Benjamin, Walter

   intellectual; a Frankfurt School* as-sociate, remembered for the aphorism "Every monument to civilization is also a monument to barbarism." Born to a wealthy Jewish home in Berlin,* he volunteered for the army in World War I. Although he took a doctorate in philosophy in 1920, a likely brilliant career miscarried when his Habilitation was rejected in 1925 at Frankfurt; later published as Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of German tragedy), the thesis was too unconventional for the academy. Thereafter, he directed his intellect to writing and criticism; much of his work appeared after his death. An authority on German literature, he cultivated an expertise in French studies, translating the work of Proust and Baudelaire. His essays appeared in Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung, a journal edited by his friends Theodor Adorno* and Max Horkheimer.* Attracted to Marxism, he visited the Soviet Union* in 1926-1927 and thereafter focused on a critique of "reductionism" (i.e., explaining society's superstructure through reference to its economic foundation). But he never joined the KPD; his esoteric thought, like that of his colleagues, was directed more to philosophy than pol-itics. Astutely aware of the arts (he was a devotee of Bertolt Brecht*), he claimed that the impact of film* and mass reproduction would forever change aesthetics.
   Benjamin grasped his vulnerability in 1933 and emigrated to France. At-tempting to escape in 1940, he feared capture by the Gestapo and committed suicide near the Spanish border.
   REFERENCES:Arendt, "Introduction"; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; David Gross, "Kultur"; Laqueur, Weimar; Lunn, Marxism and Modernism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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  • BENJAMIN, WALTER — (1892–1940), German philosopher and literary critic. Born in Berlin, Benjamin attended Haubinda, a country educational establishment, where he met the radical school reformer Gustav Wyneken. From 1910 to 1914 Benjamin took an active part in the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Benjamin, Walter — born July 15, 1892, Berlin, Ger. died Sept. 26, 1940, near Port Bou, Spain German literary critic. Born into a prosperous Jewish family, Benjamin studied philosophy and worked as a literary critic and translator in Berlin from 1920 until 1933,… …   Universalium

  • Benjamin, Walter — (1892–1940)    Benjamin has been described as “possibly the most important cultural theorist within the Marxist tradition.” Closely associated with Bertolt Brecht and the Frankfurt School he produced a range of works on culture, aesthetics, drama …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Benjamin, Walter — (1892 1940) A literary critic associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory in the 1930s, taken up by sociologists of literature in the 1970s, mainly because of his analysis of the material aspects of literary production (see, Walter… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • Benjamin, Walter — (1892–1940) A leading literary critic and member of the Frankfurt school . Benjamin is remembered for his analyses of the material conditions governing literary and artistic production …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Benjamin, Walter — ► (1892 1940) Filósofo alemán de origen judío. Estableció su concepción de la crítica en El concepto de la crítica de arte en el romanticismo alemán (1920). * * * (15 jul. 1892, Berlín, Alemania–26 sep. 1940, cerca de Port Bou, España). Crítico… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Benjamin, Walter — (1892 1940)    German philos opher. Born in Berlin, he worked as a critic, translator and reviewer. In 1924 he was involved with a Latvian actress whose radical communism inspired him. When Hitler came to power, he went to the Baleric Isles and… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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