Sigrid Weigel
translated by Chadwick Truscott Smith

Walter Benjamin
Images, the Creaturely, and the Holy
[Walter Benjamin. Die Kreatur, das Heilige, die Bilder]

Stanford University Press, Stanford 2013, 320 pages
ISBN 978-0-804-78059-9

Arguing that the importance of painting and other visual art for Benjamin's epistemology has yet to be appreciated, Weigel undertakes the first systematic analysis of their significance to his thought. She does so by exploring Benjamin's dialectics of secularization, an approach that allows Benjamin to explore the simultaneous distance from and orientation towards revelation and to deal with the difference and tensions between religious and profane ideas. In the process, Weigel identifies the double reference of ›life‹ to both nature and to a ›supernatural‹ sphere as a guiding concept of Benjamin's writings. Sensitive to the notorious difficulty of translating his language, she underscores just how much is lost in translation, particularly with regard to religious connotations. The book thus positions Benjamin with respect to the other European thinkers at the heart of current discussions of sovereignty and martyrdom, of holy and creaturely life. It corrects misreadings, including Agamben's staging of an affinity between Benjamin and Schmitt, and argues for the closeness of Benjamin's work to that of Aby Warburg, with whom Benjamin unsuccessfully attempted an intellectual exchange.

Translated by Chadwick Truscott Smith


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Media Response

01 Nov 2013
Walter Benjamin

Review by M.V. Marder (University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz), in: Choice. Current Reviews for academic libraries, Vol. 51, No. 3 (November 2013), p. 461