By Graeme Gilloch

Walter Benjamin is now widely known as essentially the most unique thinkers of the twentieth century. This ebook is a examine of Benjamin's lifelong fascination with the town and different types of metropolitan adventure. Benjamin's severe account of the fashionable city setting is traced via a few key texts: the pioneering sketches of Naples, Marseilles and Moscow; his adolescence memories of Berlin; and his unfinished experiences of 19th-century Paris and the poet Charles Baudelaire. The ebook emphasizes the significance of those writings for an interpretation of Benjamin's paintings as a complete, and highlights their relevance for our modern knowing of modernity. it's going to be of curiosity to an individual keen on Benjamin's paintings, and to students and scholars in social thought, cultural research and concrete experiences.

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Yet, it is precisely this 'wide-eyed' approach which forbids a sufficiently sophisticated, thoroughgoing critical engagement with Urban Images 39 the phenomena of the urban complex. A tension that comes to animate Benjamin's cityscapes has its origins here: namely, the need to reconcile an approach that does justice to the phenomena under consideration (immanent) with one that retains critical insight and power (redemptive). , 1989, p. 48) with a historical materialist perspective, how to read and write the city at the same time.

Benjamin writes: 'in the streets of Moscow there is a curious state of affairs: the Russian village is playing hide-andseek in them' (OWS, p. 202). In the centre of the city, the home of the Revolutionary experiment, the traces of the city's peasant origins are half-concealed but none the less discernible. The Muscovite house betrays its rural ancestry: 'wooden staircases give the backs of the houses, which look like city buildings from the front, the appearance of Russian farmhouses' (OWS, p. 203).

The modern and the ancient are indivisible. The new, in so far as it cannot be distinguished from pre-existing entities that are already ruins, is immediately recognizable as the always-the-same. In 'Naples', Benjamin aims to reveal the process of construction as the production of instant ruins. Naples is the perpetual ruin, the home of the nothing-new. In the ruin, the cultural merges into the natural landscape, becoming indistinguishable from it. The notion of the ruin is thus fundamentally linked to the figure of the labyrinth.

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