Nitzan Lebovic: The Future of Benjamin

A project at MLA Commons edited by Nitzan Lebovic


Walter Benjamin’s name is known for several reasons. He is known as the creator of a rather pessimistic theory of history, of an eschatological reading of time, of a Kafkaesque understanding of law, and of a persistent post-Nietzschean critique of progress. A new biography, written by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, the chief editors of Benjamin’s Selected Writings, contextualizes all these themes in a massive 700-pages volume biography titled Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014). This biography will serve, in the following weeks, as an exit-point for a discussion about the future of Benjamin studies, counting itself four decades of research and thousands of books in different disciplines.

The purpose of this project– a series of 7 short articles and one response will follow this introduction in the coming few weeks– is to discuss the relevance and impact of Benjamin on some strands of contemporary thinking, and the significance of this biography in this context.