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In Max Pensky’s “The Trash of History,” taken from the larger Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning, Walter Benjamin’s use of the objective dialectical image is viewed in juxtaposition–and unwanted collaboration -with subjective allegorical imagery. The dialectical image, where past and present interact with one another, is Benjamin’s method and subject of critical analysis. The allegorical image that has arbitrary meaning is melancholic: the passing of time is marked by sadness. The dialectic image “cannot be” (Pensky, 211), and yet it is as our history is a “catastrophic history” (Pensky, 211). This issue of imagery is one aspect of the larger subject/object problem and is how Benjamin incorporated Kabalistic elements into his criticism. (more…)

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Everything is a composite of smaller group of factors, therefore everything is connected.  This is why Benjamin argues that art and science must find a way to coexist.  But, as the author points out, these claims also embody an aspect of hypocrisy.  As he states, “the claim that the Trauerspiel study ‘is’ allegorical is as much an abstraction as the claim that Benjamin ‘was’ himself a melancholic.”  This further demonstrates the paradox between subjectivity and its objects.  The author also addresses the paradox that exists in Benjamin’s argument on allegory by pointing out that his explanation could also be an allegory as well.

Benjamin’s main argument is that allegorical activity or reason is the supreme way of encapsulating the meaning that exists among the fragments of memory and anticipation within historical time.  What Witte’s observation concludes is that allegorical analogies are a form of “absolute subjectivity.”  Benjamin’s arguments differ in that Benjamin’s believes that the subject finds meaning in the object, while Witte believes that the subject bestows meaning onto the object.  Witte criticizes Benjamin’s ideology because to claim that there is absolutely subjectivity means it is necessary to admit your own subjectivity, which Benjamin fails to do.  If Benjamin is making an argument concerning allegorical analogies he must recognize his own inherent creation of allegory in his theory.

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Gillian Rose’s first published work, The Melancholy Science is a critical exploration of Adorno’s thought. The self-titled last chapter of the book seeks to outline the progression of complications Adorno’s social philosophy encounters and his emerging response. She establishes his social diagnosis as “approached as the immanent question of ‘the conceptual mediation’ of social reality (139),” and, as such, concerned with the meaning of social experiences. (more…)

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