Benjamin And The Virtual The Expression Less

Benjamin and the Virtual:
the Expression-less

By Elisa Santucci

Vergleich der Versuche der andern mit Unternehmen der Schifffahrt, bei denen die Schiffe vom magnetischen Nordpol abgelenkt werden. Diesen Nordpol zu finden. Was für die anderen Abweichun-gen sind, das sind für mich die Daten, die meinen Kurs bestimmen. ¬Auf den Differen-tialen der Zeit, die für die anderen die ´großen Linien´ der Untersuchung stören, baue ich meine Rechnung auf. [1] (Benjamin, N)
The concept of virtual reality has been often counterpoised to bare reality, which is supposed not to be virtual. It means on the one hand that the concept of virtual has not been directly ap-plied onto reality überhaupt, and on the other hand that the concept of virtual directly opens up a proper, specific form of reality. "The virtual" thus from mere adjective has become a noun and has assumed a configuration of reality to be read in opposition to bare reality. We confront the pair: virtual and reality. If it is relatively easy to show the "reality" element in the virtual (which was born as a form of reality), it is not more complex to detect the "virtual" element in the reality (it suffices to think of "reality shows") when the binary relation virtual/reality has been identified, and such detection might be shortly ac-complished referring to a deconstructionist logic.
If the pair reality/ideality has dismantled itself leading to endless forms of phenomenology until their aporétique dissolution, the new pair rea-lity/virtual opens up new interpretative pos-sibilities. As above mentioned, being born out of a reality aware of "reality shows" and a virtual aware of "virtual reality," the concept of virtual itself was born as a deconstructive concept. If mass culture emerged in the age of the crushing of the pair reality/ideality, the age of global culture is contemporary to the pair reality/virtual.
The aim of the paper is not to contextualise reality/virtual from a deconstructionist point of view, though. Indeed it is exactly the reverse: in front of so many attempts of reading Benjamin with deconstructionist attitudes, I propose a Benjaminian reading of a deconstructionist rea-lity. Deconstructionism is indeed one of the main elements to enter into an image of the contem-porary age.
Reawakening the expressive power of the virtual means to escape from the reality/virtual deconstructive domestication, which is also a self-conscious and satisfied apparent procedure, and determining the age of global culture by this reading and identification of it as deconstructive also means evoking its historical potential at once, as long as such determination implies recal-ling the dialectics inscribed in it.
The expression of virtual/reality cannot not remain ensnared in its deconstructive quality as far as it is an expression in Benjamin's words. Indeed the reciprocal belonging-together of virtu-al/reality, deconstruction, global culture is inter-twined. They come into an image. The task, with Benjamin, is reading such an image as a weak expression (bordering on the expressionless) and this is exactly the task this paper proposes to con-front; a task which today is more urgent than ever.
I choose to maintain the original German quotes in the text (providing the reader with English translations in the notes). The English translations are unluckily often far from being good and, with their choice of words and wor-dings together, they would make it difficult to follow my argument. Consequently the reading of the text requires attention and demands special effort from the reader unfamiliar with German. Indirectly therefore we acknowledge that there will always be a problem with quotes and notes whenever confronting Benjamin.


We often aim to find the laws which order reality, however it is recognised, whatever is thought with the expression "reality." Today more than ever, many disciplines, disjoined or co-ordinated, search for such laws having acknow-ledged that their area of application can only be circumscribed within the specific law. Nonethe-less such relativism has become the essential ingredient and does not hinder at all, indeed stimulates and legitimates the research. After all, relativism means the cohabitation on different floors of different realities. Each one must presuppose the building if it needs to protect itself from the double abysses of the sky and the profundities. The abysses themselves construct the abode and are not abysses any more but root and certainty at once, last necessary suburbs of the huge building. There may be few constants on the design of each floor: mura maestre, designs of perception, archetypes, dwelling opennesses Be they either subjective or objective constants, phenomenology has taught that a reality is possible without feet and heads, made only by our middle bodies of open spaces: perceptions and intentions. Where phenomenology indicates the way and direction, deconstructionism showed the priceless price: neither the subject nor the object disappear really, they are only the opposed presences that must be and not be, to allow each floor and the building together to be and not be. Therefore, as the grades of being (one of the great achievements of Scholasticism) [2] disappear, there also disappears any essential difference between such concepts as: possibility and actuality, necessity and sufficiency, being and nothing, all of them levelled on their white/black, presence/absence neo-nihilist key, on their dif-ference which cannot really ever make a dif-ference.
This phenomenological deconstructive buil-ding we are describing is the virtual reality we are living into. The concept of essence is that residual difference which will never quit (annul) any calculation and will arouse, strong and clear, the question of Agamben: what is die Zeit, die bleibt? Il tempo che resta? [3] It´s the time that won't finish with the end nor begin with the beginning, that cannot either be fulfilled or deleted, which, in other words, cannot be deconstructed and quitted (made even); whose most beautiful attempt for quitting was left in a poem before and as a note thereafter by Mayakovsky: "And, as they say, the incident is closed. / Love's boat has smashed against the daily grind / Now life and I are quits. Why bother then / to balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts." [4]
To talk of essence (das Wesen, das Wesent-liche) again means talking of abysses again, the ones Kant had up-most and innermost: "Der bestirnte Himmel über mir und das moralische Gesetz in mir." [5] It means not only to talk of how the things work, but also of the possibility that things could not work any more and fail. And it offers for sure more insight on the bizarre attempt of Büchner and Célan, the attempt of (als Lenz den 20. Jänner) [6] "auf dem Kopf gehen." [7] (Büchner, Lenz). "Wer auf dem Kopf geht, meine Damen und Herren, - wer auf dem Kopf geht, der hat den Himmel als Abgrund unter sich." [8] (Célan).
Therefore it becomes essential once more to re-enter the spaces of the Kantian oeuvre, through the eyes of Benjamin, going upside down in the abysses between theoretical and practical reason, in the heart of the third critique.


In the macroscopic oeuvre of Walter Benjamin we may distinguish two great periods in relation with aesthetics: the research on the beautiful and the research on the sublime. Whereas in the first period Benjamin tried to analyse the beautiful leading it back to the sublime, in the second period he would acknowledge the breaking of the Aura and with it he collected his energies for aesthetics of the sublime yet without sublime.
Where we meet a first Benjamin, who cannot explain the beautiful without recourse to the sublime, the second Benjamin confronts an aesthetic experience (in the age of technical reproducibility) which does not know the concept of sublime anymore. Even so he continues posing the problem of aesthetics. And where he could no longer confront the concept of beautiful (since it fell down because of the rupture of its own bases, those bases that the beautiful had in the sublime), he could nonetheless face the problem of the breaking of the sublime. To the aim he chooses the works of Baudelaire and the latter's majestic visions, in which not beauty anymore but the sublime itself is the elected theme: a sublime which has already announced its own disap-pearance.
With this presentation we are proposing, we suggest a double articulation of the problem of aesthetics, partially already anticipated by Kant with his distinction between beautiful and sublime, or, to employ Benjamin's words: on the side of the beautiful, not "die überflüssige Verhüllung der Dinge an sich, sondern die not-wendige von Dingen für uns," [9] (Benjamin, Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften), ihr Relations-charakter; [10] on the side of the sublime, what instead is "vor Gott:" [11] "in der hüllenlosen Nacktheit ist das wesentlich Schöne gewichen und im nackten Körper des Menschen ist ein Sein über aller Schönheit erreicht ¬ das Erhabene, und ein Werk über allen Gebilden ¬ das des Schöp-fers." [12] If Kant could distinguish in the possibility of the beautiful the basis for the very theoretical possibility of determination of reality (space and time and the faculties´ attunement), the sublime belongs not only to the theoretical but also to the practical order, and Benjamin introduces the expressionless to clarify the passage: "Im Ausdruckslosen erscheint die erhabne Gewalt des Wahren, wie es nach Gesetzen der moralischen Welt die Sprache der wirklichen bestimmt." [13] And yet exactly the expressionless is the constitutive and essential moment in the beautiful. [14] Therefore, where already Kant suggested that the aesthetics (referring to the beautiful and not to the teleological judgment) should found the pos-sibility of determining experience, Benjamin, following the task "der kommenden Philosophie," introduced "den Samen ewigen Wachstums," [15] which means a richer experience where also the sublime comes to found the possibility of a determining experience, since such a priori is Sprache and Lehre (language and doctrine). [16]
If the possibility of a constitutive moment in reality is founded on the beautiful; if the consti-tutive moment in the beautiful is the sublime; if the sublime is rooted in the Ausdruckslose (ex-pressionless), the latter then becomes the interpretative cifra of reality. To the same concept will converge later concepts as the Augenblick der Erkennbarkeit (moment of recognisability) or die Jetztzeit (timenow).
It may therefore be asserted now: das Ausdruckslose is the cifra for the reality. The question we are going to pose is: what happens in a reality where the Aura has been disintegrated, where therefore we cannot apply the concept of Ausdruckslose anymore? Moreover: what kind of reality is this? I dare introduce it as the germ of a deconstructive and virtual reality, or, it might already be said: der Schein (appearance) of a self-conjured reality.
"Das in ihm [im Kunstwerk] wogende Leben muß erstarrt und wie in einem Augenblick gebannt erscheinen. Dies in ihm Wesende ist bloße Schönheit, bloße Harmonie, die das Chaos durchflutet, im Durchfluten aber zu beleben nur scheint. Was diesem Schein Einhalt gebietet, die Bewegung bannt und der Harmonie ins Wort fällt ist das Ausdruckslose." [17]


Our search after the essence, which should play a part outside virtual/reality, has led us to the expressionless as the transcendental moment in which, we learn throughout Benjamin's works, space and time come to a standstill in the origin. In Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften Benjamin writes: "Wie die Unterbrechung durch das gebie-tende Wort es vermag aus der Ausflucht eines Weibes die Wahrheit gerad da herauszuholen, wo sie unterbricht, so zwingt das Ausdruckslose die zitternde Harmonie einzuhalten und verewigt durch seinen Einspruch ihr Beben." [18] In the life of the kid a similar experience recurred, when his father, we read in Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert, came to give the news of a death, yet keeping secret the cause. Benjamin ta-kes note: "Dagegen habe ich mir an diesem Abend mein Zimmer eingepragt, als wenn ich gewußt hatte, eines Tages würde ich nochmals darin zu tun bekommen." [19] (Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehenhundert). There are desert spaces in the Tiergarten deep with foreseeing memory; it is registered in the Berlin Chronicle "Und ehe die Wirtschaftskrise diese Kurorte so verödet hatte, daß sie altertümlicher als römische Thermen erscheinen, hatte dieser tote Winkel des Zoolo-gischen Gartens ein Bild des Bevorstehenden, also ein weissagender Winkel. Man muß es für gewiß halten, dass es solche gibt, ja wie es Pflanzen gibt, von denen die Primitiven behaup-ten, daß sie ihnen die Kraft geben, in die Ferne zu sehen, so gibt es Orte, die solche Kraft in sich haben Im Grunde war eine solche Schwelle auch das Lichtensteinportal, die zwischen den beiden westlichen Parks. Es war als setzte in beiden, an der Stelle wo sie sich am nächsten waren, das Leben aus." [20] (Berliner Chronik). How deeply personal experiences might acquire the power to highlight only connected with past moments could not be better described: "Aus achtund-vierzig Stunden Preisgegebenheit in diesen Jahren [mit fünfzehn] schießt wie in einer Lauge der Kristall des Lebensglücks zusammen." [21] (Einbahnstraße). Or, in Berliner Kindheit: "Die Fee, bei der er einen Wunsch frei hat, gibt es für jeden. Allein nur wenige wissen sich des Wun-sches zu entsinnen, den sie taten; nur wenige erkennen darum später im eigenen Leben die Erfüllung wieder." [22] (Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehenhundert).
Already in the Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels is clear that such methodology is not bound by biographical data or Erlebnis, instead it is comprised in the very notion of origin: the weak divine power to burst up fragments out of the continuum of space and time into the origin or, in other words, to hold the expression in the expressionless.
Seen from this perspective it is not surprising anymore the way Benjamin alters the Kantian a priori. Space and time are materialised in the concept of distance ¬ key (transcendental, mate-rial) dialectical notion for Baudelaire before and the age of technical reproducibility thereafter, where both poet and camera "cut it" and "put it on relief" at once. Indeed such dialectical emergen-ce/disappearance, auf/tauchen (of distance in this case) is the measure of readability. So distance can be an object (like the tax on wine), we might dare saying: already a commodity, and yet also the seed of readability. In the Jetztzeit, or in the expressionless, there is the weak, dialectical power which imbues the tempo (not harmony) where the transcendental and the material dance together without collapsing, entering instead in an image, in origin.
If in the Jetztzeit it is relatively easy to perceive the constructive side, the material and dialectical pregnancy of the transcendental, we may continue referring to the Ausdruckslose in order to account for the disruptive and essential moment in it. The realm of the Ausdruckslose must be similar to Kafka's Nature Theater of Oklahoma where it is said about the actors: "Daß sie im Ernstfall sein könnten, was sie angeben, schaltet aus dem Bereich der Möglichkeit aus." [23] (Franz Kafka). A possibility which is not a possibility, a neither phenomenological, nor nihi-list, nor deconstructionist possibility is not the im/possibility of im/possibility (following Hei-degger, Derrida or whoever else) but the essence of possibility: the Ausdruckslose in possibility. "Das Mysterium ist im Dramatischen dasjenige Moment, in dem dieses aud dem Bereiche der ihm eigenen Sprache in einen höheren und ihr nicht erreichbaren hineinragt. Es kann daher niemals in Worten, sondern einzig und allein in der Darstellung zum Ausdruck kommen, es ist das ´Dramatische´ im strengsten Verstande."[24] (Goe-thes Wahlverwandtschaften). In other words, the Ausdruckslose in possibility refers not to the harmony in the appearance but to the tempo in language: what therefore was never written in language but already read ¬ "Was nie geschrieben wurde, lesen" [25] (Über das mimetische Vermö-gen) ¬ maybe exactly what Célan calls das Gegen-wort [26] and Hölderlin die Cäsur [27] (while Benjamin quotes Hölderlin and is quoted by Célan, ragend in his essential second position). It´s the stranding pass of the one who has the sky as an abyss below his feet, or the attracting North Pole which guides the traveller leading him astray.


Virtual reality, as a deconstructive reality, disallows exactly the thought on its essence, its abyss, its suspension. Benjamin is questioning also these themes when he notes Was ist Aura? on an advertisement card "Acqua di San Pelle-grino. La migliore da tavola." [28] The mythical constructions of modernity are not far away from a conjured appearance which cannot anymore reach its own crystallisation point where expression arrests to enter into an original constellation. Benjamin describes the main Forde-rung (command) [29] on die Kritik (critique) before ein Kunstwerk (work of art): "Denn das, was sie zuletzt in jenem aufweist, ist die virtuelle Formulierbarkeit seines Wahrheitsgehalt als höchsten philosophischen Problems; wovor sie aber, wie aus Ehrfurcht vor dem Werk, gleich sehr jedoch aus Achtung vor der Wahrheit inne-hält, das ist eben diese Formulierung selbst." [30] (Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften). In a virtual reality, where such suspension remains unac-complished, without any fear of the abyss, we witness to the complete Formulierung where nothing remains but expression. "Im Namen teilt das geistige Wesen des Menschen sich Gott mit." [31] (Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen). It's also a note on what is expressionless, immediate in the essence.
The breaking of the aura, the shadowy disappearance of the Ausdruckslose, whether un-recognised in its proper meaning, could lead drastically into a virtual reality, a self conjured appearance which speaks also its own expres-sionless (as a deconstructionist counterpart), swallowing it in appearance.
Yet it's also the moment when in Benjamin the expressionless becomes the Jetztzeit and the divine violence becomes the weak messianic force we are endowed with. [32] It's maybe the last passage even of the Ausdruckslose into the dialectic. In fact through the new readaptation we are still provided with the chance to read a virtual reality (from which the Ausdruckslose has fled) in the origin, or, in still other words, to read the expressionless origin of what is only expression today. After all, Benjamin's Rettung (rescuing, redemption) has always meant listening to such expressionless, and somehow it had its beginning from that great spectrum of the total, continuous pervasive expression as he could breathe in the first half of the twentieth century in part of Europe. Expression which needed to be saved, and saved from itself. This in order to talk today of virtual reality with the most complete trust in it, within the most positive value of expression.
The essay on Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften concludes with a famous observation, coming after the mention of the Cäsur-Satz in Goethe's book: "Die Hoffnung fuhr wie ein Stern, der vom Himmel fällt, über ihre Häupter weg." [33] (Goethe quoted in Benjamin Goethes Wahlverwandt-schaften). It´s the German translation of the Latin "desidero." Benjamin, after quoting George, "Eh ihr den leib ergreift auf diesem sterne / Erfind ich euch den traum bei ewigen sternen" [34] (George quoted in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften) con-cludes: "Nur um der Hoffnungslosen willen ist uns die Hoffnung gegeben." [35] (Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften). If the Schein/expression is hoffnungslos (hopeless), it is exactly in order to rescue it that Hoffnung (hope) is given. Following the same principle also the Ausdruckslose beco-mes dialectic, and in parallel with the questioning of the breaking of the aura (or the disappearance of the Ausdruckslose) the concept of Jetztzeit emerges which reproposes the Ausdruckslose in origin and with it the abyss: "Denn es ist ein unwiederbringliches Bild der Vergangenheit, das mit jeder Gegenwart zu verschwinden droht, die sich nicht als in ihm gemeint erkannte." [36] (Über den Begriff der Geschichte). In the Sixth Thesis the very same theme of dialectical Hoffnung is reelaborated. It´s said of the Messiah: "Der Messias kommt ja nicht nur als der Erlöser; er kommt als der Überwinder des Antichrist. Nur dem Geschichtsschreiber wohnt die Gabe bei, in Vergangenen den Funken der Hoffnung anzu-fachen, der davon durchdrungen ist: auch die Toten werden vor dem Feind, wenn er siegt, nicht sicher sein. Und dieser Feind hat zu siegen nicht aufgehört." [37]
It seems a paradox, in fact it appears as a syllogism: there is not Hoffnung if the enemy is victorious; the enemy is victorious, therefore there is not Hoffnung. And yet Benjamin affirms the reverse, as there is expressionless there where there is only expression, in order exactly to save expression and Hoffnung, not their possibility (as appears illogic in any syllogism) but their essence, their abyss. It's not a paradox which would lead into a negative theology (on one floor of the virtual reality building) but precisely a dialectic.


"Du selige Geburt wie tief verschwiegen / Entstieg ich ihm und war zur Stund bestimmt / Zu sein wie Nacht die ihm im Auge glimmt / Dem Leisesten auf weiten Himmelsstiegen." [38] (Sonette).
The great effort and value today of Benjamin's oeuvre can truly be localised right in this context, before a reality of the total expression, in other words exactly before a virtual reality: a great effort vor der Forderung nach der Rettung des Audrucks im Wesen (before the command to res-cue the expression in the essence).
We may close this short essay proposing two images which easily revoke an appearance of virtual reality: the labyrinth and the voyage. Their dialectical interpretation, Benjamin's entering in the essence, might rarely have achieved a higher status. So, if there might be a few rules to orient oneself in a maze, nonetheless they will not be instructive on the secrets of the labyrinth if its force is perdre. "Sich in einer Stadt nicht zu-rechtfinden heißt nicht viel. In einer Stadt sich aber zu verirren, wie man in einem Walde sich verirrt, braucht Schulung." [39] (Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehenhundert). Amongst the methodo-logical guidelines for the Passagenwerk in N we find the note N 1, 2:
Vergleich der Versuche der andern mit Un-ternehmen der Schifffahrt, bei denen die Schiffe vom magnetischen Nordpol abgelenkt werden. Diesen Nordpol zu finden. Was für die anderen Abweichungen sind, das sind für mich die Daten, die meinen Kurs bestimmen. ¬ Auf den Differen-tialen der Zeit, die für die anderen die ´großen Linien´ der Untersuchung stören, baue ich meine Rechnung auf. [40]

[1] Benjamin, Walter. Gesammelte Schriften, V, 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1974-1989. p. 570. "Comparison of others' attempts to setting off on a sea voyage in which the ships are drawn off course by the magnetic north pole. Discover that North Pole. What for others are deviations, for me are data by which to set my course. I base my reckoning on the differentia of time that disturb the 'main lines' of the investigation for others." Be-njamin, Walter. Benjamin: Philosophy, History, Aesthetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983, 1989. N 1, 2.
[2] Benjamin refers to Gradstufen, Existentgraden, Seinsgraden in Benjamin, Walter. "Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen." Ein Lesebuch. Frankfurt am Mein: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996. pp. 32, 33.
[3] "The Time that remains." Agamben, Giorgio. Il Tempo che Resta. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2000. Agamben, Giorgio. Die Zeit, die bliebt. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2006.
[4] Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Selected poetry. Moscow: Foreign Languages Press, 1975.
[5] "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. "Zwei Dinge erfüllen das Gemüt mit immer neuer und zu-nehmender Bewunderung und Ehrfurcht, je öfter und anhaltender sich das Nachdenken damit beschäftigt: Der bestirnte Himmel über mir und das moralische Gesetz in mir." Kant, Immanuel. Kritik der praktischen Vernunft. Ditzingen: Reclam, 1986.
[6] "Like Lenz on the 20th of January." Cfr. Büchner, Georg. Lenz. Ditzingen: Reclam, 1987. p. 5.
[7] "To go upside down." "Den 20. Jänner ging Lenz durchs Gebirg. Die Gipfel und hohen Bergflächen im Schnee, die Täler hinunter graues Gestein, grüne Flächen, Felsen und Tannen. Es war naßkalt; das Wasser rieselte die Felsen hinunter und sprang über den Weg. Die Äste der Tannen hingen schwer herab in die feuchte Luft. Am Himmel zogen graue Wolken, aber alles so dicht - und dann dampfte der Nebel herauf und strich schwer und feucht durch das Gesträuch, so träg, so plump. Er ging gleichgültig weiter, es lag ihm nichts am Weg, bald auf- bald abwärts. Müdigkeit spürte er keine, nur war es ihm manchmal unangenehm, daß er nicht auf dem Kopf gehn konnte." Büchner, Georg. Lenz. Ditzingen: Reclam, 1987. p. 5.
[8] Célan, Paul. Der Meridian und Andere Prosa. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1988. p. 51. "He who walks on his head sees the sky below, as an abyss" Celan, Paul. ´The Meridian.´ Collected Prose. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1986. p. 46.
[9] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 195. "Not the superfluous veiling of things in themselves but rather the necessary veiling of things for us." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ Selected Writings, Volume 1 (1913-1926). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1996-2003. p. 351.
[10] "Relational character." Ibidem.
[11] Benjamin, Walter. GS. I, 1. p. 197. "The human body lays itself bare, a sign that the human being itself stands before God." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 353.
[12] Benjamin, Walter. GS I, 1. p. 196. "In veilless nakedness the essentially beautiful has withdrawn, and in the naked body of the human being are attained a being beyond all beauty ¬ the sublime ¬ and a work beyond all crea-tions ¬ that of the creator." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 351.
[13] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 181. "In the expressionless, the sublime violence of the true appears as that which determines the language of the real world according to the laws of the moral world." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 340.
[14] Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 181. Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ pp. 350, 351.
[15] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 126. "The seeds of eternal growth." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 298.
[16] Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. ´Über das Programm der kommenden Philosophie.´ GS II, 1. p. 169. Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. 'On the Program of the Coming Philosophy.' Selected Writings, Volume 1, (1913-1926). p. 108.
[17] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 181. "The life undulating in it [in the work of art] must appear petrified and as if spellbound in a single moment. That which in it has being is mere beauty, mere harmony, which floods through the chaos but, in this flooding-through, seems only to enliven it. What arrests this semblance, spellbinds the movement, and interrupts the harmony is the expres-sionless." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 340.
[18] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 181. "Just as interruption by the commanding word is able to bring out the truth from the evasions of a woman precisely at the point where it interrupts, the expressionless compels the trembling harmony to stop and through its objection immortalizes its quivering." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 340.
[19] Benjamin, Walter. Berliner Kindheit um Neun-zehnhundert. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1987. p. 49. "But I did take special note, that evening, of my room, as though I were aware that one day I would again be faced with trouble there." Benjamin, Walter. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: 1934 Version.' Selected Writings Volume 3, (1935-1938). p. 368. Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: Final Version.' Selected Writings, Volume 3, (1935-1938). p. 390.
[20] Benjamin, Walter. ´Berliner Chronik.´ Ein Lesebuch. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996. pp. 370, 371. "This dead corner of the Zoological Garden was an image of what was to come, a prophesying place. It must be considered certain that there are such places; indeed, just as there are plants that primitive people claim confer the power of clairvoyance, so there are places endowed with such power: they may be deserted promenades, or treetops, particularly in towns, seen against walls, railway crossings, and above all the thresholds that mysteriously divide the districts of a town. The Lichtenstein gate was really such a threshold, between the two West End parks. It was as if in both, at the point where they were nearest, life paused." Benjamin, Walter. 'A Berlin Chronicle.' Selected Writings, Volume 2, (1927-1934). p. 610; cfr. Benjamin, W. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: 1934 Version'; Benjamin, Walter. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: Final Version.' p. 365.
[21] Benjamin, Walter. Einbahnstraße. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1955. p. 13. "For only that which we knew and practised at fifteen will one day constitute our attraction. And one thing, therefore, can never be made good: having neglected to run away from one´s parents. From forty-eight hours´ exposure in those years, as in a caustic solution, the crystal of life's happiness forms." Benjamin, Walter. 'One-Way Street.' Selected Writings, Volume 1, (1913-1926). p. 446.
[22] Benjamin, Walter. Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert. p. 29. "The fairy tale in whose presence we are granted a wish is there for each of us. But few of us know how to remember the wish we have made; and so, few of us recognise its fulfilment later in our lives." Benjamin, Walter. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: 1934 Version' and 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: Final Version.' Selected Writings, Volume 3, (1935-1938). p. 357.
[23] Benjamin, Walter. ´Franz Kafka.´ Ein Lesebuch. pp. 235, 236. "It is no longer within the realm of possibility that they could, if necessary, be what they claim to be." Benjamin, Walter. 'Franz Kafka.' Selected Writings, Volume 4, 1938-1940. p. 804.
[24] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. pp. 200, 201. "The mystery is, on the dramatic level, that moment in which it juts out of the domain of language proper to it into a higher one unattainable for it. Therefore, this moment can never be expressed in words but is expressible solely in repre-sentation: it is the ´dramatic´ in the strictest sense." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 355.
[25] Benjamin, Walter. ´Über das mimetische Vermögen.´ Ein Lesebuch. p. 67. "'To read what was never written.' Such reading is the most ancient: reading prior to all languages, from entrails, the stars, or dances." Benjamin, Walter. 'On the Mimetic Faculty.' Selected Writings, Volume 2, (1927-1934). p. 722. Cfr. also Benjamin, Walter. 'Paralipomena to On the Concept of History.' Selected Writings, Volume 4, 1938-1940. p. 405.
[26] Célan, Paul. Der Meridian und Andere Prosa. p. 43.
[27] Hölderlin quoted in Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 181. Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 340.
[28] Cfr. Walter Benjamin Archive. Bilder, Texte, Zeichen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2006. Ed. by Ursula Marx, Gudrun Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Erdmut Wizisla. p. 40.
[29] Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 159. "Von Gott aber kommen dem Menschen nicht Aufgaben sondern einzig Forderungen." "From God, however, man receives not tasks but only exactions." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 323.
[30] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 173. "For critique ultimately shows in the work of art the virtual possibility of formulating the work's truth content as the highest philosophical problem. That before which it stops short, however ¬ as if in awe of the work, but equally from respect for the truth ¬ is precisely this formulation itself." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 334.
[31] Benjamin, Walter. ´Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen.´ Ein Lesebuch. p. 30. "In the name the mental being of man communicates itself to God." Benjamin, Walter. ´On Language as Such and on the Language of Man.´ Selected Writings, Volume 1, (1913-1927). p. 65.
[32] Cfr. Benjamin, Walter. ´Über den Begriff der Geschichte.´ Ein Lesebuch. p. 666. Thesis II.
[33] Goethe quoted in Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 200. "Hope shot across the sky above their heads like a falling star." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ pp. 354, 355.
[34] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 201. "Before you know the bodies on this star, / I shape you dreams among eternal stars." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 356.
[35] Benjamin, Walter. GS, I, 1. p. 201. "Only for the sake of the hopeless ones have we been given hope." Benjamin, Walter. ´Goethe's Elective Affinities.´ p. 356.
[36] Benjamin, Walter. ´Über den Begriff der Geschichte.´ Ein Lesebuch. p. 667. Thesis V. "For every image of the past that is not recognised by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably." Benjamin, Walter. ´On the Concept of History.´ Centro Studi Walter Benjamin. < >
[37] Benjamin, Walter. ´Über den Begriff der Geschichte.´ Ein Lesebuch. p. 667. Thesis VI. "The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious." Benjamin, Walter. ´On the Concept of History.´ Centro Studi Walter Benjamin. < >
[38] Benjamin, Walter. ´Sonette.´ Opere Complete, Volume II. Torino: Einaudi, 2001. p. 300.
[39] Benjamin, Walter. Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehn-hundert. p. 23. "Not to find one's way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one's way in a city, as one loses one's way in a forest, requires some schooling." Benjamin, Walter. 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: 1934 Version' and 'Berlin Childhood around 1900: Final Version.' p. 352. Cfr. Benjamin, Walter "Berlin Chronicle.' p. 598.
[40] See note 1.

Works Cited and Key Texts
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Biographical Note
Elisa Santucci, Livorno, 1977. Livorno is by the sea, twenty minutes from Pisa, the city of the leaning tower; more or less in the middle between Rome and Milan. In 1976 the building where I spent my first twenty years was a huge white baby screaming between the stadium and the sea. I've studied in Bologna and Manchester. I live in Berlin. I write sometimes, when it is possible, for the WBRS (Walter Benjamin Research Syndicate) edited by Scott J. Thompson and co-edited by Christopher Rollason, whom I always thank. And I always write anyway. ti.liamtoh|utnasas#ti.liamtoh|utnasas

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