behind "the great man," and to perform the unacknowledged maintenance w o r k (and, in this case, to supply the income as well) . A s M a r t i n has observed in the case o f Salome, any o f her accomplishments that contributed to, or may have diminished, his greatness are simply ignored. Benjamin 's acceptance o f the gendered division o f the discourse o f the wife is not surprising, considering his socio-economic position and its privileges. H e was made by male institutions that were generally unwelcoming to women. H i s early schooling took place in an al l -male environment, and his early mentor, Wyneken , propagated an educational ideal in which an elite group o f superior students (though it was not explicit ly stated, they were all male) w o u l d be educated in such a way as to enable them to transform bourgeois society once they took up the reins o f power as adults . 7 0 The universities Benjamin attended had some women students, but not very many. 7 1 It is highly unlikely that he ever came in contact with a woman professor. H i s immediate w o r l d was clearly male-oriented, and he accepted the advantages and privileges it offered him. The strength 7 0 A major contradiction within the group most strongly influenced by and supportive of Wyneken — and one that requires further investigation — is that, in spite of Wyneken's fairly overt anti-Semitism, like Benjamin, most of his followers were Jewish. 7 1 Between 1918 and 1925 the largest number of women students at German universities at one time amounted to only I 1.4 percent of the total number of students (Wierling 368). o f the dominant discourses and practices o f the time, together with the fact that Wal ter clearly benefited f rom them, is interesting in that it contradicted not only his l ived reality, but also his theorizing. I refer here especially to his concept o f porosity — a concept with which he attempts to dismantle established boundaries, such as public/private and academic life/everyday life. In spite o f seeing the necessity o f dismantling those boundaries, Benjamin maintained gender boundaries that enabled h im to continue to occupy a privileged, male position within his marriage and society. Before further elucidating Benjamin's concept o f porosity, I w i l l examine how he was made by the university. Chapter 4 focuses on this process, particularly as it occurred during the years o f his attempted habilitation. 1 Chapter 4 Boundaries of Knowledge: Benjamin as a "Failure" Author ized voices authorize themselves to be heard. Tr inh T. M i n h - H a , When the Moon Waxes Red Benjamin began attending lectures and seminars at the Universi ty o f Frankfurt in preparation for wr i t ing his habilitation dissertat ion in the summer semester o f 1923. This year marks the beginning o f his failure to attain a traditional university career as wel l as o f his association wi th future prominent members o f the Institute for Social Research, particularly M a x Horkhe imer and Theodor Wiesengrund-Adorno (later A d o r n o ) . 7 2 When Benjamin went to Frankfurt, A d o r n o was preparing for his doctorate, which he received in 1924, and Horkheimer , who became the director o f the Institute in 1930, obtained his doctorate in the year Benjamin arrived. B o t h A d o r n o and Horkhe imer were w o r k i n g under the supervision o f Hans Cornel ius , who also played a decisive role in Benjamin's failed habilitation attempt. Cornel ius , the only full professor o f philosophy at the Universi ty o f Frankfurt from 1914 to 1929, was in a position to shape the future o f his discipline, at least at his institution, and he played a significant role in the future careers o f Horkheimer, Adorno, and Ben jamin . 7 3 H e not only supervised Horkhe imer ' s doctorate, but also, in 1925, his successful habilitation dissertation. This was the same year that he decided, with Horkhe imer ' s support, that Benjamin's habilitation dissertation was unacceptable. T w o years later, A d o r n o applied for habilitation, also under the 7 3 The Institute has become more commonly known as the Frankfurt School. 7 3 In his work, Cornelius supported a variant of neo-Kantianism that emphasized the role of perceptual experience and maintained that only the clarity' of knowledge resulting from the study of previous "greats" would deliver society from its problems. This knowledge, however, was distanced from everyday social problems, such as the poverty of the post-war period, and it provided no clear response to them (Wiggershaus 45). I l l supervision o f Cornel ius , and, l ike Benjamin, was forced to wi thdraw his application on the basis o f Corne l ius ' evaluation o f his submitted work . In this chapter I w i l l examine the social organizat ion o f knowledge at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt during Benjamin 's failed attempt at habilitation in order to elucidate the ways in wh ich the processes and polit ics o f the production o f knowledge worked to exclude him. Specifically, I l ook at the disciplines o f philosophy and philology, which Benjamin attempted to enter professionally when he decided to apply for habilitation. Exclusionary practices are also evident in h o w these events have been subsequently analyzed. Al though recent analyses have attempted to "rehabilitate" Benjamin and refer to those past events as "scandalous" (Lindner 147), they employ similar exclusionary processes in that they condemn the professors involved as flawed individuals, without examining the social and institutional dimensions that affected them. In these studies the blame is placed squarely on the shoulders o f Benjamin's supervisor, Franz Schultz, who is alternately too poli t ical , too conservative, or too unintelligent to understand Benjamin 's genius. The questions I pose are not formulated around notions o f good or evil , or the competence or incompetence o f the individuals mak ing the decisions and acting in particular ways; rather, I investigate the intersection o f individual actions with the institutional and disciplinary frameworks that author ize specific forms o f knowledge. In so doing, 1 shift the emphasis from the situated imperfections o f the knower to the status o f knowledge as it is socially and materially organized. K n o w l e d g e is produced by individuals in specific settings and is, therefore, both organized by and participant in social relations. Thus the social organization and accomplishment o f knowledge itself is the focus o f enquiry ( D . Smith, Conceptual Practices of Power 62). B y examining how institutional forms o f social organization and the strategies they mobil ize were responsible for Benjamin 's "failure," one can begin to understand, first, how he was made a failure, and, second, h o w frames o f reference inherent within the traditional practices o f literary cri t icism and social theory reproduced certain methods, ideologies, and kinds o f knowledge. T o w o r k towards the goals o f changing forms o f knowledge and educational practices, as is the desire o f critical pedagogy and cultural studies, it is necessary: (1) to understand the processes by which knowledge is made; (2) to remain aware o f these processes, and (3) to find the appropriate points o f intervention so that certain social groups (such as women or Jews) and some forms o f knowledge (such as private, emotional, or personal knowledge) are not marginalized. Burkhard t L indner ' s examination o f Benjamin's file at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt provides valuable information and insights into how Benjamin was made by that institution and its members. Howeve r , his study is weakened because he frames Benjamin's life in terms o f breaks and binary oppositions. A c c o r d i n g to Lindner, the first such fissure occurred wi th the breakdown o f Benjamin 's marriage and his affair wi th Lacis , which he claims was accompanied by a change in Benjamin 's wri t ing. L indner describes the habilitation, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, as an academic form o f wri t ing, written under the sign o f D o r a . 7 4 This is contrasted to " O n e - W a y Street," written under the sign o f Lacis , which Lindner posits as representing the possibili ty for Benjamin o f wri t ing as an independent writer and thinker. In Lindner ' s view, " O n e - W a y Street" constitutes "einen definitiven B r u c h mit der Institution Universi ta t" [a definitive break wi th the institution o f the university'] that accompanies "biographischen Zasuren" [biographical caesurae] (147). A l t h o u g h L i n d n e r attempts to link private and public spheres, he does so in a somewhat s implis t ic manner by categorizing Benjamin's life and work in terms o f either/or: he was either under the influence o f D o r a Benjamin or Asja Lacis ; his wri t ing was either academic or non-1 4 This assertion is inaccurate in that Benjamin wrote much of the habilitation in Capri, where he first met and spent much time with Lacis and was "under her influence." academic. Furthermore, although Lindner refers to the connections between D o r a and L a c i s and the changes in Benjamin 's wri t ing, the reader is left to imagine just what those connections might be. Bas ica l ly , L indner ' s argument is: troubled marriage plus being in the academy equals Benjamin's academic (i.e., restricted) work , while erotic adventure plus being outside the academy equals Benjamin 's true (i.e., free-thinking) work . The biographical and the professional converge in Lindner ' s analysis, neither to demonstrate how their various dimensions intersect nor to explore the relational aspects between the two, but rather to produce Benjamin as a unified subject. This reduction precludes any tensions or contradictions, and it also obliterates traces o f what Benjamin was before any alleged change. Thus, in L indne r ' s teleological tale, Benjamin's past disappears as he takes each new step on the path to his "true" self. T o understand the interweaving o f the various institutional processes and power structures that resulted in Benjamin's failure, it is not sufficient to observe, as Lindner does: " S o ist die paradoxe Situation entstanden, daB eine Abhandlung, die damals a l s ' weit unter Habil i ta t ionsniveau ' abgefertigt wurde, selbst zum Gegenstand von Promot ionen und Habil i tat ionen 'aufgeri ickt ' ist" (Lindner 164) [Thus the paradoxical situation arose in which a dissertation, that at the time was dismissed as 'far beneath the niveau o f a habilitation,' was 'p romoted ' to the object o f doctoral and habilitation dissertations]. Whi le Lindner ' s comment suggests that Benjamin's failure and success arose out o f an interesting quirk o f fate due to circumstances beyond his control , I question how and why this occurred rather than merely accepting it as an unusual paradoxical situation. Benjamin's motivations and desires converge with the social and institutional processes that I investigate. O n the one hand, Benjamin was extremely critical o f the institution o f the university and the means by which it produced knowledge; on the other hand, he had various reasons for wanting to become a member o f such an institution. 114 Wit te understands Benjamin's wish to find acceptance for his habilitation as hinging on his desire to gain some k ind o f official recognit ion o f his work , which , in turn, w o u l d pressure his parents to continue to support him: Benjamin suchte die venia legendi nicht, wei l er eine Universitatskarriere einschlagen woll te , sondern als Bestatigung seines sozialen Status als Privatgelehrter. AuBerdem sah er seinen El te rn gegeniiber in ihr einen " A u s w e i s offentlicher Anerkennung, der sie zur Ordnung ruft". Offensichtlich war er der M e i n u n g , daB sie nach einer Habilitation moralisch verpflichtet seien, ihn finanziell starker zu unterstiitzen. (Wit te , Walter Benjamin mit Selhstzeiignissen und Bilddokiimenlen 50) [Benjamin did not seek the authorization to lecture because he wanted to fo l low a university career, but rather as an affirmation o f his social status as an independent scholar. Moreove r , in relation to his parents, he viewed it as a "evidence o f a public acknowledgement, that wou ld keep them in line." Obvious ly he was o f the opinion that they wou ld be morally obligated to provide him wi th stronger financial support after his habilitation]. Obtaining a posit ion at a university was, in Wi t te ' s v iew, not the reason Benjamin sought to continue his education; rather, it was a means o f pressuring his parents into g iv ing h im further support, wh ich w o u l d enable him to continue his intellectual pursuits without having to consider financial matters. G i v e n the important role and function o f education, particularly in Jewish middle-class families, this tactic could have been successful. However , Benjamin 's understanding o f the situation was limited by his own self-interest. H e felt that he was being treated unfairly by his "petty and cont ro l l ing" parents, and he failed to consider either his parents' situation or the fact that his siblings also wished to enjoy the privilege o f studying at university. W h e n Benjamin wi thdrew his habilitation in order to avoid the embarrassment o f having it rejected, his parents made it very clear that they wou ld not provide him with any kind o f financial support. In this way, his situation differed from that o f A d o r n o , whose parents were both wi l l ing and able to continue supporting him financially while he worked as a music crit ic and attempted to become a musician and composer (Wiggershaus 82). L i k e A d o r n o , Benjamin seems to have had little desire to actually follow an academic career. A s has been mentioned, he was very concerned about the amount o f time that teaching and dealing with students wou ld take away from what he considered to be his real work: reading, thinking, and writ ing. In a letter to Scholem, Benjamin asserts: " V o r fast allem, was mit dem glucklichen Ausgang gegeben ware, graust mir: Frankfurt voran, dann Vorlesungen, Schtiler etc - Dinge , die die Zeit morderisch angreifen, da ohnehin ihre O k o n o m i e nicht meine starke Seite ist" (Briefe V o l . 3, 15) ["1 dread almost everything that w o u l d result from a positive resolution to all o f this [application for habilitation]: I dread Frankfurt above all , the students, lectures, etc. Things that take a murderous toll on time, especially since the economical use o f time is not my long suit" (Correspondence 261)]. At this point, he was having difficulty finding sufficient time to deal with publishers and to conduct research. A d d i n g teaching to his work load w o u l d have been almost impossible. Furthermore, as previously discussed, the perceived " N o t der geistigen Arbe i t e r " 7 3 [the affliction o f the intellectual worker] during the Weimar Republic made the academic professions economical ly unappealing. The concomitant devaluation o f the academic professions due both to 7 5 This was the title of a work published by Alfred Weber in 1923, which erroneously attempted to demonstrate that academics* incomes had been reduced from four to seven times as much as had those of unskilled workers before the war and twice as much after the war (Huerkamp 273). 1 the perceived inadequate remuneration and the entrance o f women and the lower classes into the univers i ty also made them less attractive to their usual members. 7 6 This "undervaluing o f intellectuals" in German society was one o f the reasons Benjamin later sought a new life and new w o r k in M o s c o w . H e hoped that intellectuals wou ld be better appreciated and more needed in the revolutionary new Russian communist society than they were in the German republic. A s a result, during the 1920s, o f more groups gaining access to the university and more members o f the middle-class seeking to enter the class o f the educated bourgeoisie, the number o f students at German universities climbed rapidly, causing what has been referred to as a glut o f academics ("Akademikerschwemme") . This, occurring in conjunction with a shrinking job market, left many graduates either unemployed or in the position o f having to take jobs they considered far be low what their level o f education warranted (Huerkamp 274). Benjamin was clearly aware o f these problems, as he and his friend Gu tk ind both suffered from them. A s a result o f the high unemployment rate, there was open discrimination against the hiring o f any minori ty groups, wh ich included women and Jews. There was an increasing anti-woman and anti-Jewish sentiment at the universities, as young middle-class men were forced to compete with these "others" for fewer jobs. Increasingly, women and Jews were accused o f being responsible for the high level o f unemployment among university graduates. This flawed logic was reinforced by the nat ional chauvinism that was on the rise during the First W o r l d W a r and further intensified during the years o f the Weimar Republ ic . Benjamin's strong distaste for the academy is understandable, not only because the inst i tut ion was r igid, hierarchical, and imbued with power politics, but also because it was anti-Semitic. M a r i o n K a p l a n has found that, while anti-Semitism at German universities was pronounced 7 6 Women obtained the right to university study between 1900 and 1909. depending in which federal state the university was located. 11 in the 1920s, it was by no means a new phenomenon. D u r i n g the 1890s, anti-Semitic pamphlets were circulated "denouncing the intellectual domination o f Germans by Jews" ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 148). One o f the fathers o f modern poli t ical anti-Semitism, A d o l f Stocker, "decried the disproportionate onslaught on institutions o f higher education by Jews" ( M a r i o n K a p l a n 148). M o r e and more fraternities excluded Jews as members, and, by the end o f the 1890s, the organized student body was predominantly anti-Semitic, resulting in (male) Jewish students forming their o w n fraternities and student groups. Ant i -Semi t i sm was the social norm on campuses, and, particularly during the 1880s when there was also a severe shortage o f academic positions, non-Jewish students complained o f having to compete with Jews: "Jewish doctors push out Christians, Jewish mouths disproportionately emit jur isdict ion and l aw" (Mar ion Kaplan 149). In spite o f these numerous problems, and against his o w n "deep inner resistance" (Scholem, Friendship 126), Benjamin went through the motions o f habilitating ( I ) to appease his parents so that they w o u l d continue to support him financially and (2) to obtain the necessary "stamp o f approval" on his intellectual career. H e breathed a sigh o f relief when it was all over and he could continue wi th his work . Wi t te ' s analysis supports this interpretation: Die Skepsis , mit der Benjamin von Anfang an der Frankfurter Unternehmung gegeniibergestanden hatte, war vor allem in dem Wissen begriindet, w ie wenig geeignet und willens er unter den gegebenen Umstanden war, die Tatigkeit eines Universitatslehrers auszuiiben. Die Gr i inde fur diese Abwehrhal tung liegen nicht bei der Universitat allein, deren schnodes Verhalten und trostlose geistige Verfassung Benjamin zurecht beklagt. l h m selbst war seine Einsamkeit als Intellektueller, die allein ihm ein unabhangiges kritisches Ur te i l zu gewahrleisten schien, wichtiger als die institutionelle Einbindung und Absicherung. (Walter Benjamin mit Selbstzeiignissen und Bilddokiimenten 62) [From the beginning, the scepticism with which Benjamin approached his Frankfurt undertaking was based primarily on the knowledge o f how unsuited and unwi l l ing he was to pursue the profession o f university lecturer under the given circumstances. The reasons for this resistance do not lie solely with the university, whose disgraceful behaviour and hopeless intellectual disposit ion Benjamin justifiably complained about. For him his solitude as an intellectual, which appeared to him to guarantee his o w n independent critical views, was more important than security and being bound to an institution]. Benjamin was sceptical about being affiliated with the university for two reasons: (1) he was critical o f the kind o f knowledge it produced and how it produced it and (2) the security o f a university posit ion w o u l d compromise his ability to be a critical intellectual. Once bound to an institution, he w o u l d inevitably be influenced by its power politics. In order to avoid explaining Benjamin's failure as a one-sided, unidirectional process that pits the "bad," exclusionary institution against the "mistreated, misrecognized, misunderstood, visionary v i c t i m , " it is important to remember his own reluctance and the tenor o f the times. I f one does not do this, then one runs the risk o f embracing an oversimplified v iew o f Benjamin as an outsider par excellence — as someone who is able to provide us with superior insights solely by virtue o f being an outsider. N o w I wi l l examine the processes by which Benjamin was excluded from the academy. Doro thy Smith observes that "investigating the actual social organization o f knowledge brings the social relations organizing power into the light. If we don't examine and explicate the boundaries set by the textual realities o f the relations o f ruling, their invisible determinations wi l l continue to confine us" {Conceptual Practices of Power 65). The "relations o f ru l ing" to wh ich Smith refers include the total complex o f activities by which a society is ruled, managed, and administered. The university as an institution, as well as the professions and disciplines within it, play a formative role in these activities ( D . Smith, Conceptual Practices of Power 14). Smi th speaks o f a "sort o f conceptual imperia l ism" in which members o f a discipline are trained to "confine and focus [their] insights wi th in the conceptual frameworks and relevances o f the discipline" (Conceptual Practices of Power 15). The result o f this is that "boundaries o f inquiry are thus set within the framework o f what is already established" ( D . Smith, Conceptual Practices of Power 16), regardless o f what issues and knowledge that framework marginalizes or ignores. These processes were not only at w o r k in the making o f Benjamin during his lifetime, but also in subsequent attempts to understand him, his work , and his significance as an intellectual. A s previously mentioned, one o f the university 's exclusionary dimensions was anti-Semi t i sm 7 7 that wou ld have made Benjamin's habilitation at the Univers i ty o f Heidelberg all but impossible. After a trip to Heidelberg to assess the possibility o f continuing his studies there, he wrote to Scholem: "DieHabil i ta t ionsaussichten sind auch dadurch erschwert, daB ein Jude, namens Mannhe im, sich dor t . . . vermutlich habilitieren w i r d " (Briefe V o l . 2, 299) ["The prospects o f doing my habilitation dissertation there have also become less likely because a Jew by the name o f [Karl] M a n n h e i m w i l l apparently do his habilitation there" (Correspondence 204).] Whi le the presence o f another Jewish student seeking habilitation diminished Benjamin's chances o f being accepted in Heidelberg, in Frankfurt, which had the highest percentage o f Jews and the second largest Jewish communi ty in Germany, his acceptance was much more likely (Wiggershaus 17). This is not to say that the Universi ty o f Frankfurt was free o f anti-Semitism. Whi le w o r k i n g on his dissertation, Benjamin purposefully avoided addressing issues that touched on the posit ion o f Jews in Germany. In a letter to his friend Rang , Benjamin explained: See also Witte, Waller Benjamin mil Selbstzengnissen unci Bilclclokumenten and Niewyk 68. D i e Judenfrage etwa dabei zu beruhren ware gelinde gesagt mal a propos. E i n Hauptbedenken das ich ... zu berucksichtigen hatte, war meine schwebende F rankfu r t e r Habi l i ta t ionsangelegenhei t . D i e Empf indsamke i t e inzelner Fakultatsmitglieder in den in Rede stehenden Dingen kann kaum iiberschatzt werden. (Briefe V o l . 2, 377) [To put it mi ldly , it w o u l d be inappropriate to touch, for example, on the Jewish question ... A major concern I had to consider ... was the unsettled matter o f my habili tation in Frankfurt. The sensitivity o f some faculty members regarding the matter under discussion cannot be exaggerated. (Correspondence 219)] Howeve r , Benjamin's habilitation was at least feasible in a city where the members o f the large, influential, mainly middle-class Jewish community were associated with the university either as patrons or, as was the case with Benjamin's family, as members o f the academic community. H i s mother 's uncle, Ar thur M o r i t z Schoenflies, was professor emeritus at the time, and as a founding father and former president o f the university he undoubtably possessed the "necessary influence and contacts to give his great-nephew's project appropriate support" (Brodersen, Waller Benjamin 133). Y e t whi le Benjamin 's link to Schoenflies was certainly helpful, it was his acquaintance wi th Gottfr ied Salomon-Delatour , through their mutual friend, Er ich Gu tk ind , that appears to have been instrumental in his admission to the Universi ty o f Frankfurt. Salomon was a professor o f sociology, and he initially advised Benjamin and intervened on his behalf to convince Dean Franz Schultz, a historian o f literature ("Literaturhistoriker"), to accept him as a student. In Scholem's estimation, Sa lomon was highly influential and wou ld be o f great assistance in Benjamin's application for habilitation. H e recalls visi t ing Salomon together with Benjamin: "Das letzte M a l war ich mit ihm 121 bei e i n e m D r . Gottfr ied Salomon zusammen, einem hochst einfluBreichen hiesigen Privatdozenten, der ihn mit alien M i t t e l n protegiert und zur Habi l i ta t ion bringen wi l l und wohl auch w i r d " (Briefe V o l . 2, 338) [Last time I went wi th him to visit a highly influential local lecturer, who has taken him under his w i n g , and is using every means within his power to bring about his successful habilitation, and w i l l probably do so]. It was on Sa lomon 's advice that Benjamin switched from the discipline o f philosophy, in wh ich he had writ ten his doctoral dissertation, to the discipline o f philology in order to improve his chances o f success. Benjamin then accepted Schul tz ' s suggestion to research German Baroque literature, the latter's own area o f specialty and a field that had just opened (Lindner 150). Habi l i ta t ion on the basis o f his already published works was denied, though this was not an uncommon practice at the time. F r o m the outset, Benjamin anticipated difficulties and attempted, in vain, to obtain some form o f b inding commitment from the faculty (Kambas 601-02). W h i l e the situation looked promising during the first stages o f his work, Benjamin knew that his deviation from accepted forms o f scholarship wou ld cause him difficulties. Lacis , who was beginning to play an increasingly important role in Benjamin 's life and work , summarized how Benjamin explained one o f his primary difficulties: " D a er in vielen Punkten von den traditionellen D o g m e n abweiche und indirekt gegen Johannes V o l k e l t , den Papst der Asthetik, polemisiere, werde er Schwierigkei ten haben, und er werde diplomatisch vorgehen mussen" (Lacis , Revoluiiondr im Beriif 44-45) [As he strayed from traditional dogma on many points and indirectly polemicized against Johannes Vo lke l t , the pope o f aesthetics, he w o u l d have difficulties and wou ld have to proceed diplomatical ly] . These difficulties became apparent after Benjamin presented Schultz wi th the first part o f the habilitation. Schultz became "very c o o l " about the project and suggested that Benjamin change from literary history ("Literaturgeschichte") to aesthetics ("Asthet ik") . A t this point, it appears that 122 Schultz no longer felt responsible for Benjamin's work and was attempting to pass him on to Hans Cornelius (Lindner 151). Benjamin's analysis o f the situation and o f Schul tz ' s posit ion in it was as fol lows: A l s ich eine W o c h e nach Einl ieferung des ersten Teils den zweiten ihm iibergab, fand ich ihn ki ihl und heikel ... Danach reiste ich hierher und indessen ist er, sei es selbst verreist, sei es in eine vorsichtige Verborgenheit getaucht, aus der ihn mein Manager Salomon nicht aufzuspuren vermochte. — Wenn er ... mir die sehr genaue Hoffnung gab ... au f G r u n d einer neuen dementsprechenden Arbeit meine Habi l i ta t ion fur Literaturgeschichte zu befurworten, so z o g er jetzt ... zur i ick und pladierte fur Asthetik, bei welcher die Sachlage naturlich nicht ganz so maBgebend bleibt. W i e dem nun sei — von einer Habili tat ion kann nur die Rede sein, wenn er mit groBter Verve fur mich eintritt ... ich [kann] das mit GewiBhei t nicht erwarten. Derm schlieBlich spielt tausenderlei hinein, und auch Ressentiment. W i e er denn zu Salomon, sogar mit anstandiger Selbstronie auBerte, das einzige, was er gegen mich habe, ware, daB ich nicht sein Schuler sei. (Briefe V o l . 3, 25-26) [When 1 gave him the second part a week after having submitted the first part, I found him cool and critical ... After that I came here, and meanwhile he has either been away as well or has been immersed in wary seclusion out o f which not even Salomon is able to ferret him. Al though he gave me clear cause to hope ... that he w o u l d endorse my receiving the habilitation in the field o f literary history i f 1 produced an original and suitable habilitation dissertation, he has now backed away from this . . . and is pushing me to get my habilitation in aesthetics. O f course, i f that is h o w it goes, his vote wi l l not have quite the same authority. B e that as it may, 123 there is no question o f my getting my habilitation unless he most v igorous ly supports me.... I am not assured o f that k ind o f support, for in the final analysis, thousands o f factors play a role, including resentment. A s he said to Salomon, and wi th fitting self-irony, the only thing he has against me is that I am not his student. (Correspondence 263-64)] There are many reasons — both at an individual and an institutional level — for Schul tz ' s urging Benjamin to change departments and supervisors. One reason to wh ich Benjamin refers concerns resentment. Schultz experiences resentment at being expected to champion a student he hardly knows and he experiences resentment (in Wohlfar th 's sense o f resentment as a reactionary force) when he recognizes the "threat Benjamin's work poses to the academic establishment" ("Resentment Begins at H o m e " 232). Schultz attempts to maintain the tension between opposing forces (change versus status quo) for as long as possible before decisively rejecting the non-conformist, in this case Benjamin, who fails to recognize the authority o f those in power and o f the traditions o f scholarly production. In his analysis o f Benjamin 's relationship to the university, I rving Wohlfar th convincingly characterizes Schultz as a "pol i t ical animal who knew how to change his tack, b l o w hot and cold , keep a l o w profile, stay out o f trouble, pass the buck, play by the rules, etc." ("Resentment Begins at H o m e " 230). A c c o r d i n g to Wohlfar th , Schul tz ' s "calculated duplicity toward an exceptional candidate who might, i f admitted to the profession, refuse to play the game" is a "tactical response to t w o cont radic tory pressures — the old-boy network which administers the status quo and the candidate's appeal to the standards by which the academic institution legitimizes i t s e l f ("Resentment Begins at H o m e " 23 1). Wohlfarth has identified what Schultz was in his posi t ion as dean: a master o f the poli t ical game who attempted to maximize his o w n posi t ion whi le preserving the status quo. Schul tz ' s behaviour and actions exemplify the usually unarticulated and generally unexamined subtext underlying the production o f knowledge within the institution o f the university. Schul tz ' s o ld-boy network was certainly almost exclusively all "boys"; the total number o f women w h o became lecturers or assistant professors between 1908 until 1925 in all o f Germany was only twenty-eight, making the university a truly male-defined inst i tut ion. 7 8 Schul tz ' s network was also posit ioned on the right o f the pol i t i ca l spectrum, a stance that gradually became pro-fascist. Benjamin himself makes reference to the fact that Schultz "vre/7 rechts steht" (Briefe V o l . 2, 377; emphasis in original) ["is on the far right" (Correspondence 219; emphasis in original)]. A n eye-witness account has Schultz, wearing his academic gown, participating in a N a z i book burning in Frankfurt in 1933 . 7 9 H e further demonstrated his support for the fascist regime by delivering a lecture in which he welcomes Hi t ler ' s seizure o f power ("Machtergreifung") as an act o f providence (Lindner 152). In various ways, Schultz aligned himself, both personally and professionally, wi th the powers and ideologies o f the far right. This meant that it was problematic for him to be associated wi th a Jew or to accept the work o f a Jewish student. Schul tz ' s rejection o f Benjamin can be understood, in part, as anti-Semitic, as he was a member o f a larger social movement that constructed Jews not only as inferior, but also as a threat to German society and its institutions — including the university. Certainly, as L indner points out, Schultz had other personal motives for rejecting Benjamin. The potentially outstanding work that Benjamin might produce tempted him, as it w o u l d have boosted his o w n reputation to have his name attached to a particularly good habil i ta t ion. 8 0 7 S Before 1908 there is only one recorded woman professor ~ in 1554 (Boedeker Vol. 1, L X X X ) . 7 9 This incident is cited in Fuld (161), further explored by Lindner (152), and cited in Kambas (602). 8 0 This is likely, given that, apparently, he himself was not a particularly stellar scholar (Lindner 150). H o w e v e r , as dean, and, therefore, in his capacity as gatekeeper to the faculty, Schultz could not authorize a contribution that did not conform to "the conceptual frameworks and relevances o f the discipl ine" ( D . Smith, The Conceptual Practices of Power 15). Schultz was very much involved in making decisions that authorized the production o f only certain kinds o f knowledge. H i s posit ion required h i m to balance traditional frameworks wi th the need for the injection o f new ideas: but these ideas were not to stray too far from, and were certainly not to challenge, the existing normative structures. 8 1 Thus he advised Benjamin to wi thdraw his application. Seen against these determinants o f success and failure, questions about the quality o f Benjamin's w o r k and attempts to situate it within a particular discipl ine are misleading, for they obscure the fact that boundaries o f knowledge are set within both the institution and the disciplines themselves. E v e n in new areas o f study, such as German Baroque li terature studies, one can observe a normative disciplinary effect. Benjamin's w o r k obviously did not conform to the disciplinary norms that Schultz, one o f the first members o f this field o f study, was attempting to establish. A s a founding father o f German Baroque literature, for many years Schu l t z was in a posit ion to determine its form and content. 8 2 A s M i c h e l Foucault has observed, judgement, wh ich is passed by individuals within a specific framework and within particular relations o f power, punishes non-conformity (Foucault , "The Means o f Correct Tra in ing" 195). In this case the punishment is exclusion — ostracism from academic life. A l though Foucaul t understands this process as an effect o f the interplay o f power and structures, wi th the individual players being interchangeable ("What matter who ' s speaking?" [Foucault, "His tory , Discourse and Cont inui ty" 8 1 One year later, under similar circumstances, Schultz rejected the habilitation of another promising Jewish scholar, Leo Lowenthal. Lowenthal later became a member of the Institute of Social Research and managing editor of its journal, in which Benjamin published during his later years. 8 2 To this day, Benjamin is kept at a respectful distance by many researchers of the Baroque period, although, as Lindner has observed, his work on the emblem and allegory is truly groundbreaking (and not confined to his analysis of that particular historical period) (163). 138]), D o r o t h y Smith , among others, has shown that, in fact, the individual and where she/he is posit ioned matters a great deal. It is not only the individual or only the structures that determine events, but rather the intersection o f the two. One instance in which this intersection can be clearly seen involves the question o f reproduction. Dissertat ion supervision is institutionally understood, in part, as a reproduction o f the supervisor 's intellectual self. This is in keeping with the traditional reproductive model o f tracing intellectual lineage. "Great" scholars are influenced by other "greats," and, wi th in the educational context, graduate students are expected to produce similar w o r k and to go on to obtain jobs l ike their professors. I f they do not, then they are considered.to be fai lures. 8 3 This is particularly pronounced in the habilitation process o f German universities. A t the beginning o f the nineteenth century, the habilitation was introduced, in addition to the doctorate, as further p r o o f o f one's qualification for an academic career. Without habilitation, the career path to professorship is closed. Thus the habilitation serves to ensure limited access to professorships: "S ie [die Habil i tat ion] steigert. . . die Exklus ivi ta t der universitar gebildeten akademischen El i te . . . . M'it der Habil i tat ion wird zum einen der Nachweis der personlichen wissenschaftlichen Qual if icat ion erbracht, zugleich ist es ein Mit te l der Selbsterganzung (Koopta t ion) des Lehrkorpers (Wobbe 344) [It (the habilitation) heightens the exclusivity o f the university educated academic e l i te . . . First ly, the habilitation furnishes p r o o f o f personal scholarly qualifications, while at the same time it is a means o f self-replenishment (cooption) o f the teaching body]. Each university and each faculty has the right to replenish itself according to its o w n standards and procedures. One function o f the habilitation is, thus, to serve as a "Koopta t ions- und Sozial isat ionsprozeB" [a process o f coopt ion 8 3 Although occurring within a different context, this particular issue remains central in the discussion of graduate education to the present day. as can be seen from Showalter's suggestion that "we need to stop aiming solely to clone ourselves" [MLA Newsletter 3). and socialization] that restricts access, particularly for women and members o f socially marginal groups. The habilitation process "erhoht institutionelle, kogn i t iveundkul tu re l l - symbol i scheHi i rde" (Wobbe 344) [raises institutional, cognit ive and cultural-symbolic hurdles]. This function o f the habilitation can be understood as standing in contradict ion to the productivist logic that separates public and private spheres with regard to product ive versus reproductive work . A s previously discussed, by demonstrating the ways in which the private is necessary for product ion in the public sphere, the boundaries between the two spheres and different forms o f w o r k come to be blurred. In the case o f the habilitation, it can further be seen that activities in the public sphere are not without reproductive components, as one o f the main functions in the public sphere o f the university is its own reproduction. F o r Schultz , this reproductive aspect o f the university, coupled with his relationship with Benjamin, was problematic on numerous counts. First o f all , Benjamin's work did not conform to the disciplinary boundaries within which Schultz worked. Second, in Schul tz ' s understanding o f the w o r l d , Benjamin 's Jewishness meant that his work could not become a part o f this reproductive knowledge, as it was, by definition, inferior. Schultz ult imately decided to deal wi th this complicated situation by sending Benjamin to a different discipline — aesthetics — and to a different supervisor — Hans Cornel ius — who had earlier declined to take Benjamin on as a graduate student. When Benjamin made his first contact wi th the Universi ty o f Frankfurt, he was still not certain in which field he w o u l d write his habilitation. A few months later, after contacting both Schultz and Cornel ius (on Sa lomon ' s advice), Benjamin wrote to Salomon: " U n d da Cornel ius mich bei sich nicht habilitieren wi l l , so liegt alles bei Schul tz" (Briefe V o l . 2, 345) [And because Cornel ius does not want to supervise my habilitation, everything is up to Schultz] . After the habilitation had been written and Schultz had refused to accept Benjamin in literary history, it became Cornel ius ' responsibility to accept or reject his work . Corne l ius ' formal appraisal o f the habilitation states that "[t]he w o r k o f D r . Benjamin is extremely difficult to read ... In spite o f repeated strenuous efforts it was not possible for me to make any sense o f the w o r k " (Cornel ius, Guiachten, 1925, published in Lindner 155-56) . 8 4 F o r this assessment, he consulted wi th his graduate student, M a x Horkheimer , who , after reading an abstract that Benjamin had prepared at Corne l ius ' request, determined that Benjamin's dissertation was "incomprehensible" (Lindner 158). It is at this junc ture that the paths o f the future Frankfurt School members cross in a number o f complex ways. Cornel ius supervised both Horkhe imer ' s and A d o r n o ' s doctoral and habilitation dissertations. Horkhe imer was successful in both cases, whereas A d o r n o ' s habilitation attempt failed, ostensibly because it contained too much material taken from Cornel ius ' lectures and books. A d o r n o knew that Schultz had rejected Benjamin's habilitation, in part, because it was not enough l ike his supervisor 's work . Furthermore, A d o r n o also knew that Cornelius had rejected Benjamin 's w o r k because he found it incomprehensible. Strategically, A d o r n o chose to stay close to Cornel ius ' w o r k in transcendental philosophy — too close, as it turned out. L i k e Benjamin two years before, A d o r n o was forced to wi thdraw his application in order to avoid the outright rejection o f his habilitation. In 1931, after Cornel ius ' retirement, A d o r n o made a second, this t ime successful, attempt at habilitation wi th Paul T i l l i ch , who n o w occupied Corne l ius ' chair o f philosophy, as his supervisor and Horkhe imer as one o f his examiners. The fact that A d o r n o ' s failed habilitation attempt is rarely mentioned, and that it involved almost the same cast o f characters as did Benjamin's, indicates something about the process by which intellectuals are made. Painted in admittedly broad strokes, A d o r n o ' s story is one o f success — o f overcoming the tragedy o f exile — with failures along the way being v iewed as insignificant. u That work, The Origin of German Tragic Drama (Unsprung c/es deutschen Trauerspiels), became, in 1928, one of Benjamin's first major publications. Benjamin 's story, however, is one o f failure and posthumous success. G i v e n Benjamin 's tragic death, casting him as a (tragic) failure serves, in many ways, to make a clean and neat narrative out o f a complex and often contradictory life and body o f work . This narrative provides a line that strings together a series o f failures throughout his life, culminating in the ultimate tragedy o f his death: he failed at a university career, he failed as an intellectual and academic, he failed at marriage, he failed at maintaining friendships, and he failed to leave Europe soon enough to save his life. In this account the rejected habilitation assumes a key role. For Mayer , for example, academic failure constituted an essential aspect o f Benjamin; it was a b low from which he never recovered. In v iew o f his posthumous success, it is that same failure, together with his marginalization as a Jew in N a z i Germany, that has endowed him with the outsider status that has made this success possible. This clearly underscores the constructed nature o f success and failure. Benjamin himself was well aware o f the potential difficulties he w o u l d confront in obtaining habilitation. In addition to having no direct contact with the professors with w h o m he was to work , there was a second, and more decisive, difficulty. This is summed up as fol lows by Chryssoula Kambas in her examination o f the Benjamin/Salomon correspondence: "auch gingen seine methodischen Vorste l lungen in der Frankfurter akademischen Fachereinteilung nicht a u f (601) [his notions concerning method did not match the division o f academic departments in Frankfurt] . A s a result o f this, he was shunted from department to department, his supervisors neither wi l l ing nor able to accept w o r k that failed to conform to their "procedures for mastery" (Foucault , "The Order o f D i scourse" 49). The discourse o f Benjamin 's failure as an academic is not only comprehensible as the story o f a student who failed to conform to "procedures for mastery," it is also, as Francoise M e l t z e r has observed, clearly gendered. M'eltzer makes two important observations in this regard. The first is that the gendering o f failure in both A d o r n o ' s and Arendt ' s discussion o f Benjamin is achieved by 13 means o f a "tone and rhetoric [that]... subtly castrate[s] his importance by casting his style and life in feminized tropes" (150). Me l t ze r illustrates how both A d o r n o and Arendt portray Benjamin as one o f his o w n characters, the flaneur, who strolls aimlessly about and accomplishes nothing. In their characterization o f Benjamin 's life and work as both slothful and melancholic, they underpin their argument wi th a polarization o f characteristics in which all negative traits — laziness, lack o f linearity, sluggishness, weakness — are feminized, whi le all positive and normative traits — industriousness, linearity, energy, strength — are masculinized. M e l t z e r ' s second observation is that A d o r n o ' s and Arendt ' s assessment o f Benjamin is sustained by an understanding o f the work ethic as a bourgeois given, wi th w o r k being closely tied to the notion o f identity. W o r k is, o f course, gendered and defined in terms o f product ion; that is, it is l inked to the public sphere and undertaken by men (155-56). This work is valued and remunerated, and it provides the worker wi th a positive identity. Domes t i c and caregiving work (i.e., women ' s work , which is usually performed in the private sphere), being support ive and reproductive, is not considered to be true work . M e l t z e r ' s critiques are similar to those o f R o m a n , which were discussed earlier. Mel t ze r critiques a productivist economy that al lows women no identity (identity being a product o f work) . A woman ' s identity in this economy can only be derived in relation to her w o r k i n g male — father, brother, or husband. A d o r n o ' s and Arendt ' s feminization o f Benjamin's w o r k thus denigrates him, producing him as feminine and, therefore, as a failure. M e l t z e r ' s analysis illustrates one o f the ways in which moral and economic ideologies converge. The moral ideology that underlies the bourgeois work ethic makes those who fail (i.e., those w h o engage in feminized forms o f w o r k ) moral ly reprehensible. This provides a further dimension to the product ion o f Benjamin as a failure: his failure is a moral condemnation on the part o f what M e l t z e r identifies as a misogynist economy and a bourgeois, Christ ian (both Protestant and Cathol ic) w o r k ethic (158-159). 131 W h i l e M e l t z e r provides a convincing analysis o f how Benjamin has been constructed as a failure at the intersection o f discourses o f gender and class, one weak point in her argument is her condemnation o f what she understands to be the "conflation" o f the personal wi th the professional Benjamin. A c c o r d i n g to her, he may veiy well have been slothful in his personal life, but that should not be held against him in his professional life. This perpetuation o f the split between public and private, a split that she herself finds problematic in her analysis o f the gendering o f work , renders her argument less convincing. Nonetheless, M e l t z e r ' s study, and others previously discussed, clearly show that the forces o f exclusion and their underlying ideologies not only construct Benjamin as a failure, but also a l low interpreters o f his work to pass upon him an implici t ly negative mora l judgement. A t this point, I w i l l revisit the constellation at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt at the time that Benjamin attempted to habilitate. A s already discussed, it is clear that Schultz, both as an individual and as a dean, made decisions that quite effectively excluded Benjamin from the university community. Cornel ius and Horkheimer also played roles in these processes, as did Benjamin 's o w n posi t ion vis-a-vis the university. H a v i n g looked at this, 1 w o u l d now like to look at an as yet little-explored dimension o f the constellation that made up Benjamin's habilitation; namely, Benjamin 's relationship with Gottfried Salomon-Latour . A s Sa lomon was almost the only faculty member at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt wi th w h o m Benjamin had direct contact, and as he was probably the only professor who read his whole habilitation, the examination o f their relationship is highly relevant to understanding what occurred at Frankfurt. The correspondence between Salomon and Benjamin between the years 1922 and 1926 provides documentation concerning both the process involved in Benjamin ' s unsuccessful attempt at habilitation and the relationship between the two men. W i t h the exception o f K a m b a s ' study, the correspondence with Salomon has received scant, i f any, attention in Benjamin 13 scholarship. 8 5 The result o f this is the loss o f one dimension o f this intellectual f igure and o f the process by which he has been made. A s has been said, the processes that make intellectuals tend to involve tracing a generally male lineage that, for the most part, excludes the friendship, mentoring, and community that occur wi th in the private sphere and that, therefore, are not usually considered to be part o f "product ive" work . In tracing intellectual lineage, not only are the private dimensions o f Benjamin silenced, but his body o f wr i t ing and thought is reduced to being explained solely in relation to that o f other "great" thinkers. A s Susan B u c k - M o r s s has observed, "the convention o f academic hermeneutics that defines the theories o f one thinker in terms o f the theories o f another" is problematic because "such a method ensures that the whole intellectual project becomes self-referential and idealist, hermetically sealed with precisely those musty corridors o f academia from which Benjamin's work attempts to escape" (Dialectics of Seeing 6). The kind o f analysis B u c k - M o r s s crit icizes runs the risk o f not being able to see beyond its o w n limitations and, thus, remaining unaware o f those limitations. Situating Benjamin as a link in a chain o f scholars sanctions and validates h im as a knower and perpetrator o f a certain kind o f knowledge. Broadening the scope o f influences and examining their interconnections provides a corrective to these limitations. In other words, it is necessary to look at the relationships Benjamin established wi th the "no so great" — the members o f his social wor ld (to use Addelson ' s concept). Sa lomon was an important figure in Ben jamin ' s social wor ld during the wr i t ing o f his habilitation; however, he is only briefly mentioned as an intermediary between Benjamin and the 8- Other Benjamin scholars have cited Kambas' essay when referring to this period of Benjamin's life (e.g., Witte, Walter Benjamin mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilcldokumenten 50, and Brodersen, Walter Benjamin 149). 13 Univers i ty o f Frankfurt and its members. 8 6 There are a number o f reasons for this silence concerning Salomon, most o f which are related to the procedures o f exclusion and the conditions o f application that Foucaul t refers to in his explanation o f mastery. The friendship between the two men provides a further means o f examining the relations o f power in the university and the procedures by which certain people and certain forms o f scholarship are either included in, or excluded from, the process o f knowledge product ion. Scholem was one o f the first scholars who attempted to rescue Benjamin from obscurity, and, consequently, he had a strong influence on subsequent scholarship. 8 7 H i s understanding and knowledge o f Benjamin is based on a long friendship — one that was conducted, for the most part, through correspondence. A s a Zionist and one o f the first scholars o f Jewish mysticism, Scholem brought a particular disciplinary perspective to his understanding o f Benjamin. It is not surprising that Scholem rejected Benjamin's materialism and emphasized his messianism. Benjamin himself was aware that his poli t ical side was not a welcome topic for Scholem. Kambas observes that Benjamin clearly knew who wou ld understand and be interested in different aspects o f his thinking. T o Salomon he sent his thoughts and essays about political matters, to Scholem he wrote more about religious and literary matters (Kambas 618). In comparing Benjamin's letters to Scholem with those to Salomon (which were written at the same time and about the same events and experiences), one sees that poli t ical observations rarely found their way into letters to Scholem. B y contrast, his letters to Sa lomon from Capr i , for example, contain commentaries on Musso l in i ' s visit to Naples, the spread o f fascism throughout S 6 See, for example, Witte, Waller Benjamin mil Selbstzengnissen unci Bilddokiimenten 50, 52, 53; Fuld 136, 161; and Lindner 149. Wohlfarth's analysis centres on Schultz without mentioning Salomon. 8 7 In retrospect he could be considered one of the founding fathers (and they are, indeed, all fathers -- no mothers) of the Benjamin industry, an industry that now fuels publishing houses and forms the bases of careers. Europe , and his g rowing fears concerning the possibility o f another war (Briefe V o l . 2, 491-92 , 507 and 494). A d o r n o , who occupied a complex position in Benjamin's life, first as a disciple and later as a friend and intermediary (between Benjamin and the members o f the Frankfurt School) , was also interested in promot ing certain aspects o f Benjamin's work . A s a kind o f supervisor o f Benjamin's w o r k for the Institute o f Socia l Research during the 1930s, and as Benjamin 's literary executor, he was in a posit ion to shape how Benjamin was presented and understood — how, in other words , he was "made." 8 8 A s R o l f Wiggershaus argues, after the Institute moved to N e w Y o r k in the early 1930s, A d o r n o was especially interested in keeping theological materialism at the forefront o f its work , and therefore focused on the messianic aspect o f Benjamin's work (194). L i k e Scholem, but for different reasons, A d o r n o was most interested in Benjamin's theological w o r k and strongly encouraged him to focus on a "materialist transformation o f theological motifs" (Wiggershaus 194). F o r both Scholem and A d o r n o , given their particular interest in Benjamin's work , his relationship to a socio logy professor by the name o f Salomon was o f little concern or relevance. The exclusion o f Salomon's role in Benjamin's life can also be understood as a product o f a gendered separation o f spheres. Salomon's relationship to Benjamin can best be characterized as one o f mentoring — an activity that does not "produce" in the productivist sense o f the w o r d but, rather falls within the realm o f nurturing and reproduction. N o t only did the two men share many intellectual interests and pursuits, but it was Salomon to w h o m Benjamin repeatedly turned for advice during his application for habilitation. 8 8 To this day the Benjamin archive which has become part of the Adorno archive in Frankfurt is not open to all scholarly investigators. While conducting research for his Benjamin biography, Brodersen, for one, was denied access to the Benjamin estate in Frankfurt (Brodersen, Walter Benjamin x). Final ly, Ben jamin ' s letters to Salomon have only recently been published (1997), and Sa lomon ' s replies are as yet unpublished, making it difficult to analyze their friendship. W e k n o w that it was a friendship that began wi th practical, everyday matters. Benjamin asked Salomon 's assistance in gaining entrance to the University o f Frankfurt, in determining which o f his essays to send to Schultz as samples o f his wri t ing, and in finding a typist for his dissertation. Benjamin 's first contact wi th his supervisor, Schultz, occurred through Salomon, after which he asked Salomon for an indicat ion o f Schul tz ' s reactions and opinions "Vie l le icht konnen Sie mir etwas uber Schul tz ' Stellungnahme andeuten" (Briefe V o l . 2, 303) [Perhaps you could indicate to me something about Schul tz ' s opinion] . Later, in a letter to Scholem, Benjamin expressed his frustration at not having heard from Schultz for a long period o f time (Briefe V o l . 3, 25; Correspondence 263). Soon after, he again wrote to Scholem about the "Abbruch meiner frankfurter Vorhaben" ["wreckage o f my Frankfurt plans"]. H e explained the disastrous turn his plans had taken as fol lows: " E s war alles soweit, daB Anfang Jul i meine vierte oder liinfte Reise dorthin hatte von statten gehen sol len" (Briefe V o l . 3, 59) ["Things were at the point where I was supposed to take my fourth or fifth trip to Frankfurt at the beginning o f July" (Correspondence 275)]. However , he had heard from a friend o f his father-in-law that Cornel ius and Kautsch , the other two members o f his examining committee, had claimed not to understand his habilitation. T o better comprehend the situation and to discover what was happening in Frankfurt, he wrote: "Al sba ld wandte ich mich an Salomon urn genauere Auskunf t" (Briefe V o l . 3, 59) ["I immediately turned to Sa lomon for more precise information" (Correspondence 275)]. It was also Salomon in whom Benjamin confided, after his trip to Capr i , that, although he had hoped to submit his habilitation that semester, it was still incomplete: "Untergetaucht in monatelangem Schweigen und auftauchend ohne die kostliche Perle der Arbei t in der Hand! Ja, es ist immer wieder die alte Erfahrung, daB es nicht schnell bei mir geht." (Briefe V o l . 2, 421) [Submerged in silence for months only to resurface without the exquisi te pearl o f w o r k in my hands! W e l l , it is always the same old story, that nothing goes quickly with me] . 8 9 W h e n he then returned from Capr i , after a two-week holiday and wi th his w o r k not completed as planned, Benjamin spoke to Salomon before contacting Schultz (Briefe V o l . 2, 506). Sa lomon was clearly the person Benjamin taisted and depended on for information and support. In the end, Benjamin took Sa lomon ' s advice and wi thdrew his application for habilitation rather than having it formally rejected. M o r e o v e r , it seems that the issues closest to Benjamin's heart were the ones he shared wi th Salomon. A c c o r d i n g to Kambas, Benjamin personally hand-delivered a poli t ical essay he was w o r k i n g on to Salomon, whereas he sent his dissertation chapters by post to Sa lomon to pass on to Schultz (618). This provides some indication o f the respective importance that Benjamin placed on the two pieces o f wr i t ing as wel l as o f the distance between him and his supervisor. Y e t Sa lomon has until now been relegated to footnote status as the helpful but uninformed mediator between Benjamin and other faculty members. Obliterated in this process is the fact that Sa lomon 's seminar was one o f the few that Benjamin attended (together wi th A d o r n o ) at the Univers i ty o f Frankfurt. W h i l e A d o r n o indicates that Benjamin's plan to habilitate in Frankfort was "eine Absicht , die von Salomon energisch gefordert wurde" (Uber Walter Benjamin 9) [an intention that Sa lomon energetically supported], he does not elaborate on this other than to say that "Sa lomon interceded very vigorously with a number o f influential senior professors" (Friendship 116). Thus Sa lomon ' s practical assistance is acknowledged but not investigated. Tiedemann, Godde , and L o n i t z further acknowledge Salomon 's supportive role in relation to Benjamin 's 8 9 This is in stark contrast to Adorno, who planned his doctoral dissertation in mid-May, had it accepted by his supervisor, Cornelius, on May 26, finished writing on June 6, dictated the dissertation to a typist on June 11, and submitted the completed dissertation on June 14 (Wiggershaus 70). endeavours. " In Salomon-Dela tour hatte Benjamin fur die Frankfurter akademischen Angelegenheiten einen Vertrauten gefunden, der flir ihn eintrat und ihn regelmafiig tiber den Stand derDingeunter r ich te" (68) [In Salomon-Delatour Benjamin had found a confidant for the academic matters in Frankfurt w h o stood up for him and kept him regularly informed about h o w things were going] . That Sa lomon was a scholar in his o w n right, and that he and Benjamin had many similar scholarly and pol i t ical interests, is not mentioned by Benjamin scholars; instead, Salomon provides the k ind o f energetic support and assistance that is usually assumed and expected o f women, and therefore not subject to further investigation. W i t h the exception o f K a m b a s ' paper, Sa lomon ' s role as friend and mentor, a role that intersects the public and the personal, has received only scant attention. After examining the Benjamin/Salomon correspondence, Kambas comes to the conclusion that Sa lomon was Benjamin 's most important correspondent while he was wr i t ing his habilitation: "Sa lomon wurde zur Zei t der Niederschrift des Trauerspielbtichs fur ihn [Benjamin] zum wichtigsten Gesprachspartner" (606) [Salomon became his (Benjamin's) most important discussion partner whi le he was wr i t ing the Tragic Drama b o o k ] . 9 0 Their discussions gradually came to include wide-ranging aspects o f daily and professional life: finding a room to rent, information as to what Schultz and the habilitation committee were doing, university politics, enquiries regarding each other 's health and other family members, and current poli t ical matters. Furthermore, as Kambas has clearly demonstrated, contrary to earlier understandings o f Sa lomon ' s purely supportive role in Benjamin 's work , he also played a role in the content o f the habilitation: " D a B Sa lomon nicht nur half, wenn sich Schwierigkei ten im U m g a n g mit den Universitatsinstanzen ergaben, w i r d . . . deutlich; auch am inhaltlichen Produkt ionsvorgang der Habilitationsschrift war er ein Stuck weit beteiligt" 9 0 "Tragic Drama" is Orbome's translation of "Trauerspiel," which is sometimes also referred to as "Play of Mourning." (605) [It has become clear that Sa lomon not only helped when there were difficulties in dealing wi th university authorities; he also participated in the product ion process o f the habilitation wi th regard to content]. Kambas bases her conclusion on their common interests, on Salomon's advice, and on Sa lomon ' s mediating role in introducing Benjamin to the w o r k o f Car l Schmitt (which provided part o f the methodological basis for Benjamin's habilitation) (Kambas 609-11). Kambas discusses how the friendship between the two continued long after Benjamin 's travails at Frankfurt. O n occasion they met each other during their travels through E u r o p e — one such occas ion being Benjamin 's trip to Capr i , where he first met As ja Lac i s . La te r in Benjamin 's life, when he and Salomon were in exile in Paris, they remained friends (Kambas 620). Sa lomon was a poli t ical activist during those years, and Benjamin was w o r k i n g on his "Arcades Project" — a project that attempted an analysis o f nineteenth-century Paris, including the w o r k o f early socialists (particularly Four ie r and Saint-Simon). It is l ikely, as Kambas notes, that these common interests once again brought them together. 9 1 A l o n g with these shared interests, Sa lomon once again provided practical, everyday assistance to his friend during Benjamin 's difficult last years in exile: " E r [Salomon] zeigte dieselbe Hilfsbereitschaft, wie er sie schon zehn Jahre fruher geiibt hatte. Gegen E n d e des Jahres 1937 wohnte Benjamin vorubergehend in der rue de Javel bei Sa lomon" (Kambas 621) [Salomon displayed the same helpfulness that he had shown ten years earlier. Towards the end o f 1937 Benjamin temporarily l ived with Sa lomon in the rue de Javel]. D u r i n g Benjamin 's habilitation years, beyond energetic support, mentoring, and friendship, the t w o men were l inked by common areas o f scholarly interest, the most obvious o f wh ich was 9 1 Two of Salomon's early publications were monographs that contained selected readings from the early Utopian socialists, Saint-Simon and Proudhon. Benjamin's "Arcades Project" quotes extensively from these two writers, especially Saint-Simon. German Romant ic i sm. 9 2 After the publication o f his investigation o f Romant ic i sm, Sa lomon focused on sociology, a relatively new and not well-established discipline that was practised primarily within the paradigm o f the natural sciences. A s he explains in his introduction to a volume o f readings in social philosophy, his humanistic, philosophically informed understanding o f sociology ("Sozialphi losophie") deviated from the then dominant empirical assumptions o f sociological research methods (Salomon, "E in le i tung" 2-7). The convergence o f Benjamin 's and Sa lomon 's interests lies primari ly in Sa lomon 's area o f specialization — "material soc io logy" — wh ich Kambas summarizes as an examination o f society and social development in terms o f practical poli t ical demands. Benjamin ' s later works , in particular, show similarities to his mentor 's soc io logica l -philosophical perspective. Salomon's work , l ike Benjamin's , was interdisciplinary, practised at the points where philosophy, economics, and literature converge. The intersection o f materialist history and philosophy that provided Salomon wi th his methods o f research was also strongly evident in Benjamin 's "Arcades Project ." B o t h Benjamin and Salomon extended their knowledge and research beyond disciplinary boundaries, breeching the established frameworks o f their disciplines. Benjamin combined a messianic and materialist understanding o f literature, philosophy, and history in order to examine social phenomena. B o t h Sa lomon and Benjamin attempted to have socialism discussed throughout German society in general, not just amongst scholars (Kambas 608). Un l ike his supervisor and committee members, whose polit ical affiliations were with the far right, Sa lomon ' s were wi th the left: "Sa lomonspo l i t i s cheBindung lag . . . aufsozialdemokratischer Seite" (Kambas612) [Salomon's pol i t ical commitments were ... on the social democratic side]. These common interests and goals 9 2 Salomon's 1922 book, Das Miltelaller als Ideal in der Roman! ik [The Middles Ages as the Ideal During the Romantic Period], cites Benjamin's dissertation, Der Begriffder Kimstkritik in der deutschen Romantik [The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism]. suggest, contrary to the contentions o f many scholars, that neither Benjamin 's initial meeting with L a c i s nor his reading o f L u k a c s was the single determining cause o f his so-called Marx i s t turn. Thei r overlapping interests and their lasting friendship suggests that there was an affinity and an understanding between these two men, both personally and professionally, that they were unable to find elsewhere in the university community. A n examination o f Sa lomon 's friendship with Benjamin helps to disrupt the still prevalent idea o f Benjamin as the individual , isolated genius, struggling on his o w n against all odds to produce a body o f work . This is crucial to understanding the making o f Benjamin, both at the time o f his habilitation and today. First, it should be recognized that the fact that Benjamin was not an official member o f the academy does not mean that he was isolated from intellectual life. In his relationships at the intersection o f the public and private, Benjamin established and maintained "social w o r l d s " that shaped him and provided a context for his work . A s Foucaul t has persuasively argued, institutional determinations police and produce knowledge, and such product ion is not achieved through individual acts o f genius in a theoretical realm that is somehow detached from material reality. Such an understanding o f knowledge presupposes a notion o f unified subjectivity that many, including Foucault , D . Smith, and R o m a n , have convincingly disproved. K n o w l e d g e is not "created" by an individual but, rather, as Alexander and M o h a n t y argue, it is produced in a specific community for specific reasons and according to the criteria set by that community. "[ W]e have come to k n o w the crit ical importance o f f iguring out our communit ies o f belonging, and therefore those communities to wh ich w e are accountable. W e do not inherit our intellectual neighbors; we consciously build them" (Alexander and M o h a n t y ix). H o w has the scholarly community produced knowledge about Walter Benjamin? A s Jeffrey Grossman has suggested, the institutional community to which Benjamin sought admission, albeit somewhat half-heartedly, could not understand his way o f thinking. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that it would not understand his way o f thinking. In terms o f the functioning o f university power relations, the exclusion o f the different or unfamiliar is a favoured tactic for controlling what counts as knowledge and w h o counts as its producer. B o t h Schultz and Cornel ius , and to some degree Horkheimer , were either unwi l l ing or unable to understand Benjamin 's work because it was outside o f their frames o f reference and did not authorize itself in reference to preceding work in the field. It should also be noted, that in all probability, neither Schultz nor Corne l ius ever read the entire dissertation. Benjamin h imse l f was acutely aware that his manner o f thinking defied the usual categorizations accepted by the institution. In a 1913 letter to Carta Seligson, which he wrote at the beginning o f his studies, he noted: Gestern geschah es zum ersten M a i solang ich studiere, da(3 ich mich in einem kleinen Kre ise von Fachphilosophen fand ... ich fuhle mich nati ir l ich ganz unziinftig, wei l ich zwar viel philosophiere aber dies ist bei mir doch ganz anders ... wenn ich philosophiere, so ist es mil Fretinden. (Briefe V o l . 1, 108; emphasis mine) [Yesterday, for the first time since I 've been a student, I found myself in a small group o f professional philosophers ... o f course, I am acutely aware that I am not a card-carrying member o f the union because, although I do indeed philosophize a lot, I do so in a totally different manner ... when I philosophize, it is with friends. (Correspondence 29; emphasis mine)] In Benjamin 's o w n understanding o f his phi losophizing, he knew that he adhered neither to the boundaries between public and private nor to those between the disciplines. Ph i losophy was a dialogue wi th friends — wi th D o r a , Salomon, and Lacis , among others. A n institutional setting was not required, and conversation was as vital as was written research. 9 3 In conclusion, Benjamin 's resistance to what Foucaul t w o u l d call conformity to procedures for mastery was responsible for his becoming a "fai lure." H i s resistance, and his subsequent turn from strictly academic to journalist ic and essayistic forms o f wri t ing, resulted in his being cast as a failure by the university community. H o w e v e r , it was not only academia that contributed to cons t ruc t ing Benjamin as a failure, but also his o w n life circumstances and desires. What is important to my project is not whether Benjamin was a success or a failure but, rather, the processes by which he was and is constructed as such. These processes occur at the intersection o f the dominant discourses and practices o f the university community and Benjamin's life and work. H e is not the lone, struggling genius but, rather, someone who was supported and influenced by his wife, lovers, and friends. In the f o l l o w i n g chapter I deal wi th the intersections o f Benjamin's life text — his trip to Capr i , ostensibly in order to complete his dissertation — and his written text. In this constellation his life and w o r k intersect wi th the life and work o f Asja Lac i s . Benjamin's lifelong cri t icism o f scholarship whose prime function is categorizat ion is intensified by what he and Lac is call "Porosi ta t" [porosity]. They explored this concept in their observation and analysis o f the porous boundaries between public and private life in Naples. Lac i s , whose intellectual and practical w o r k provided Benjamin with a model for a new form o f existence — one that combines theory wi th practice — helped him ground his philosophy in the material wor ld . 9 3 Salomon expressed a similar view in the introduction to a collection of his essays: "Meine Freunde, zu denen vor allem meine Horer rechnen, wissen. wie sehr ich die Schrift und die Niederschrift... uneigentlich finde im Gegensatz zur direkten Ansprache" (Politische Soziologie v-vi). [My friends, among them my students, know how much I find publications and writing unsuitable in contrast to direct forms of address]. Chapter 5 Capri, 1924 Lacis and Benjamin: Porous Lines of Demarcation Ein hochsi verworrenes Quartier, ein Slrafiennetz, dasjahrelang von mir gemieden wiirde, word mir mil einem Schlage iihersichtlich, als ernes Tages ein geliebter Mensch dort einzog. Erwar, als sei in seinem Fenster ein Scheinwerfer aufgestellt und zerlege die Gegend mil Lichlbiischeln. Walter Benjamin [ A highly convoluted neighborhood, a network o f streets that I had avoided for years, was disentangled at a single stroke when one day a person dear to me moved there. It was as i f a searchlight set up at this person's w i n d o w dissected the area wi th pencils o f light (Bul lock & Jennings)] The beloved person to whom Benjamin refers in this quotation from " O n e - W a y Street" is A s j a L a c i s , to w h o m the book is dedicated. She was the person who shed light on aspects o f his life and w o r k that he had previously avoided. A c c o r d i n g to Benjamin's dedication, the street referred to in the title o f this book was both named after her and constructed by her: "Diese StraBe heiBt As ja -Lac is -S t raBe nach der die sie als Ingenieur im A u t o r durchgebrochen hat" ("EinbahnstraBe" 81) ["This street is named Asja L a c i s Street after her who as an engineer cut it through the author" ( "One-Way Street" 444)]. A s was discussed in Chapter 3, by Benjamin's o w n account, love was a strong formative force in his life. In fact, he found himself so changed when he was in love that he sometimes had difficulty recognizing himself. The assertions o f his friends appear to confirm this observation, as he wrote to Scholem a few months after his return from Capr i : "In Ber l in ist man sich ... i iber eine offenkundige Veranderung einig, die mit mir vorgegangen sei" (Briefe V o l . 2, 511) ["People in Ber l i n are agreed that there is a conspicuous change in me" (Correspondence 257)]. O f the three great loves in Benjamin 's life, the most important, in his estimation, was As j a Lac i s : " A m gewaltigsten war diese Verwandlung ins Ahnl iche ... in meiner Verb indung mit Asja , so daB ich vieles in mir erstmals entdeckte" (Benjamin, " M a i - J u n i 1931" 427) [This metamorphosis into similarity was the most power fu l . . . in my relationship with Asja. It was such that I discovered many things wi th in myself for the first time]. Lac i s offers him a new route to fo l low, along which he discovers many new things. This is more than exerting an influence or precipitating a shift; she clearly "makes" him (at least parts o f him) in M o i ' s sense o f the word . Together wi th Lac i s , Benjamin began to explore poli t ical and social realities he had either tended to ignore or o f wh ich he had not yet become aware. The fact that Benjamin used a street metaphor to describe their relationship, and as a main feature o f the book, indicates (1) the increasing importance o f urban topography in Benjamin 's thinking and wri t ing and (2) the link between that topography and L a c i s . 9 4 The topographical representation o f the "space o f life" was a possibility that occupied Benjamin for many years. H e first envisioned that representation as a map. "Lange , jahrelang eigentlich, spiele ich schon mit der Vors te l lung, den R a u m des Lebens — Bios — graphisch in einer Ka r t e zu gl iedern" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Ch ron ik" 466) [For many years actually, I have already been playing wi th the notion o f articulating the space o f life -- B i o s — graphically in a map]. The main distinguishing feature o f a city maps is, o f course, its streets, and they become the key to understanding modern life. A s Graeme G i l l o c h has observed in his study o f Benjamin 's wri t ings about cities, Benjamin "is concerned with the physical structure o f the city and the material objects found therein as a setting for, and as indices of, social activity" (7). " F o r Benjamin, the buildings, spaces, monuments and objects that compose the urban environment both are a response to, and reflexively structure, patterns o f human social activity. Architecture and action shape each other; they interpenetrate" 9 4 This is most evident in many of his numerous thought-images ("Denkbilder"), "One-Way Street," "Moscow Diary," " A Berlin Chronicle," "Berlin Childhood Around 1900," and the "Arcades Project." ( G i l l o c h 6). W h i l e G i l l o c h understands the importance o f Benjamin 's examinat ion o f urban topography as the w o r k i n g out o f a social theory o f modern life, he pays virtually no attention to the important link between the city, its streets, and Lac i s — a link that is clearly evident in "One-W a y Street." In that work , as wel l as in numerous thought-images, parts o f the "Arcades Project ," " A B e r l i n Chron ic le , " " B e r l i n Ch i ldhood Around 1900," and " M o s c o w D i a r y , " Benjamin 's life and w o r k are clearly interwoven. A further dimension o f Benjamin's attention to materiality — one not included in G i l l o c h ' s study — is the importance o f the human body. Beginn ing in the mid-1920s, roughly around the time o f his first meeting wi th Lacis , the human body, the concept o f body-space, and the significance o f bodi ly perception ("Wahrnehmung") increasingly emerge in Benjamin 's w r i t i n g . 9 5 Benjamin 's v iv id and unusual account o f his sexual awakening occurs in the streets o f his home (Berl in) , and his later meet ing wi th Lac i s constitutes a reoccurrence o f much the same constellation. In " A B e r l i n Chron ic le" he explains how his parents instructed him to go to a relative's home in order to accompany him to the synagogue for a service in celebration o f the Jewish N e w Year . Benjamin wandered through the streets o f Ber l in , failing to reach his destination. Gradual ly he became aware o f a curious mixture o f contradictory feelings and insights concerning his immediate situation. H e simultaneously felt helpless, forgetful, and embarrassed — feelings he explains as fol lows: A n dieser Ratlosigkeit , VergeBlichkei t , Verlegenheit trug zweifellos die Hauptschuld Abneigung gegen die bevorstehende Veranstal tung und gegen die verwandtschaftliche nicht minder als gegen die gottesdienstliche. Wahrend ich noch so herumirrte, i iberkam mich plotzl ich und genau zur gleichen Zei t einerseits der 9 5 Weigel's analysis of Benjamin's concept of body-space deals primarily with its basis in his distinction between image and metaphor, and in the relation between language and the corporeal. Richter analyzes the body in Moscow Diary and will be discussed further in Chapter 6. 146 Gedanke: viel zu spat, die Zeit ist langst verpaBt, du schaffst es nie - andererseits das Gefuhl , wie durchaus gleich das alles sei. (Benjamin, "Ber l iner C h r o n i k " 105-06) [This bewilderment, forgetfulness, and embarrassment were doubtless chiefly due to my dislike o f the impending service, in its familial no less than its divine aspect. Whi l e I was wandering thus, I was suddenly and simultaneously overcome, on the one hand, by the thought " T o o late, time was up long go, y o u ' l l never get there" — and on the other, by a sense o f the insignificance o f all this. ( " A B e r l i n Chron ic le" 53)] A s he becomes aware o f the possibility o f two simultaneously occurr ing contradictory perceptions, Benjamin experiences a sexual awakening . 9 6 [D]iese beiden BewuBtseinsstrome flossen unaufhaltsam zu einem groBen Lustgefiihl zusammen, das mich mit blasphemischer Gleichgi i l t igkei t gegen den Gottesdienst erfullte, der StraBe aber, auf der ich mich befand, so schmeichelte als hatte sie mir damals schon die Kupplerdienste zu verstehen gegeben, welche sie spater dem erwachten Triebe leisten sollte. ("Berliner C h r o n i k " 106) [(T)hese two streams o f consciousness converged irresistibly in an immense pleasure that filled me with blasphemous indifference toward the service, but exalted 9 6 Individual sections of "Berlin Childhood Around 1900" were published in newspapers (Frankfurter Zeitung and Vossische Zeilung) between December 1932 and August 1934. On Scholem's advice, this segment, "Awakening of Sexuality," was not published, primarily due to the problematic connection between Jews and sexuality in the dominant ideology of the time. Jewish men were often portrayed as sexual predators who violated pure, "Aryan" women. 147 the street in which 1 s tood as i f it had already intimated to me the services o f procurement it was later to render my awakened drive. ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 53)] This incident, described in both " A Ber l in Chron ic le" and " B e r l i n C h i l d h o o d , " is a constellation in which the separation o f public and private becomes impossible, and in which feelings, thoughts, consciousness, perception, and the (male) body converge. The physical setting o f this moment, the street, is vital in that this is where Benjamin 's feelings and insights are primarily directed. In the summer o f 1924, Benjamin meets Lacis while he is wandering through the streets o f Capr i doing his shopping; in many ways, this meeting resembles the scene o f his earlier sexual awakening. H o w e v e r , before examining this meeting, I w i l l look at how and why Benjamin decided to travel to Capr i . H i s decision is primarily a result o f his desire to escape from all that was stressful, conflict-laden, and unpleasant in his life in Germany: inflation, unemployment, poli t ical instability, anti-Semitism, financial worries, the responsibilities o f being a father and husband, constant arguments wi th his parents, and the disjuncture between expectations, desires, and l ived reality. In addition, he is frustrated by his inability to progress with his habilitation. H e wrote to Scholem that he must escape from the"bosen EinfluB dieser Atmosphare" ["pernicious atmosphere here"]. Setting himself free from that atmosphere had become his "vitalstes Vorhaben" (Briefe V o l . 2, 432) ["most vital intention" (Correspondence 236) ] . 9 7 Since early in his life, Benjamin employed tactics o f avoidance, distancing himsel f f rom topics or situations that are unpleasant or tension-laden. F o r example, during his first trip abroad, he was particularly concerned wi th avoiding any tension or embarrassment among the group o f young men wi th w h o m he was travelling. In his 1912 diary Benjamin notes: 9 7 Another unsuccessful attempt to receive money from his editor, WeiBbach, seems to have triggered this view of the situation. In den ersten Tagen war ich natiirlich sehr aufmerksam u m Spannungen zu vermeiden ... Innerliche ernste aber unberechenbare und schroffe Menschen , sind immer fur mich ... im Umgang sehr peinlich ... A u s diesem Grunde wachte ich auch in diesen ersten Tagen sehr aufmerksam, daB keine Gruppe zwischen zweien, die standige Spannungen gegeben hatte, entstiinde. ("Meine Reise in Italien Pfingsten 1912" 253) [Dur ing the first days I was naturally very conscientious about avoiding any tensions ... Assoc ia t ing with inwardly serious but unpredictable and abrupt people is always very embarrassing for me ... Fo r that reason I watched ve iy carefully during the first l ews days so that no group o f two, that wou ld cause constant tension, could form] Addi t iona l early examples are to be found in his correspondence wi th Seligson. After she had written to him about some difficulties in her life, he responded: " M o g e es Sie nicht verstimmen, wenn ich mit diesen Wor ten , die ich nur von mir aus sagen konnte, nichts traf, was Ihnen wesentlich ist, wenn ich im Irrtuin zu allgemein sprach." (Briefe V o l . 1, 140) ["I hope you won ' t be annoyed i f these words , which could be uttered only from my point o f view, failed to touch on anything o f importance to you , i f I made the mistake o f keeping my remarks too general" (Correspondence 40)]. F o r which he gives the excuse: " A b e r auch Sie werden fuhlen, daB alles darauf ankommt, uns nichts von unserer War ine zu Menschen nelnnen zu lassen. M a g es auch sein, daB w i r sie fur eine Zei t ausdrucksloser and abstrakter bewahren mussen; sie wi rd bleiben und doch Gestalt finden" (Briefe V o l . I, 140) ["But you wi l l surely agree wi th me that everything depends on our not a l lowing any o f our warmth for people to be taken from us. E v e n if, for a while we must preserve this warmth in a less expressive and more abstract way, it w i l l endure and surely find its fo rm" (Correspondence 40)]. Here he avoids addressing something unpleasant, distressful, or potentially embarrassing by escaping from material, l ived reality into the realm o f the metaphysical . 9 8 This was a pattern that was to continue for the rest o f his life. After his experience in Capr i , Benjamin made numerous journeys every year. F o l l o w i n g the failure o f his habilitation plans, one o f the first things Benjamin did was to board a ship in H a m b u r g (August 1925) and travel to Capri v ia Spain and Italy (Barcelona, Genua, L i v o r n o ) where, in September 1925, he met A d o r n o and Kracauer in Naples (Tiedemann, Godde , L o n i t z 210-11). Then, in October , he returned home to Ber l in , only to leave again in November , when he journeyed to R i g a to pay L a c i s a surprise visit. M o s t o f the fo l lowing year (1926) he spent in Paris, w o r k i n g with Franz Hessel on their Proust translation. Once that was completed, he returned home to Ber l in , but left suddenly for M o s c o w upon hearing that Lac is was i l l . He spent December 1926 and January 1927 in M o s c o w so that he could be w i th Lac i s . This part o f Benjamin's life w i l l be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. After the finalization o f Walter and Dora ' s divorce ( M a r c h 1930), Wa l t e r journeyed to Scandinavia and wrote a postcard to Gretel Karp lus expressing his sense o f relief at leaving the constrict ing atmosphere o f Ber l in : "e inmal fort von Ber l in wi rd die Wel t schon und geraumig" (Tiedemann, Godde, L o n i t z 215) [As soon as I get away from Ber l i n , the w o r l d becomes beautiful and spacious], Benjamin often cited escape as a reason for travelling. "Immer wieder gelang es ihm, durch kleinere Reisen der publizistischen Mise re zu entfliehen" (Tiedemann, Godde , L o n i t z 213) [Time and time again, by means o f short trips, he was able to flee the miseries o f publishing]. H e escaped not only from the economic and political situation in Germany, but also from a troubled 9 8 There are a number of hints that there may have been more between Benjamin and Seligson than their mutual membership in the Student Reform Movement and discussion group. I have been unable to determine the nature of the "difficult experience" referred to in her letter, as her letters have not been published. This is a common difficulty, for, although Benjamin's letters have now all been published, letters to Benjamin, with the exception of those from Scholem and Adorno, have not. marriage, from his responsibilities as a father and husband, from the problems and distractions o f everyday life, and from any particularly stressful event (such as the death o f his father). O f his trip to Capr i , Benjamin said: " A m A n f a n g war das vielleicht nur der gebieterische Impuls aus Deutschland zu fl iehen" (Benjamin, " M a i - J u n i 1931" 423) [In the beginning, it was perhaps only the imperative impulse to flee from Germany]. This need to escape was c o m m o n among underemployed or unemployed intellectuals who, in the 1920s, frequently fled Germany for the sunny south. F o r many, l ike Benjamin, the middle-class lifestyle that they had come to expect was no longer possible for them in Germany, but they could continue to enjoy some semblance o f it in Italy. It was not only the day-to-day l iving conditions in Germany that were becoming unbearable to many, but also the fears about what economic and polit ical direction Germany w o u l d take in the near future. Brodersen describes Benjamin's situation as fol lows: " L i k e many an unemployed or needy intellectual during the crisis-stricken years o f the Weimar Republ ic , he had decided to make this journey to escape the atmosphere o f wide-spread economic and social depression." Benjamin informed his friend Scholem that he was unable to continue w o r k i n g in such an atmosphere and that he was only half-heartedly in Germany: "Ich selber bin geradejetzt mit weniger als halbem Herzen in Deutschland; eine Los losung , ein E l a n von auBen her tut mir not" (Briefe V o l . 2, 386) ["I happen to be in Germany myself just now and less than half my heart is in this visit; I am in need o f a separation, o f an outside source o f energy" (Correspondence 221)]. B y M a r c h o f the fo l lowing year, he had completed the research for his habilitation in the form o f over 600 quotations from primary and secondary texts, and he had decided the only way for him to complete this project was by getting away from Ber l in . [S]o ist meine Frankfurter Schrift noch immer nicht begonnen, obzwar bis unmittelbar an die Abfassung von langer Hand her herangefuhrt. H i e r w i l l sich der 151 E l a n , der den Ubergang zur eigentlichen Niederschrift ergibt, nicht leicht einstellen und ich plane, in der Hauptsache die Ausarbei tung im Auslande vorzunehmen. Anfang A p r i l w i l l ich - auf Biegen oder Brechen - von hier fort und unter der Erle ichterung des Lebens in einer groBern und freiern Umwel t diese Sache so weit mir das gegeben ist etwas von oben herab und presto absolvieren. (Briefe V o l 2, 432-33; emphasis mine) [I still have not begun my Frankfurt project although I long ago brought it to the point o f being able to set things down in writ ing. The elan that brings about the transition to actual wri t ing simply does not seem to want to make an appearance, and I am planning to do most o f the work abroad. A t the beginning o f A p r i l I intend — by hook or by crook — to get away from here and, to the extent that it is in my power, to complete this matter from a somewhat superior vantage point and quickly , under the benign influence o f a more relaxed life in more spacious and freer surroundings. (Correspondence 236; emphasis mine)] What did Benjamin mean by a "superior vantage point?" First o f all , he wished to extricate himself from his o w n life situation, which , it seemed to him, was detrimental to his immediate project: his habilitation. H e attempted to avoid anything that he believed could distract him from that work. F o r example, in a letter to his friend and mentor Florens Christian Rang, it is clear that he is concerned about poli t ics but wants to avoid diverting his attention from his habilitation: "Denn eine wirkl iche Ver t iefung in die Phi losophie der Poli t ik muB ich eben jetzt u m so mehr vermeiden, als ich noch garnicht im wunschenswerten M a Be in meiner eigenen Arbeit stecke" (Briefe V o l . 2, 355) ["Right now I must avoid true immersion in the philosophy o f politics, all the more because 1 still have not gotten into my o w n w o r k as much as I w o u l d l ike" (Correspondence 210)]. H e hoped that being away from the situation in Germany wou ld enable him to focus on his wri t ing. Benjamin wanted an isolated existence in which his basic material needs were no longer a cause for concern. H e wished for peace and quiet — perhaps longing to recapture his initial years as a university student in Freiburg, when he was young, alone, and without responsibilities: "Dies fuhlte ich, als ich aus dem gewohnten Kre ise Ber l iner Freunde hier heruber kam ... ich habe jetzt zum ersten M a i die Einsamkeit kennengelernt ... Ich kann Ihnen noch nicht sagen, bis zu welcher R u h e i c h dieses Alleinseingebracht habe" (Briefe V o l . 1, 138) ["I felt this when I came here, having left the familiar circle o f my Ber l in friends ... 1 have become acquainted wi th loneliness for the first time ... I am still unable to tell you what kind o f tranquility I have achieved with this solitude" (Correspondence 39)]. In a later letter to Seligson, he idealizes solitude: "die tiefste Einsamkei t ist die des idealen Menschen in der Beziehung zur Idee, die sein Menschl iches vernichtet" (Briefe V o l . 1, 161) ["the most profound form o f loneliness is that o f the ideal person in relationship to the idea, wh ich destroys what is human about h im" (Correspondence 50)]. Rough ly a decade later, he experienced the detrimental effect o f solitude when he and D o r a decided to l ive separately for a time. "Im ubrigen lebe ich sehr einsam, so, daB meine Arbei t sogar im Grundedarunter sehr leidet. M i r fehlen a l leKommunikat ionsmogl ichkei ten" (Briefe V o l . 2, 388) ["Otherwise I am l iving a very solitary life, so much so that it has even caused my w o r k to suffer. I never have an opportunity to really talk" (Correspondence 222)]. A l though rarely acknowledged, one o f the reasons he had difficulty in progressing wi th his habilitation dissertation was his isolation, which seriously hampered his need to communicate and associate wi th other (l ike-minded) people. H e was caught in the contradiction between the need for solitude and the need for community. H e found both in Capr i but, initially, maintained that isolation and its concomitant "superior vantage point" were necessary. This super ior vantage point, as can be seen from Benjamin 's letter to Seligson, has a material dimension: " A b e r wenn ich Ihnen in meinem ersten B r i e f so sehr mein Z i m m e r mit seinem Fenster auf den Kirchplatz hinaus pries, so bedeutete das nichts andres, als eben diese R u h e " (Briefe V o l . 1, 138) ["In my first letter to you, when I so fulsomely praised my room wi th its w i n d o w look ing out onto the church square, it signified nothing but this tranquility"(Correspondence 39)]. Just as the physical reality o f cities provided Benjamin with clues for understanding modern urban life, so the physical space in which he thought and wrote provide us with clues for understanding his w o r k . The superior vantage point is one that is not only at a distance from, but also above, its subject. This embodies the understanding o f academic work cri t icized by D o r o t h y Smith (and many others). This superior vantage point enables the "knowers doing the k n o w i n g " to posit ion themselves both at a distance from, and in a position superior to, their subjects — thereby becoming invisible. In other words , the practices o f thinking are understood as activities that occur outside o f time and place (D . Smith, The Conceptual Practices of Power 51). W h i l e Benjamin attempts to remove the thinker (himself) from the thought (his habilitation), his observation concerning the importance o f the room in which his thinking takes place belies his ability to do so. In other words, the importance o f the room wi th regard to his intellectual product ion undermines Ben jamin ' s attempt to render himself (as thinker) invisible. Thus the superior vantage point proves to be illusory. The traditional understanding o f the product ion o f intellectual w o r k not only separates the public from the private, the intellectual from the material, but also makes especially successful work contingent upon the elimination o f " real" life. The genius achieves greatness in isolation from the demands o f life — in fact, this greatness is predicated upon being distant from life, from material reality (an underlying assumption from which the Benjamin industry suffers to this day). The actual physical space in which intellectual w o r k occurs constitutes only one o f many dimensions. Brodersen provides significant insights into those dimensions in his discussion o f Benjamin 's l iv ing arrangements and w o r k i n g space while staying in Capr i . First, he observes that Benjamin 's move from one room to another is symbolic o f his leaving the "halls o f academia": " Im U m z u g v o n dem einen D o m i z i l in das andere manifestiert sich namlich Benjamins A u s z u g 'aus den Ha l l en der Wissenschaft '" (Brodersen, Spinne im eigenen Netz 135) [Benjamin's move from one dwel l ing to the other was a manifestation o f his moving out o f the "halls o f knowledge"] . B y seeking admission into those halls, Benjamin implici t ly accepted the unwritten rules that required him to work above, and at a distance from, his subjects. In his first room he could do just that: look out over the t o w n and the ocean. B y contrast, in his second room he looked deep into his immediate surroundings: "Ausgezogen aus einem D o m i z i l , dessen B a l k o n einen B l i c k weit hinaus fiber die D i n g e hinweg gestattete, schweift er jetzt, von dieser neuen Herberge, lief\n das Labyr in th ineinanderverschlungenerRosenbiische und Weins tocke" (Brodersen, Spinne im eigenen Netz 137; emphasis mine) [Having moved out o f a room with a balcony that a l lowed a v iew high above things, he n o w looks out from his new quarters deep into the labyrinth o f interwoven rose bushes and grape vines (emphasis mine)]. Fo r Brodersen, the second room is a sign that Benjamin is no longer wr i t ing as an academic, but rather as a free thinker. Brodersen does not consider L a c i s ' effect on Benjamin other than to make a superficial connection between academic wri t ing and Dora , as opposed to "free" wr i t ing and Lac is . This distinction bears the marks o f the tired old juxtaposi t ion o f wife-child-responsibili t ies versus mistress-freedom-inspiration. The former is associated with the cramped works o f the academic, while the latter is associated with the inspired works o f the true genius. What happens to Benjamin in Capr i , however, comprises a constellation very similar to the one he constructs in look ing back at his sexual awakening in Ber l in . In his letters from Capr i , 15 Benjamin makes a number o f rather obtuse references to Lac i s . In one letter to Scholem, in which he describes his surroundings in Capr i , he makes reference to the Song o f Songs: E i n anderes sind die Weingarten, die auch zu den Wundererscheinungen dieser Nachte gehoren. D u wirst das gewiB kennengelernt habe, wenn Frucht und Blatt in der Schwarze der Nacht untertauchen und man vorsicht ig - urn nicht gehort und verjagt zu werden - nach den groBen Trauben tastet. Abe r es liegt noch viel mehr darin, wor i iber vielleicht die Kommentare des hohen Liedes Aufsch luB geben. (Briefe V o l . 2, 486) [The vineyards are also among the miraculous nighttime sights here. Y o u w i l l surely have experienced the fol lowing: fruit and leaves are immersed in the blackness o f the night and you cautiously feel for the large grapes — so as not to be heard and chased off. B u t there is so much more to it than that. M a y b e the commentaries on the Song o f Songs w i l l shed some light on this. (Correspondence 250)] The Song o f Songs is an unambiguously erotic biblical love song that contains a great deal o f sexually explicit vineyard imagery . " In one section o f the song, for example, the br idegroom describes the beauty o f the bride, proclaims his desire to "cl imb up," and finally expresses his wish to "find your breasts l ike clusters o f grapes on the vine" (Song o f Songs, 7-8, 805). A s Wi t t e has pointed out, for a biblical scholar such as Scholem, this reference to sexual love w o u l d be unmistakable (Waller Benjamin mil Selbslzeugnissen und Bilddokumenlen 54). This is a strong indication that the relationship between L a c i s and Benjamin was heavily erotically charged. After 9 9 A further aspect of this biblical text is that, for all its seemingly obvious sexual imagery, its interpreters (from Augustine on) insisted that it had nothing to do with sex. Both Benjamin and Scholem would have been aware of that - therefore the reference to the commentaries on the Song of Songs. having met L a c i s and probably having engaged in some form o f sexual activity wi th her, Benjamin made the connection between the imagery o f the Song o f Songs and the physical landscape o f Capr i — a landscape he viewed from the room to which he moved after meeting Lac is . L a c i s described the room as fol lows: " Z u meinem Erstaunen gl ich das Quartier einer H o h l e in einem Dschungel aus Weintrauben und wi lden R o s e n " (Lacis , Revohiliondr im Bern/ 43) [To my astonishment, his quarters resembled a cave in a jungle o f grapes and wi ld roses]. H e l ived deep wi th in the labyrinth o f the vineyard — a powerful symbol o f sexual love. H e is no longer stationed above, at a "superior vantage point" that al lows him easily to see the route to take; he is now in the thick o f things. Benjamin 's awareness o f his various physical spaces — the streets o f Capr i (where he first observed and then met Lac i s ) and his own room — emphasizes the inextricability o f life and work . Another important observation is that Benjamin, as an "independent" scholar, both l ived and w o r k e d in the same room(s). H e had no office, no separate dedicated w o r k space, to go to: the public and the private are interwoven. Al though he does not thematize this constellation in "Naples , " it constitutes a significant dimension o f this moment in his life and work , where the physical, intellectual, emotional, and pol i t ica l converge. This particular constellation has not yet been analyzed by Benjamin scholars. Later, in his w o r k on M o s c o w , Benjamin repeatedly describes the apartments/rooms in which people both live and w o r k . M o s t o f his meetings wi th Russian intellectuals occurred in their homes and much o f his time with Bernhard R e i c h (Lac i s ' partner) and L a c i s is spent in the rooms where he both lived and worked . It is at this time and in this context that he began to address more directly the issue o f public and private spheres as they pertain to intellectuals. 15 Benjamin 's "Denkbi lder" [thought-images] contain further thoughts on this conflation o f w o r k and l iv ing space. 1 0 " In the thought-image called "Weimar , " Benjamin describes Goethe ' s rooms in the Goethe-Schi l l e r -Arch ive and, while observing how primitive they are, he notes that: "auch der Reiche die Har te des Lebens noch am eigenen Le ibe zu spiiren hatte" (Benjamin, " W e i m a r " 354) [even the rich had felt the harshness o f life on their o w n body], Benjamin reminds his readers that the r i ch and famous "Dich te r" [poet/writer] is more than the sum o f his ideas — ideas written on whi te pieces o f paper that can be viewed in a white, sterile, hospital-l ike room. Goethe ' s w o r k s have become "wie K r a n k e in Hospi ta lern" (Benjamin, " W e i m a r " 353) [like the i l l in hospitals]. They are objects that provide clues about Goethe (in the way that a sick body provides clues about a healthy body), but they do not provide an adequate representation o f him. Further, there is a certain arbitrariness at work , as those works could just as easily have sunk into obl iv ion as become famous: " L i e f nicht ein Schauer uber sie hin, und niemand wu(3te, ob v o m Nahen der Vern ich tung oder des Nachruhms?" (Benjamin, "Weimar" 354) [Did not a shudder run through them, and nobody knew whether from the nearness o f eradication or o f posthumous fame?]. The physical space in which Goethe produced his work is critical to Benjamin, as can be seen from the fo l lowing observation: " M a n kann gar nicht ermessen, was die Nachbarschaft der winz igen Schlafkammer und dieses einem Schlafgemache gleich abgeschiedenen Arbei tszimmers bedeutet hat" (Benjamin, " W e i m a r " 355) [The significance o f the proximity o f the tiny bedroom and this one bedroom-turned-workroom cannot be measured]. The proximity o f sleep and w o r k spaces, this permeation o f private and public, is open to view, as is a museum; however, Benjamin indicates that something is missing: " N o c h warten wi r auf eine Ph i lo log ie , die diese nachste, 1 0 0 The assumption of a separation of work and home is, of course, gendered. For women, who worked primarily in the home, the merging of the two spheres was the status quo. The home was where women worked, often performing waged as well as unwaged labour. bestimmendste U m w e l t . . . vor uns eroffne" (Benjamin, "Weimar" 354) [We are still wai t ing for a phi lo logy that w i l l open up these nearest, most determining surroundings for us]. Benjamin awaits an academic practice that w i l l open the wor ld o f the great man to scrutiny rather than contenting itself w i th s ickly reflections o f who he was and how he produced his wri t ing. A s already discussed, Benjamin's critique o f the academy is nothing new. A s a y o u n g student he was cr i t ical o f the academy's need to classify. A c c o r d i n g to him, the poor quality o f much o f the scholarship o f his time was primarily due to this one great weakness o f contemporary experts: "sie [fuhlen] sich natiirlich nicht wohl ... bis sie nicht alles nach den crudesten MaBstaben aibrizier t haben" (Briefe V o l . 1, 468) ["they o f course do not feel comfortable until they have classified everything according to the crudest criteria" (Correspondence 133)]. Benjamin 's cr i t icism o f this tendency to classify everything and everyone is, to some degree, parallel to Sa lomon ' s cr i t icism o f empirical sociology. Benjamin recognized and cri t icized some forms o f this tendency early in his career, but it is only after beginning to examine life in N a p l e s , wi th its fluid and permeable boundaries between public and private, that he began to pointedly question those boundaries, first as they relate to urban life and then as they relate to intellectuals. Benjamin had more than a passing interest in Naples , as is evident in the fact that during his s ix-month stay in C a p r i ( M a y - O c t o b e r 1924) he visited it about twenty times (Tiedemann, Godde , L o n i t z 210). In "Naples ," Lacis and Benjamin observe that the activities o f buying and selling are not confined within the physical boundaries o f stores and the temporal boundaries o f set business hours; rather, they spill over into homes and out onto the streets at any time o f the day or night, where they mingle with other everyday activities that are often categorized as private (such as sleeping and eating). Rel ig ious , commercial , and family activities intermingle on the streets and in the homes o f the Neapoli tans. G i l l o c h is one o f the few researchers to discuss the importance o f "Naples" within the context o f Benjamin 's work . In G i l l o c h ' s view, the essay contains "a series o f insights and issues that were to come to dominate all his intel lectual activities" (23). These include "the attempt to devise a mode or style o f wr i t ing that in some way incorporates ... urban experience, ... the need to salvage the disregarded debris o f contemporary society, . . . and the particular forms o f mundane life found wi th in the urban environment." These are explored through "a set o f fundamental relationships: between architecture and urban experience, public and private spheres, sacred and profane, ritual and improvisat ion, individual and col lect ivi ty" (G i l l och 23-24). G i l l o c h rightly assigns new importance to "Naples" ; however, he is not entirely successful in accomplishing what he sets out to do. H e first hypothesizes that little attention has been paid to this essay because "cri t ics and commentators have focussed on the progress o f the Habilitationsschhft and/or Benjamin's romantic entanglements during this per iod" ( G i l l o c h 22). H e continues by insisting that "[i]t is precisely the plethora o f Benjamin's other pressing preoccupations, however, that makes this essay so intriguing. Given his emotional and intellectual concerns and crises in the summer o f 1924, why did Benjamin choose to wri te about Nap le s?" (Gi l loch 22). Al though G i l l o c h recognizes the permeation o f the public and private in "Naples , " he fails to apply that recognition to his analysis o f Benjamin. L a c i s ' and Benjamin's concept o f porosity is key to "Naples" : "Porositat ist das unerschopflich neu zu entdeckende Gesetz dieses Lebens" (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 311) [Porosity is the inexhaustible law o f life in this city, reappearing everywhere ("Naples" 417)]. They discovered and rediscovered that there are no firm boundaries in time or space. In examining the materiality o f city spaces as it intersects with bodily perception, Lacis and Benjamin explored their permeability. This lack o f clear boundaries was most readily and concretely observable in Neapol i tan architecture. A s the two o f them continued to examine the buildings and the life within 160 and around them, L a c i s observed that the houses looked porous (Lacis , Revohitiondr im Bern/ 46). In their essay, they described that porosity: B a u und A k t i o n gehen in Hofen , Arkaden und Treppen ineinander iiber. In allem wahrt man den Spielraum, der es [sic] befahigt, Schauplatz neuer unvorhergesehener Konstel lat ionen zu werden. M a n meidet das Defini t ive, Gepragte. Ke ine Situation erscheint so, wie sie ist, fur immer gedacht, keine Gestalt behauptet ihr "so und nicht anders". So kommt die Archi tektur , dieses biindigste Stuck der Gemeinschaftsrhythmik, hier zustande. (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 309) [ B u i l d i n g and action interpenetrate in the courtyards, arcades, and stairways. In everything, they preserve the scope to become a theater o f the new, unforseen constellations. The stamp o f the definitive is avoided. N o situation appears intended forever, no figure asserts it "thus and not otherwise." This is how architecture, the most binding part o f the communal rhythm, comes into being here. ("Naples" 416)] The construction o f definitive spacial boundaries serves to fix actions and their meanings "so und nicht anders" [thus and not otherwise]. Such boundaries are erected both literally and figuratively, based on dominant understandings o f when, where, and h o w activities take place and what social forms are practised. Once such boundaries are constructed, they tend to further reinforce the understandings that initially created them, rendering other ways o f understanding ever more difficult and increasingly less acceptable. Whereas porous boundaries a l low for new constellations o f the dimensions that both constitute and valorize social forms and activities, the boundaries expressed in the architecture o f modern cities reflect and reinforce demarcation and separation. The separation o f the spheres o f waged w o r k and home, for example, both reflects and promotes an understanding o f the home as an enclosed, separate sphere — the private sphere (which, i f necessary, is established by force). This process is evident in the changing architecture o f Naples , which was "anarchisch, verschlungen, dorflerisch im Zentrum, in das man vor v ierz ig Jahren groBe StraBenziige erst hineingehauen hat. U n d nur in diesen ist das Haus im nordischen Sinn die Zel le der Stadtarchitektur" (Benjamin and Lac i s , " N e a p e l " 309) [anarchic, embroiled, vil lage-like in the centre, into which large networks o f streets were hacked only forty years ago. A n d only in these streets is the house, in the nordic sense, the cell o f the c i ty 's architecture ("Naples" 416)]. This city existed in its anarchistic porous form for centuries, and it was only in the forty years preceding Benjamin 's visit that modern city streets were forcefully cut through it. These new streets are lined with "box houses" that are the cells o f the new cityscapes. The home becomes a refuge that shuts out what is n o w designated as a separate public sphere. 1 0 1 B y contrast, the Neapol i tan home is a reservoir o f new ideas, possibilities, and energy into which its inhabitants repeatedly dip: " S o ist das Haus viel weniger das A s y l , in welches Menschen eingehen, als das unerschopfliche Reservoir , aus dem sie herausstromen" (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 314) [So the house is far less the refuge into which people retreat than the inexhaustible reservoir from which they f lood out ("Naples" 419)]. Their way o f l iving, as both expressed in and reinforced by this architecture, is understood by Benjamin to constitute a subversive energy — an energy that al lows for subversive gestures, the breaking o f boundaries that keep hierarchies in place. The N o r d i c house is a stagnant, dead box, while the Neapol i tan house is full o f energy. This energy is further illustrated in the difference between the stairs o f N o r d i c houses and the stairs o f Neapol i t an houses: "Diese [die Treppe], niemals ganz freigelegt, noch weniger aber in dem 1 0 1 Benjamin's understanding of the home as a private refuge from the public world is obviously from the perspective of the men who left the (middle-class) home to go to their places of work. dumpfen, nordischen Hauskasten geschlossen, schieBen st i ickweise aus den Hause rn heraus, machen eine eckige Wendung und verschwinden, um wieder hervorzusti irzen" (Benjamin and Lac i s , " N e a p e l " 310) [The stairs, never entirely exposed, but still less enclosed in the g loomy box o f the N o r d i c house, erupt fragmentarily from the buildings, make an angular turn, and disappear, only to burst out again ("Naples" 417)]. The stairs o f Neapol i tan houses do not simply reappear outside after disappearing inside, but, rather, they "burst forth." The choice o f verb here indicates the vitality associated with porosity in contrast to the torpidity and oppressiveness associated wi th the clear, control l ing boundaries o f N o r d i c houses. H i s thought-image, "Nordische See," provides a further example o f Benjamin's critique o f the construct ion o f definite boundaries and the concomitant perceptual shift that locks away everything that comes to be constructed as private: " M u B e im Freien ist nirgendwo vorgesehen ... Das Haus hat noch strenge Grenzen" (Benjamin, " N o r d i s c h e See" 383) [Taking one's leisure outside is nowhere provided for ... The house still has r igid boundaries]. The house in northern E u r o p e is a box that functions not only to separate actual activities, but also to shape understandings o f what activities are appropriate to which sphere. In northern Europe, the private is inside, locked away, while in Naples: " W i e die Stube auf der StraBe wiederkehrt, mit Stiihlen, H e r d und Al tar , so, nur viel lauter, wandert die StraBe in die Stube hinein" (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 314) [Just as the l iv ing room reappears on the street, with chairs, hearth, and altar, so — only much more loudly — the street migrates into the l iv ing room ("Naples" 420)] . There is permeation in both directions — from inside to outside and from outside to inside. The interior o f the N o r d i c house is a place where one sleeps, not in beds in rooms, but in specially made cupboards: "Schranke bald mit drehbaren Ti i ren und bald mit Schiebladen, bis zu vier Statten in ein und derselbe Truhe" (Benjamin, "Nordische See" 383) [Cupboards sometimes with revolving doors, sometimes with drawers, up to four spaces in one and the same cabinet]. N o t only is there a sharp distinction between inside and outside, public and private, but the interior is clearly divided, wi th specific spaces serving particular functions and designed for only certain activities (such as sleeping, cooking , and eating). E v e n the mixing o f sleeping and sexual activity were to be kept at a minimum: "Fur die L iebe war damit schlecht gesorgt" (Benjamin, "Nordische See" 383) [ L o v e was not wel l provided for]. In N o r d i c houses architectural and functional boundaries are meant to confine and control ; in Neapol i tan houses sleeping, for example, is done in shifts, at different times o f the day, often not even in beds but behind counters in stores or on steps: "Dieser Schlaf . . . ist also nicht der behutete nordische. A u c h hier Durchdr ingung von T a g und Nacht , Gerauschen und Ruhe, auBerem L ich t und innerem D u n k e l , von StraBe und H e i m " (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 315) [This sleep is not the protected one o f the north. Here , too, the permeation o f day and night, noises and silence, outer light and inner darkness, o f street and home]. In Naples , even sleep is porous. The thought-image describing the city o f Bergen is problematic in that it melds two hundred years o f the c i t y ' s history with the present and draws on decontextualized generalizations about northern Europeans. Similarly, Benjamin depicts Neapoli tans as somewhat quaint throwbacks to an earlier time. H e also tends to "orientalize" them by presenting them as the Other in relation to German culture. Furthermore, Benjamin's attempts to grasp porosity are based on the juxtaposi t ion o f t w o seeming opposites — a juxtaposit ion that contradicts the very concept he wants to elucidate. In Berliner Chronik, [Berl in Chronicle] he recounts his chi ldhood visits to his wealthy grandmother, who lived in spacious, luxurious rooms that gave one a "Gefuhl v o n biirgerl icher Sicherheit"(82) [feeling o f bourgeois security]. Rather than a nostalgic reminiscence, this is a strong cri t icism o f the lifestyle o f his immediate family. Their feeling o f safety was the result o f the certainty that everything was under control: nothing and nobody was out o f place, nothing unpredictable could occur, and everything was as expected. The rooms and their contents were stagnant: nothing moved, nothing changed, nothing ever even wore out: " H i e r herrschte eine Ar t von Dingen , welche, ... im Ganzen so von sich und ihrer Dauer iiberzeugt war, daB sie mit keiner Abnutzung , keinem Erbgang, keinem U m z u g rechnete und immer gleich nahe und gle ich weit von ihrem Ende. . . verharrte" (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 82-83) ["Here reigned a species o f things that was ... so who l ly convinced o f itself and its permanence that it took no account o f wear, inheritance, or moves, remaining forever equally near to and far from its ending" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 41)]. This is the "fur immer gedacht" [intended forever] and "so und nicht anders" [thus and not otherwise] that was absent in Naples. E a c h room in Benjamin's grandmother 's house had a specific function: some were reserved for family Christmas gatherings, 1 0 2 one was used as a guestroom when a married aunt came visit ing, one for the children to play in when the adults wanted peace and quiet, and yet another was used only for his aunt's piano lessons (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 84). H e revisits those rooms in "One-W a y Street," emphasizing their deadly qualities: Hochherrschaft l ich moblierte Zehnzimmerwohnung: ... Das biirgerliche Interieur.. . mit seinen riesigen, von Schnitzereien uberquollenen Biifetts, den sonnenlosen Ecken , ... und den langen Kor r ido ren mit der singenden Gasflamme wi rd adaquat allein der Leiche zur Behausung. ... Die seelenlose Uppigkei t des M o b i l a r s wi rd wahrhafter Komfor t erst vor dem Leichnam. (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 88-89) [Manor ia l ly Furnished T e n - R o o m Apartment: ... The bourgeois interior ... wi th its gigantic sideboards distended with carvings, the sunless corners ... and the long corridors wi th their singing gas flames — fittingly houses only the corpse ... The 1 0 2 Many Jewish-German families adopted traditions and celebrations, especially Christinas and Easter, in order to conform to Christian norms. 165 soulless luxury o f the furnishings becomes true comfort only in the presence o f a dead body. ( "One-Way Street" 447)] These restrictive, overfilled rooms in which only the dead could feel comfortable are in stark contrast to the l ively houses in Naples. The former gave Benjamin nightmares, and the latter awakened his passions. F o r Benjamin, the two houses represent two extreme possibilities: the Neapol i tan house is full o f life and is totally porous; the Nordic house is bound and stagnant, filled wi th seldom-used rooms that w o u l d make better homes for the dead than the l iving. Nap le s is a place where eating and sleeping do not occur in designated places at specific times: " S c h l a f und Essen haben keine Stunde, oftmals keinen Or t " (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 314) [Sleeping and eating have no set time, often no place]. Moreover , sleeping and eating clearly have a significance beyond their biological necessity. At tempts to control these activities are attempts to establish control over the body by architecturally specifying space-time boundaries. Con t ro l o f the body equals control o f the everyday. The acceptance o f the notion that people should conduct themselves in accordance wi th selected norms influences the type o f architecture that a people wi l l produce; this type o f architecture, in turn, reinforces the norms that produced it. Benjamin sought to escape the confining boundaries o f his grandmother 's house in the only room that was not assigned a definite purpose. That room was the loggia — a room that is neither inside nor outside, but resides at the transition point between the two. F o r him it was the most important room o f all because it was "am wenigsten installiert" ["the least furnished"], because it was a space into which the "StraBenlarm hereindrang" ["street noises came in"] , and "weil hier die Hinterhofe mit K inde rn , Dienstboten, Leierkasteninannern, Port iers sich eroffneten" (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 84) ["because it opened onto the back cour tyards , 1 0 3 w i th children, domestic servants, hurdy-gurdy men, and porters" ( " A Ber l i n Chron ic le" 42)]. The loggia gave Benjamin an early experience not only o f spacial porosity, but also, to a degree, o f temporal porosity. O n Sundays, while the other rooms o f the house and their inhabitants changed and slipped into lethargy, the loggia was alive with the sounds o f the outside wor ld . Later, in Naples , Benjamin and L a c i s observed: " E i n Gran v o m Sonntagist in jedem Wochentag versteckt und wievie l Wochen tag in diesem Sonntag!" (Benjamin and L a c i s , " N e a p e l " 311) [ "A grain o f Sunday is hidden in each weekday. A n d how much weekday there is in this Sunday!" ("Naples" 417)]. They found it almost impossible to determine what day o f the week it was by observing the activities o f the Neapoli tans, as something celebratory occurred every day. In his radio talk about Naples , Benjamin explained this temporal porosity as fol lows: D a habe ich euch ein biBchen v o m A l l t a g und ein biBchen v o m Festtag Neapels erzahlt, und das Merkwi i rd igs t e ist, wie beide ineinandergehen, wie an jedem A l l t a g die StraBen etwas Festliches haben, vol l von Mus iks t i i cken und von MuBiggangern sind, iiber denen die Wasche wie Fahnen flattert, und wie auch noch der Sonntag etwas v o m Werk tag hat, wei l jeder kleiner Kramer seinen Laden offen halten kann bis in die Nacht . (Benjamin, "Rundfunkgeschichten fur K i n d e r " 213) [ N o w I have told you about the everyday and a bit about holidays in Naples . The most noteworthy is how the two merge into one another, h o w the streets are somewhat festive every weekday — they are full o f music and idlers, over wh ich the 1 0 3 At this time, apartment buildings in Berlin were built around a whole block, with a public yard in the centre. 167 laundry flutters l ike flags — and how Sundays contain a bit o f weekdays, because every little shopkeeper can keep his shop open until late at night] Just as daily life is not compartmentalized, so the passage o f time in Naples is not a linear counting o f days, weeks, and months. Traces o f work days are to be found on Sundays and holidays, just as traces o f the festive are to be found in every work day. Benjamin further develops the concept o f the porosity o f time in his w o r k on memory and history ~ a w o r k that R o g e r S imon has used so fruitfully in critical pedagogy. Benjamin engaged in a process o f excavation that entailed repeatedly examining objects and constellations in order to il luminate their significance. It is not the object or event itself that is vital , but rather the process o f analysis. This process does not assume a linear narrative o f progress, but rather attempts to illuminate the object o f study from as many positions as possible. In " A B e r l i n Chronicle" Benjamin explains this k ind o f archeological activity as fol lows: "S ie diirfen sich nicht scheuen, immer wieder auf einen und denselben Sachverhalt zu r i i ckzukommen ihn auszustreuen wie man E r d e ausstreut, ihn umzuwi ih len wie man E r d e umwiihlt . Denn Sachverhalte sind nur Lagerungen, Schichten, die erst der sorgsamsten Durchforschung das ausliefern, was die wahren Werte ... ausmacht" (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 52-53) ["He must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it, as one scatters earth, to turn over as one turns over soil . F o r the matter itself is only a deposit, a stratum, which yields only to the most meticulous examination what constitutes the real hidden treasure" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 26)]. This process entails excavating through the layers o f meaning produced by discourses and memory. Each layer provides clues to h o w objects, events, and actions have been judged over time. Fo r Benjamin, the most important insights are to be gained by analyzing refuse — that which has been discarded (a topic to wh ich I w i l l return later in this chapter). What is clear is that Benjamin's project is not l inear-chronological , culminating in a finished product, rather, it remains unfinished, look ing at the textual weave, the ways that the various dimensions o f various constellations are woven together. H i s project also seeks to examine the constellations o f his o w n life and work . L o o k i n g back at his chi ldhood, Benjamin explains how the porosity o f loggias enabled h im to escape from the regimentation o f his life and the watchful eyes o f adults. After meeting Lac i s , the loggia ~ this l ink between inside/outside, public/private, control/freedom — gained further significance: it was associated with love. In " O n e - W a y Street," the section entitled " L o g g i a " lists the names o f f lowers often found in the loggia, beside each o f which there is an aphoristic statement pertaining to his understanding o f the experience o f love. One further link between the loggia o f Benjamin 's chi ldhood and his trip to Capr i is his choice o f the adjective "pompejanisch" [Pompeian] (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 85) to describe the red o f the loggia 's walls. This choice is probably a reminder o f his trip to Capr i , as his descriptions rarely mention colour unless it has a particular significance. A s a chi ld , Benjamin encountered porosity in the form o f the possibility for a brief respite from the oppressive atmosphere o f his grandmother 's and his o w n home. In his later life, porosi ty was as a k ind o f law that governed the lives o f the Neapoli tans. In developing the concept o f porosi ty wi th Lac i s , he understood its potential to subvert, and perhaps even to oppose, the control l ing practices o f dominant powers. M o r e generally, the loggia, as its name indicates, is an architectural feature that originated in Italy. In "Ber l iner Kindhei t urn Neunzehnhundert" ["Berlin Ch i ldhood around 1900"] Benjamin was even more explicit about the links between the loggia and his trip to Capr i . In describing the loggia o f his parents ' home, he observed: "Ich glaube, daB ein Beisa tz dieser Luf t noch u m die Weinberge von Capr i war, in denen ich die Geliebte umschlungen hielt; und es ist eben diese Luft , in der die B i l d e r und Allegorien stehen, die fiber meinem Denken herrschen" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner K indhe i t " 294) [I think that a mixture o f this air was sti l l around the Capr i vineyards in wh ich I t ightly embraced my beloved; and it is precisely this air in which the images and allegories that dominate my thinking are to be found]. The relationship between the loggia and Capr i were both central to his thoughts and intoxicating. H e refers to: "die Luf t der Hofe , [die] auf immer berauschend blieb" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Kindhe i t " 294) [the air o f the courtyard, (that) always remained intoxicating]. Aga in , the physical, emotional, and intellectual are w o v e n together and described in terms o f their materiality. The body is key to that materiality, as is evidenced by Benjamin 's use o f erotically charged language. Sexuality, sensuality, and eroticism are prominent dimensions o f Benjamin 's life and work , and, until recently, they have been all but neglected. E v a Geulen recognizes that Benjamin 's texts are "saturated wi th the imagery o f gendered eroticism. This determines not only a significant aspect o f his prose 's seductive beauty but pertains also to the polit ical materialism o f his thought" (162). F o r a "wohlgeborenes B i i r g e r k i n d " (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 7) ["son o f wealthy, middle-class parents" ( " A B e r l i n Chron ic le" 3)], sex was a taboo subject, something that occurred behind the closed doors o f specifically designated places within a constr ic t ing house . 1 0 4 A s a child he felt imprisoned by the boundaries o f his family and their social posit ion: "In meiner Kindhei t war ich ein Gefangener" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Kindhe i t " 286) [During my chi ldhood I was a prisoner]. H i s imprisonment extended beyond the houses his family occupied to the topography o f B e r l i n itself, where he sought to overstep two o f those boundaries: that o f class and that o f sexuality. Whi l e wa lk ing along a street in Ber l in he experienced an unusual feeling: "ein Gefuhl , die Schwelle der eigenen Klasse nun zum erstenmal zu iiberschreiten" ["a feeling o f crossing the threshold o f one's o w n class for the first time"]. This feeling o f transgressing his o w n class boundaries occurred when he was confronted wi th the "fast beispiellosen Fasz ina t ion , auf offener StraBe eine H u r e m For a further examination of the formation of desire within the "social topography" of the middle-class home, in which the family's bedrooms are upstairs and the servants' quarters are in the "nether world" downstairs, see Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986) 150-153. anzusprechen" (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 25) ["almost unequalled fascination o f publicly accosting a whore in the street" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 11)]. Recount ing the same incident in " B e r l i n C h i l d h o o d , " he formulated the significance o f this feeling more strongly: "ein Gefuhl ... meiner eigenen Klasse abzusagen" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Kindhe i t " 288) [a feeling ... o f refusing my o w n class]. A s he explained the incident, Benjamin not only took a small step over a class boundary, but he also publicly demonstrated his refusal o f his own social class. Cross ing boundaries is prominent in Benjamin 's life, be they psychological , poli t ical , or intellectual. Thus, his acknowledgement o f the prostitute takes on numerous layers o f significance. Whi l e Benjamin interpreted this event as an act o f rebellious border-crossing, it can also be seen as an act o f conformity. A c c o r d i n g to the prevail ing middle-class morals o f the time, although prostitutes were considered to be tainted, it was implic i t ly assumed that men wou ld sexually engage with lower-class women (usually prostitutes), while middle-class women wou ld remain virgins until their wedding day. So in speaking to a prostitute, far from rebelling, Benjamin may be seen as accepting the a class and gender-based double standard, particularly given that he later often " took his pleasure" wi th street prostitutes. Nevertheless, Benjamin constructs this particular encounter wi th a prostitute as a starting point for gaining insight into the positions o f the marginalized, unprivileged members o f society. H i s later poli t ical project, in which Lac i s plays a major role, is to begin to find ways o f g i v i n g a voice to the voiceless — to those whose marginal status is closely associated with the belief that they are dirty, useless, and without value. This complex constellation o f dirt, value judgement, and sex is closely associated wi th the topography o f the city. The sexuality associated with the street and wi th prostitutes is both literally and figuratively "di r ty ." L i v i n g in Ber l in , Benjamin sometimes spends the night wi th a prostitute or is helped/serviced by one in a doorway: Ich habe in Be r l i n nie auf der StraBe gelegen. ... Ich habe immer ein Quartier gefunden, manchmal allerdings war es ein spates und ein unbekanntes dazu, das ich nie wieder bezog und in dem ich auch nicht allein war. Wenn ich so spat unter einem Hausbogen innehielt, hatten sich meine Beine in die Bander der StraBe verwickel t , und die saubersten Hande waren es nicht, die mich befreiten. (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 56) [I never slept in the streets o f Be r l i n ... I always found quarters, even though sometimes tardy and also unknown ones that I did not revisit and where I was not alone. I f I paused thus late in a doorway, my legs had become entangled in the ribbons o f the street, and it was not the cleanest o f hands that freed me. ( " A Ber l i n Chron ic le" 27-28)] The assignation o f the adjective "dir ty" constitutes a form o f social ordering predicated upon a value judgement. That which is disorderly or improper is d i r t y . 1 0 5 F o r Benjamin, cleanliness is uninteresting because it discloses so little. O f clean objects he says: " D i e Dinge sind blank ... Sauberkeit treibt sie in sich zur i i ck" (Benjamin, "Nordische See" 383) [The things are spotless ... cleanliness drives them back into themselves]. T o be clean means to be devoid o f traces o f l iving. So it is by examining dirt that one is able to comprehend the creation o f d ichotomous categories and the danger o f thresholds. F o r Benjamin, the threshold is both the literal and figurative point at which porosity manifests itself. It is the point where the boundaries between inside/outside, public/private, past/present are unclear and, therefore, can be transgressed. Transgression o f these boundaries is 1 0 5 For a detailed discussion of the social construction of dirt, see Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger. often achieved wi th the assistance o f a prostitute. A s Sigr id Weige l convincingly argues, in Benjamin 's w o r k prostitutes function as "Schwellenhuterinnen" [guardians o f thresholds]. A c c o r d i n g to her analysis, in " B e r l i n Ch i ldhood , " the whore is the gatekeeper between the innocence o f chi ldhood and the sexual knowledge o f adulthood. In the "Arcades Project ," the whore occupies a threshold posit ion between past and present. 1 0 6 It should be noted that women, not men, sit at the "Schwel l e" [threshold]. In his thought-image "San Gimignano , " for example, the women o f the vil lage sit at the thresholds o f their houses, the point where inside and outside meet, and where passage from one to the other is possible: " [A] l l e Frauen haben ihren P la tz auf der Schwelle, ganz korpernah am Grund und Boden ... Der Stuhl vor der Haust i i r ist schon Wahrzeichen stadtischer Neuerungen" (Benjamin, "San Gimignano" 365) [ A l l women have their place at the threshold, physically close to the ground and the earth ... The chair in front o f the house door is already a sign o f urban innovation]. It is the women who, sitting at the threshold between inside and outside, provide the key to change. 1 0 7 A s previously discussed, Benjamin saw his life as being mapped onto streets, and those streets played a key role in his passionate awakenings. H e met the prostitute whi le he was wandering the streets o f B e r l i n ; he met Lacis while he was wandering the streets o f Capr i . Together, he and L a c i s examined the streets o f Naples . H i s exploration o f his relationship with Lac is converged wi th his attempt to understand city life, as may be seen in " O n e - W a y Street" and in his works about M o s c o w — the city he explored while visit ing a sick Lac is . This topography is closely l inked to social thresholds and the possibility o f their being crossed: "Stets aber war am 1 0 6 It must be noted, however, there are two main problems with Weigel's analysis: it remains at a very abstract level and it reduces women to either mothers or whores. Furthermore, her psychoanalytical examination does not take into account either the city or the body, both of which were of vital concern to Benjamin. 1 0 7 To be sure, this image is problematic in that it could be understood to assign the feminine to nature. Anfang dieses Uberschreiten einer sozialen Schwelle auch das einer topographischen" (Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 25) [However , always at the beginning o f crossing a social threshold there was also the crossing o f a topographical one ] . 1 0 8 The physical, material crossing precedes the emotional, intellectual crossing. This brings us back to Benjamin's room down in the labyrinth o f the vineyards — the r o o m that parallels the bodily reality o f everyday life in the city streets o f Naples . One dimension o f that reality, o f course, is primarily associated with food and eating, often in conjunction wi th sexual i ty . 1 0 9 As t r id Deube r -Mankowsky ' s discussion o f Benjamin 's engagement wi th the w o r k o f the French feminist writer, Claire Demar , indicates his fascination for Demar ' s radical feminist/socialist project o f the "Rehabil i t ierung der Sinnlichkei t" (16) [rehabilitation o f sensuality]. D e u b e r - M a n k o w s y limits her discussion to the "Arcades Project ," in wh ich Benjamin cites Demar extensively; however, this "rehabilitation" is evident throughout much o f his work , and it cannot be fully understood without examining its intersection with the private sphere. Benjamin often describes eating experiences as being particularly sensuous. These texts, primarily his thought-images, have received no crit ical attention in the interpretive discourse. In "Pranzo caprese" [Capri dinner], which is one segment o f the thought-image "Essen" [Food] , Benjamin recounts an evening when he went to visit Lacis , who was out when he arrived. D u r i n g the ensuing dialogue wi th her landlady, he was cajoled into having dinner wi th the latter. H i s description o f that evening intermingles the sensuality o f food and sexuality: " [D]avon gepackt, gewalkt zu werden, ganz und gar, von K o p f bis F u B , von dieser Speise durchgeknetet, von ihr wie von ihren Handen ergriffen, gepreBt und mit ihrem Saft — dem Saft der Speise oder dem der Frau , das hatte ich nicht mehr sagen konnen ~ eingerieben zu werden" (Benjamin, "Essen" 379) [To be 1 0 8 Jephcott's translation, "At the beginning, however, this was a crossing of frontiers not only social but topographical" (11), loses the concept of the threshold altogether. 1 0 9 Benjamin also met Lacis in a shop buying food. While she was attempting to buy almonds, he came to her assistance, supplying her with the Italian word for them. 174 totally seized and pummelled by this food, from head to foot; to be thoroughly kneaded by it, to be grabbed, pressed as i f by its hands and to be rubbed with its juices — the juices o f the food or the woman , I was no longer able to s a y ] . " 0 In this passage, Benjamin clearly attempted to "rehabilitate" sensuality, albeit from a distinctly male, heterosexual perspective. A similar intermingling o f sexuality and the sensuality o f food also occurs in Benjamin 's reconstruction o f his chi ldhood. In " O n e - W a y Street" (and reprinted in " A Ber l i n Chronicle") , there is a segment that describes a young child sneaking into the pantry at night to secretly revel in the sensuality o f gustatory pleasures. The sexual imagery o f the description is unmistakable: Im Spalt des kaum geoffneten Speiseschranks dringt seine Hand wie ein Liebender durch die Nacht vor. 1st sie dann in der Finsternis zu Hause, so tastet sie nach Z u c k e r o d e r M a n d e l n , nach Sultaninen oderEingemachtem. U n d wiederLiebhaber , ehe er's ktiBt, sein Madchen umarmt, so hat der Tastsinn mit ihnen ein Stelldichein, ehe der M u n d ihre Si iBigkei t kostet. W i e gibt der H o n i g , geben Haufen von Kor in then , gibt sogar Reis sich schmeichelnd in die Hand . W i e leidenschaftlich dies Begegnen beider, die endlich nun dem Loffel entronnen sind. Dankbar und w i l d , wie eine, die man aus dem Elternhause sich geraubt hat, gibt hier die Erdbeermarmelade ohne Semmel und gleichsam unter Gottes freiem H i m m e l sich zu schmecken, und selbst die Butter erwidert mit Zartl ichkeit die Kuhnheit eines Werbers, der in ihre Magdekammer vorstieB. Die Hand, der jugendliche D o n Juan, ist bald in alle Ze l l en und Gelasse eingedrungen, hinter sich rinnende Schichten und stromende Mengen . (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 114) 1 1 0 The grammatical gender of food ("Speise") is feminine, adding a further dimension to the German original that is lost in the English translation. [Through the chink o f the scarcely open larder door, his hand advances l ike a lover through the night. Once at home in the darkness, it gropes towards sugar or almonds, raisins or preserves. A n d just as the lover embraces his girl before kissing her, the chi ld 's hand enjoys a tactile tryst wi th the comestibles before his mouth savours their sweetness. H o w flatteringly honey, heaps o f currants, even rice yield to his hand! H o w passionate this meeting o f two who have at last escaped the spoon! Grateful and tempestuous, l ike someone who has been abducted from the parental home, strawberry jam, unencumbered by bread rolls, abandons itself to his delectation and, as i f under open sky, even the butter responds tenderly to the boldness o f the wooer who has penetrated her boudoir. H i s hand, the juvenile D o n Juan, has soon invaded all the cells and spaces, leaving behind it running layers and streaming plenty. ( "One-Way Street" 4 6 4 ) ] ' " T o u c h and taste are closely intertwined in this textual weave, as are past and present sensuality. The early sensual pleasures o f chi ldhood return in a new form to include sexuality. The food takes on the passive, yielding role o f the woman, with the child = boy in the active male role o f engaging in bold invasion and penetration. A l though Benjamin was unable to imagine sexual roles other than the dominant ones o f his time and class, his attempt to rehabilitate the sensual was a radical move — especially given that the empirical paradigm o f knowledge production was then gaining increasing acceptance in virtually all academic fields. H e was true to his pursuit o f alternatives to institutional knowledge — alternatives that included bodily perceptions. In this pursuit, Benjamin attempted to 1 1 1 Bullock and Jennings' translation has a somewhat different tone than does Benjamin's original text. One reason for this is the rather sophisticated vocabulary found in the translation as opposed to the everyday language found in the original. Second, the translated title of this segment, "Pilfering Chi ld , " loses the connotation of secretly eating (usually sweets) of the original title, "Naschendes K i n d . " Also missing in the translation is the specific reference to "penetrating" the maid's chamber. This omission is significant, for, as Stallybrass and White have amply demonstrated, during the late 19 t h and early 20' h century, middle-class male desire was often strongly bound to the maid. step over thresholds and to destabilize boundaries in order to present new constellations o f passions at the intersection o f the emotional and intellectual. B o t h in chi ldhood and adulthood, one element o f sensual pleasure is the slight danger o f being caught doing something forbidden — something that breaks boundaries. In "One-Way Street," Ben jamin reinvests the scene o f sneaking food from the pantry with the added dimension o f sexuality. This passage is somewhat reminiscent o f the Song o f Songs in that it combines the sensual pleasures o f food with sexual pleasures. It was written shortly after Benjamin's sexual-sensual awakening wi th Lac i s , which , as previously mentioned, he referred to indirectly by way o f the Song o f Songs in a letter to Scholem. His relationship with Lac i s also smacks o f the tasting o f forbidden fruit, as Benjamin was married and L a c i s was involved in another relationship. M o r e o v e r , she was neither Jewish nor middle-class. A n d further, many o f the foods so passionately consumed — almonds, raisins, currants ~ are from southern countries, thus suggestive o f their passionate first meeting in Italy. This instance o f not adhering to the family timetable o f eating only at regular meal times is also a reminder that, in Naples , meals and sensory pleasures are one element o f porosity: "Zarte Sonnen entziinden sich in den Glasbottichen mit Eisgetranken. T a g und Nacht strahlen diese Pavi l ions mit den blassen aromatischen Saften, an denen selbst die Zunge lernt, was es mit der Porosi tat fur Bewandtnis hat" (Benjamin and Lacis , "Neape l" 311) ["Faint suns shine from glass vats o f iced drinks. D a y and night the pavilions g l o w with the pale, aromatic juices that teach even the tongue what porosity can be" ("Naples" 418)] . Ea t ing and dr inking are not merely means o f fuelling the body, they are a means o f experiencing porosity through the body. A n d indeed, it is often through the body that Benjamin gains insights when with Lac i s . This chapter 's introductory quotation, taken from " O n e - W a y Street," refers to l ighting the way and being enabled to see. A l s o in " O n e - W a y Street" Benjamin describes L a c i s ' absence as a loss o f hearing: " E i n T o r befindet sich am Anfang eines langen Weges, der bergab zu dem Hause v o n ... leitet, die ich allabendlich besuchte. A l s sie ausgezogen war, lag die Offnung des Torbogens von nun an wie eine Ohrmuschel vo r mir, die das Gehor verloren hat"("EinbahnstraBe" 90) ["At the beginning o f the long downhi l l lane that leads to the house of...., w h o m T visited each evening, is a gate. After she moved, the opening o f its archway henceforth stood before me like an ear that has lost the power o f hearing" ( "One-Way Street" 4 4 7 ) ] . 1 1 2 In stark contrast to Naples ' voluptuous sensuality is its ubiquitous poverty, and this provides a further dimension o f porosity: "Das Elend hat eine D e h n u n g der Grenzen zustande gebracht" (Benjamin, "Rundfunkgeschichten fur K i n d e r " 214) [Misery has brought about an expansion o f boundaries]. In Naples , Benjamin and Lacis were confronted with abject poverty daily, leading them to conclude: "Das Elend ist groB in der Stadt" (Benjamin, "Rundfunkgeschichten fur K i n d e r " 214) [There is great misery in the city]. One o f the first observations in "Nap les" concerns that widespread poverty, which is evident both in the streets o f the city and in how it has been institutionalized. A beggar lies in the street, and his presence indicates a descent — possibly to the grave or to hell. Streets lined with misery are indicators o f a general descent into inhumanity, into a hidden repository o f the marginalized: " E i n Bettler liegt gegen den Biirgers teig gelehnt auf dem Fahrdamm und schwenkt wie Abschiednehmende am Bahnhof den leeren Hut . H i e r ftihrt das E l end hinab ... durch einen 'Gar ten der Qualen ' , noch heute sind die Enterbten darinnen F i ih re r" (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 308) ["A beggar lies in the road propped against the sidewalk, wav ing his empty hat l ike a leave-taker at a station. Here poverty leads d o w n w a r d ... through a 'garden o f agony ' ; in it, even today, the disinherited are the leaders" ("Naples" 415)]. 1 1 2 The name of the person whose house he visited is elided in the original text. From the German, it is clear that the person was a woman, as the relative pronoun is feminine: "Haus von ... leitet, die" This metaphoric description is then fol lowed by a description o f what Lac is and Benjamin observe along the street leading to the poorhouse o f Naples — a material repos i to ry o f the marginal ized: " Z u beiden Seiten der StraBe stehen die B a n k e der Siechen. D e n Heraustretenden folgen sie mit B l i c k e n , die nicht verraten, ob sie ihnen ans K l e i d sich klammern, u m befreit z u werden oder unvorstellbare Geli iste an ihnen zu buBen" (Benjamin and Lac i s , " N e a p e l " 308) ["On either side o f the road stand benches for the inva l ids , 1 1 3 who fo l low those going out w i th glances that do not reveal whether they are cl inging to their garments wi th hopes o f being,liberated or with hopes o f satisfying unimaginable desires" ("Naples" 415)]. The inhabitants o f the poorhouse are locked away, a l lowed out only to sit at the side o f the road and to watch life pass them by. The act o f lock ing them away silences them: their requests are mute, spoken only wi th the body, the eyes. Passers-by can only guess at what those requests might be, as they hurry by, afraid o f contagion and seeking to escape their shame. The discomfort o f the passers-by is a source o f pleasure for the incarcerated: " Im zweiten H o f sind die Kammerausgange vergittert; dahinter stellen die K r i i p p e l ihre Schaden zur Schau, und der Schrecken vertraumter Passanten ist ihre Freude" (Benjamin and Lac i s , "Neape l " 308) ["In the second courtyard, the doorways o f the chambers have gratings; behind them the cripples display their deformities, and the shock given to daydreaming passers-by is their j o y " ("Naples" 415)]. Their j oy is that o f forcing the passers-by to acknowledge their existence by means o f shocking them, for otherwise those outside w o u l d not be aware o f them at all . Benjamin 's and L a c i s ' concept o f porosity seeks to give voice to the voiceless. Cr i t ics have investigated the recuperation o f the l iv ing refuse o f society in Benjamin's "Arcades Project" but not, 1 1 3 The German word "Siechen" includes the idea of languishing or wasting away. This is lost in the translation "invalid." to any great degree, in his other wr i t i ngs . 1 1 4 One exception is G i l l o c h , who examines the importance o f certain marginalized figures in Benjamin's investigations into modern urban life. "One o f Benjamin 's principal goals is to give voice to the 'periphera, ' the experiences o f those w h o m modern forms o f order strive to render silent and invisible" (G i l l och 9). Those figures are primarily the poor: the families l iv ing in overcrowded conditions and struggling to survive, the inhabitants o f the poorhouses, and the destitute beggars l iving in the streets. G i l l o c h points out Benjamin 's attention to those relegated to the outermost margins o f society and his disdain for those, l ike his o w n family, who live comfortably and w o u l d rather not be discomforted by even the sight o f the poor and the i l l . A c c o r d i n g to the dominant order, the poor and the ill are "deviant," and, as their numbers cl imb in the expanding cities, there is an "increasing compartmentalization o f space and the removal o f disruptive and disturbing figures from everyday life. The poor and the dispossessed vanish as modern 'hygiene' demands the institutionalization and confinement o f the dead, the sick, the insane and the disabled" (G i l l och 8). Foucaul t refers to "normal iz ing judgement" that "compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes ... by bringing into play the binary opposi t ion o f the permitted and forbidden" (Foucault , "The Means o f Correct Tra in ing" 195; emphasis in original). Conspicuous consumption is permitted by the dominant normal iz ing judgement o f the r ich and powerful in Benjamin 's Ber l in , whereas begging, and thereby poverty, are forbidden and must be both punished and ultimately expunged. Beggars are removed from the streets and locked up in the poorhouses or jails where they are neither seen nor heard but can be controlled. Their very presence in the streets is interpreted as an act o f resistance against the established order, and it not only "'' See especially Wohlfarth, "Et Cetera? The Historian as ChifFonnier," New German Critique 39 (1986): 143-68 for a detailed examination of the doubly marginalized figure of the ragpicker, both representation and embodiment of the Lumpenproletariat, who ekes out a marginal existence by collecting rubbish and finding a new use for it. affronts, challenges, and threatens but also plays on the emotions -- specifically, fear and shame: " A r m u t und E lend w i r k e n so ansteckend, wie man sie K inde rn vorstellt, und die narrische Angst , iiberbevorteilt zu werden, ist nur die durft igeRationalisierung dieses Gefuhls" (Benjamin and Lac i s , " N e a p e l " 308) ["Poverty and misery seem as contagious as they appear in descriptions aimed at children, and the foolish fear o f being cheated is only a scanty rationalization for this feeling" ("Naples" 415)] . The unease caused by their o w n privilege is rationalized by the possibili ty o f contagion by the forbidden — poverty and misery — which , in turn, invokes fear. Benjamin 's observations concerning poverty and destitution in Be r l i n are recorded in "Reise durch die deutsche Inflation" [ A Tour through the German Inflation], wh ich later became a chapter in " O n e - W a y Street." Benjamin gave this essay, written short ly before his journey to Capr i , to Scholem, who understood it to be about the "immediate horror o f the experienced present" (Scholem, Friendship 119). In it Benjamin comes to the conclusion: " U n m o g l i c h , in einer deutschen GroBstadt zu leben, in welcher Hunger die Elendsten zwingt, von den Scheinen zu leben, mit denen die Vorubergehenden eine BlbBe zu decken suchen, die sie verwundet" (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 96) ["It is impossible to remain in a large German city, where hunger forces the most wretched to l ive on the banknotes wi th which the passers-by seek to cover an exposure that wounds them" ( "One-Way Street" 452)]. H e is highly critical o f the privileged, who seek to ease their o w n discomfort by throwing money at the poor rather than attempting to incur some form o f substantive change. Benjamin 's o w n sheltered middle-class chi ldhood in Be r l i n cut him off from numerous aspects o f urban life. Just as the homes and rooms in which his family l ived were compartmentalized, due to a desire to fit the norm, so too was the urban landscape. H i s family 's perceived need to "assimilate," to act only as permitted, was complicated by the contradict ion o f being both in a privileged economic position and being Jews — a contradiction o f wh ich Benjamin became increasingly aware throughout his life. In later life he understood that his chi ldhood had been spent in the confines o f the middle-class w o r l d o f his family: "In dies Quart ier Besi tzender blieb i ch geschlossen, ohne um ein anderes zu wissen" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Kindhe i t " 287) [I remained enclosed wi th in this district o f the propertied without knowing o f anything else]. Pover ty existed for Benjamin only in the form o f beggars, w h o m he rarely glimpsed: " D i e A r m e n — fur die reichen K i n d e r meines Al ters gab es sie nur als Bett ler" (Benjamin, "Ber l iner Kindhe i t " 287) [The poor — for the rich children o f my age, existed only as beggars]. Pover ty , illness, and death had their assigned spaces far from the homes o f the increasingly wealthy and powerful . In those homes where he spent his ch i ldhood, a l though they had more in common wi th death than with life, there was no room set aside for death: " D a s E l e n d konnte in diesen Raumen keine Stelle haben, in welchen j a nicht einmal der T o d sie hatte. Sie hatten keinen R a u m z u m Sterben — darum starben ihreBesi tzer im Sanatorium"(Benjamin, Berliner Chronik 83) ["Poverty could have no place in these rooms where even death had none. They had no space for dying — which is why their owners died in a sanatorium" ( " A Ber l in Chron ic le" 41)]. Here one can observe G i l l o c h ' s "hygiene," wh ich institutionalizes poverty, misery, illness, and death. Socia l institutions exercise control by drawing parameters around permissible and impermissible actions, between the worthy and the worthless. These boundaries are not only conceptual but, once again, writ ten on the body: "Schmutz und Elend wachsen wie Mauern als Werk von unsichtbaren Handen um sie hoch" (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 97) [Filth and misery g r o w up around them l ike walls, the w o r k o f invis ible hands ("One-Way Street" 452)]. Unseen hands construct invisible walls around those who live in poverty, effectively silencing them. The "deviants" o f society are controlled not only by means o f punishment and regulation but by being categorized as social refuse. The determination o f what is garbage and should therefore be discarded, both literally and figuratively, is an effect o f a socially constructed from o f orde r ing . 1 1 5 H u m a n detritus, those who challenge existing classifications, are excluded from public discourse: they are criminalized, incarcerated, or simply left to die. The categorization o f the destitute as garbage is related to the fact that they are not part o f the commodi ty exchange economy. W i t h i n this dominant order, they are deemed non-producing, non-contributing members o f society and, therefore, useless and, above all, dispensable. This conceptual transforming o f people into rubbish is facilitated by the widespread commodif icat ion o f people as wel l as things. Once people become commodif ied, it is not difficult to turn those who deviate from the norms into society 's refuse. 1 1 6 This detritus, which consists o f both objects and people, is what Benjamin and L a c i s examine in Naples and what increasingly becomes the focus o f Benjamin 's work . W i t h regard to the "Arcades Project," on which he worked from 1927 until his suicide in 1940, Benjamin outlines his methodology as fol lows: M e t h o d e dieser Arbei t ... Ich werde nichts Wertvol les entwenden und mir keine geistvollen Formulierungen aneignen. Aber die Lumpen , den Abfa l l : die w i l l ich nicht inventarisieren sondern sie auf die einzig mogliche Weise zu ihrem Rechte kommen lassen: sie verwenden. (Benjamin, "Arcades Project" 574) [Method o f this w o r k ... I w i l l appropriate nothing valuable and adopt no clever formulations. B u t the rags, the refuse: I do not wish to take an inventory o f them, but rather a l low them to come into their own by the only possible means: by using them.] 1 1 5 Mary Douglas analyses the construction of the category of dirt and demonstrates how it functions as a negative category of social ordering, associated with disorder and, ultimately, with chaos. Geyer-Ryan also discusses the "social value system of purity and filth" (109). "° This practice is still alive and well. Helmut Maucher, chair of the Nestle executive board, was awarded the 1997 prize for the "Unwort des Jahres" [the year's most dehumanizing addition to the German language]. Maucher coined the German term "Wohlstandsmiill," meaning prosperity's waste product, to refer to people unable or (allegedly) unwilling to work (i.e., those who do not contribute to prosperity). 183 B y using both what and w h o m has been constructed as rubbish, Benjamin attempts to understand the processes involved in making such constructions and so to propose, or at least to imagine, the possibili ty o f more just and humane alternatives. The poros i ty here is between the everyday, the private, and the academic as wel l as between theory and practice. This is another example o f how Benjamin 's relationship with Lac i s and their exploration o f porosity helped him, as Brodersen indicates, to w o r k beyond established disciplinary boundaries and "to step beyond the limits o f his o w n thinking and creative product ion" (Walter Benjamin 144). Before Benjamin met Lacis , he was searching for new points o f reference, for new ways o f understanding the new urban reality. H e wrote his scathing observations on inflation in Be r l i n before travell ing to Capr i , and he later included them, in only slightly altered form, in " O n e - W a y Street," wh ich was dedicated to Lac i s — the "engineer" o f the new street, the new points o f reference, in him and his work . In the fo l lowing passage, Benjamin condemns those who ignore the misery around them and cl ing to their privileged positions: W e r sich der Wahrnehmung des Verfalls nicht entzieht, der wi rd unverweilt dazu ubergehen, eine besondere Rechtfert igung fur sein Verwei len , seine Tatigeit und seine Bete i l igung an diesem Chaos in Anspruch nehmen. So viele Einsichten ins allgemeine Versagen, so viele Ausnahmen fiir den eigenen Wirkungskreis , Wohnor t und Augenbl ick . D e r blinde Wi l l e , von der personlichen Exis tenz eher das Prestige zu retten ... setzt sich fast uberall durch. D a r u m ist die Luft so vol l ... von Trugbi ldern, Luftspiegelungen ... wei l jeder auf die optischen Tauschungen seines isolierten Standpunktes sich verpflichtet. (Benjamin, "EinbahnstraBe" 98-99) [Anyone who does not simply refuse to perceive decline w i l l hasten to claim a special justification for his own continued presence, his activity and involvement in 184 this chaos. There are as many exceptions for one's o w n sphere o f action, place o f residence, and moment o f time as there are insights into the general failure. B l i n d determination to save the prestige o f personal existence ... is t r iumphing almost everywhere. That is why the air is teeming ... wi th phantoms, mirages o f a glorious cultural future breaking upon us overnight in spite o f all , for everyone is committed to the optical i l lusions o f his isolated standpoint. ( "One-Way Street" 453)] Benjamin could have been cr i t ic iz ing himself for remaining in Germany and attempting to l ive his life as he always had — l iving in a privileged position and being blind to the conditions that brought about the misery o f those not so privileged. In other words , he was part o f the complex processes that created and perpetuated the structures that punished anyone who deviated from the norm. Over the years, Benjamin developed a method for permeating these structures. It included recognizing that their boundaries differ in differing contexts and that one needs to employ a shift o f perspective — from that o f the dominant to that o f the marginalized — in order to gain an understanding o f how they are constaicted. Thus the refuse becomes what is most valuable, as can be seen in the fo l lowing: Kle ine r methodologischer Vorsch lag ... E s ist sehr leicht, fur jede Epoche auf ihren verschiedenen "Gebieten" Zweitei lungen nach bestimmten Gesichtspunkten vorzunehmen, dergestalt daB auf der einen Seite der "fruchtbare," "zukunftsvol le ," "lebendige," "posi t ive," auf der anderen der vergebliche, ruckstandige, abgestorbene Tei l dieser Epoche liegt.... Daher ist es von entscheidender Wicht igkei t , diesem, vorab ausgeschiedenen, negativen Te i l e von neuem eine Te i lung zu applizieren, derart, daB, mit einer Verschiebung des Gesichtswinkels (nicht aber derMaBstabe! ) auch in ihm von neuem Posit ives und ein anderes zu Tage tritt als das vorher bezeichnete [sic], (Benjamin, "Arcades Project" 573) [ A small, methodological suggestion ... It is very easy for every era to split their o w n "areas" according to definite perspectives so that on the one hand the "fruitful ," " forward- looking ," " l i v e l y , " "posi t ive," are opposed to the futile, antiquated, dead part o f the era on the other. . . It is therefore o f crucial importance to apply a new division to these already eliminated portions so that something positive and something different from the previously designated appears by means o f a shift o f perspective (but not o f standards!)] In L a c i s ' w o r k wi th orphaned children Benjamin found this shifting o f perspective from dominant to peripheral, from theory to practice. In Chapter 6 I wi l l explore this in more detail. Benjamin 's relationship with Lacis occurred at the intersection o f his life and w o r k and shaped it. Thei r concept o f porosity is vital to understanding that intersection, wh ich includes the fo l lowing: (1) the interaction o f four passions — emotional, physical, poli t ical , and intellectual — that developed during Benjamin 's relationship with Lacis and became permanent dimensions o f his subjectivity; (2) the interaction o f public and private; (3) the interaction o f the intellectual and the physical, wh ich contradicts the traditional mind/body split; and (4) the focus on the perspective o f the marginalized. The scene o f all this is the modern cityscape, particularly its streets and architecture. 186 Chapter 6 Lacis, Moscow, and Radio Pedagogy Meinungen snidfi.ir.den Riesenapparat des gesellschaf(lichen Lebens, was Of fur die Maschine; man sie III sich nicht vor eine Turbine und iibergiefil sie mit Maschinenol. Man spritzl ein wenig davon in verborgene Nieten und Fa gen, die man kennen mufi. Walter Benjamin [Opinions are to the giant apparatus o f social life as oi l to a machine. One does not stand in front o f a turbine and pour machine oi l over it. One squirts a bit o f it into the hidden rivets and seams that one must be familiar w i t h ] Benjamin spent two months, December 1926 and January 1927, l iv ing in M o s c o w , and for the next four years he wrote about what he experienced and learned there. A s L a c i s observed, in going to M o s c o w he had taken on a specific task: "sich in das ungewohnlich M i l i e u einzuleben und es zu verstehen" (Revolutiondr 54) [to familiarize himself with the unusual social surroundings and to understand them]. G i v e n that he had never been to Russ ia and did not speak Russian, it was a difficult task, as is evident from what he wrote to Ju laRadt : " A n dem was ich sehe und hore, werde ich sehr lange zu arbeiten haben, bis es sich mir irgendwie formt" (Briefe V o l . 3, 221). ["I w i l l have to w o r k for a very long time on what I am seeing and hearing before it takes on some kind o f shape for me" (Correspondence 310)]. There were three reasons for Benjamin travelling to M o s c o w , and they all combined the personal and the professional. The first reason was psychological . A s was discussed in Chapter 5, Benjamin often travelled in order to escape from everyday responsibilities, stresses, and hardships. The specific events that occurred shortly before his journey to M o s c o w included the marriage o f the first o f his three great loves, Jula C o h n , to a childhood friend o f his, F r i t z Radt. Subsequently, Benjamin 's father, E m i l , died after a long and painful illness, whereupon Wal ter experienced a series o f nervous b r e a k d o w n s . " 7 Furthermore, his financial situation continued to be unstable at best. U n l i k e some un(der)employed young members o f the "Bi ldungsburger tum" [educated bourgeoisie], including his friend A d o r n o , Benjamin no longer received financial support from his parents. The path to a university career had effectively been blocked when Benjamin did not obtain his habilitation, and unemployment for intellectuals was high. W o r k i n g in Germany as an intellectual not affiliated wi th a university had become a "brotlose Kuns t " [a breadless art; i.e., unpaid w o r k ] . The struggle to receive payment for his work from his publishers, who were either unscrupulous or in financially difficulty themselves, proved to be an ongoing bat t le . 1 1 8 The second reason for his journey to M o s c o w was professional. F o r a left-leaning intel lectual committed to social change and polit ical engagement, M o s c o w was one o f the most excit ing places to be. It was a time o f radical change in almost all aspects o f life. Part icularly in Germany, where there was also great social upheaval, many people were interested in what problems and issues the Russians were attempting to solve. In fact, German interest was so great that the term "revolut ion tour ism" ("Revolutionstourismus") was coined to refer to Germans travelling to M o s c o w . Initially, Benjamin hoped to establish some form o f official tie wi th Russ ia based on the themes common to his work and to the work o f many M o s c o w intellectuals. H i s crit ique o f capitalist society and the role o f the intellectual, strongly evident in his w o r k since his stay in Capr i (especially in " O n e - W a y Street"), made M o s c o w a logical place to turn for new ideas and l ike-minded intellectuals. H e was also look ing for paid w o r k in M o s c o w , and his journey provided him wi th an opportunity to publish a number o f essays and articles in Germany. In fact, he financed his trip with money he was given as advances on various pieces he was to write about 1 1 7 From an unpublished letter, cited in Witte, Waller Benjamin mil Selbslzeugnissen unci Bilddokiimenten 139. 1 1 8 A t that time, there was no form of government social assistance for any of the unemployed. The law providing unemployment support was passed in July, 1927. 188 his observations in M o s c o w (Scholem, "'Preface," Moscow Diary 5). A g a i n , the personal and the professional overlap. The third reason for Benjamin's journey was personal. What prompted him to make the final decision to travel to M o s c o w was news that L a c i s had had a serious nervous breakdown, from which she was recovering in a M o s c o w sanatorium. In spite o f the difficulties in procur ing a visa to travel to Russ i a at that t ime , ' 1 9 Benjamin obtained one extremely quickly. H e learned o f L a c i s ' illness some time in November , and on 6 December 1926 he arrived in M o s c o w . Benjamin 's love for Lac i s is a constant thread through his " M o s k a u e r Tagebuch" [ M o s c o w Diary] , a w o r k that has received rather limited critical attention. It was published relatively late (1980) and was thought to be only o f "biographical" interest. 1 2 0 Moscow Diary is o f particular interest to me precisely because in it Benjamin documents two months in which many dimensions o f his life and work converge and conflict wi th one another. It provides information about and insights into how Benjamin was dealing wi th his wr i t ing , his pos i t ion as a writer/intellectual, and his relationship to L a c i s and her life partner, Bernhard Re ich . Some o f the main themes o f the diary are ones that he pursued for the rest o f his life. A s has been previously discussed, in order to gain a more complete understanding o f what made Benjamin, one must look at the intersection o f his emotional and intellectual landscapes. A s Jaggar argues, reason and emotion are mutually constitutive rather than opposit ional . It should be noted that the emotional is being increasingly examined in crit ical , especially feminist, pedagogy. 1 1 9 Walter and Dora Benjamin's friend, psychologist Charlotte Wolff, had obtained a visa to visit Moscow two years earlier, and she explains that the difficulty in obtaining a visa was due to the fact that in many-districts the inhabitants were starving. Clearly the government did not want foreigners to see these problems (Wolff, On the Way to Myself '198). However, Soviet officialdom soon realized the strategic importance of allowing foreign intellectuals into Moscow. Their enthusiasm would translate into "good press" and European approval. Benjamin himself seems to have been unaware of these issues. 1 2 0 The first volumes of the Gesammelle Sehr ift en [Collected Works] contain nothing that is considered to be autobiographical writings. Benjamin's travel diaries and city portraits are contained in theiast volumes, an indication they were considered of lesser importance than his other work. Recur r ing themes in bell hooks ' Teaching to Transgress are: (1) the claim that pleasure, excitement, and even pain are not inappropriate in formal learning situations but, rather, are necessary elements o f both teaching and learning; and (2) the conclusion that the assumption that truly intellectual w o r k must be cut o f f from emotions is false. Kathleen Weiler , in Women Teaching for Change, notes that the acknowledgment o f the necessity o f examining the intersection o f the public and the personal also requires the inclusion o f emotions (63). M a g d a L e w i s , in Without a Word, cri t icizes academic discourse for precluding scrutiny o f the private (including emotions). She pays particular attention to the anger o f female students experiencing subtle forms o f exclusion that are not easily documented wi th "hard" evidence, and she outlines the positive potential o f that anger for teaching and learning (Lewis , Without a Word 61 -68). Moscow Diary provides a great deal o f evidence concerning Benjamin's emotions while in M o s c o w . A t first he was quite hopeful about his relationship with Lacis and observes "daB sie [Lacis] im G a i n d e nichts vergiBt, was uns angeht" ("Moskauer Tagebuch" 297) ["that she [Lacis] basically forgets noth ing that involves us" {Moscow Diary 15)]. Y e t he also notes L a c i s ' ambivalence towards any shared intimacy: " B e i Asja wieder standiger Wechsel zwischen du und Sie" (Benjamin, " M o s k a u e r Tagebuch" 300) ["With Asja still the usual switching back and forth between the formal Sie [you] and the informal Du [you]" (Moscow Diary 19)]. Benjamin was repeatedly disappointed that Re ich constantly supervised his visits wi th Lac i s and rarely left them alone for more than a few moments. F o r example, one evening the three o f them attended a play for which they were able to get only two seats together. Benjamin and L a c i s sat next to one another during the first act; however, during the intermission, R e i c h exchanged seats wi th Lac i s , ostensibly out o f concern for her frail health: "er meinte, das Ubersetzen sei ihr zu anstrengend" (Benjamin, " M o s k a u e r Tagebuch" 305) ["He thought the strain o f translating was too much for her" (Moscow Diary 25)]. O n the fo l lowing day, Benjamin's hopes to spend time alone with L a c i s were thwarted: " R e i c h ging nach dem Aufstehen einen Augenbl ick fort und ich hoffte As ja allein begruBen zu konnen. Aber sie kam iiberhaupt nicht" (Benjamin, " M o s k a u e r Tagebuch" 306) ["Reich stepped out briefly after he got up and 1 hoped I w o u l d be able to greet A s j a in private. B u t she never turned up" (Moscow Diary 25)]. Benjamin recounts similar incidents throughout the diary. A s Gerhard Richter has indicated, within the context o f Benjamin 's pronounced interest in the material physiology o f M o s c o w and his detailed attention to the body in Moscow Diary, R e i c h physically keeps Lacis and Benjamin apart, thus thwarting Benjamin 's physical desires. One result o f those thwarted desires was Benjamin 's jealousy, not only o f Re i ch , but o f anyone who kept him and L a c i s apart. W h e n Lac i s ' new Jewish roommate arrived and she spent a great deal o f time speaking with her, Benjamin remarked: " M i r ist deren Anwesenheit weniger angenehm, wei l ich jetzt, selbst wenn R e i c h nicht zugegen ist, Asja kaum allein spreche" ( "Moskaue r Tagebuch" 322) [I find her [the roommate 's] presence less than agreeable because now, even when R e i c h is not around, I rarely speak to Asja in private anymore] . 1 2 1 Benjamin struggled for the attention both o f a woman he loved and o f the intellectual wor ld she inhabited. In one tell ing passage, the further fusion o f the public and private is clearly visible. Benjamin describes his first two weeks in M o s c o w as fol lows: "Ich bin vor eine fast uneinnehmbare Festung geraten. Al lerd ings sage ich mir, daB schon mein Erscheinen vor dieser Festung, M o s k a u , einen ersten E r f o l g bedeutet. . . Reichs Posi t ion ist stark" ("Moskauer Tagebuch" 316) ["I find myself facing an almost impregnable fortress. Nevertheless .1 tell myself that my mere appearance before this fortress, M o s c o w , already constitutes an initial tr iumph ... Re ich ' s posit ion is strong" (Moscow 1 2 1 M y translation. I disagree with Gary Smith's translation of this sentence. He interprets "deren Anwesenheit" — whose presence — to refer to Lacis; however, I understand the antecedent to be the roommate, not Lacis. Smith's interpretation makes little sense: why would Benjamin find Lacis ' presence disagreeable when he wishes nothing more than to be alone with her? 191 Diary 34)]. Benjamin was faced with a double fortress — that o f a cold , unfamiliar city and that o f this w o m a n w h o m he loved so passionately but who appeared ambivalent towards him and remained at a physical and emotional distance. Reich's position in M o s c o w was that o f an accepted and successful director on the one hand and Lac i s &