Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin: Experience and Form
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This first comparative study of the philosophers and literary critics, Walter Benjamin and Mikhail Bakhtin, focuses on the two thinkers' conceptions of experience and form, investigating parallels between Bakhtin's theories of responsibility, dialogue, and the novel, and Benjamin's theories of translation, montage, allegory, and the aura.
traditional experience in texts such as ‘The Storyteller’ and the celebration of the destruction of the aura in ‘The Work of Art’. The major difference between Bakhtin’s and Benjamin’s approach to habitualization lies in the differing development of their thinking. In the case of Benjamin, it is possible to discern positive and negative evaluations of different forms of habit simultaneously throughout his career. Most strikingly, ‘The Storyteller’ (published October 1936) and the second version
their ability to conceptualize and to be expressive, is organically denied to poetic style’ (DI 286). The novel, by contrast, reveals the fundamentally plural nature of language as the interrelation and intersection of many individual and social languages and voices: The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types [raznoreˇcie] and by the differing individual voices that flourish
of [Herodotus’] Histories there is a story from which much can be learned. It deals with Psammenitus. [ ] This tale shows what true storytelling is. The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing itself even after a long time. [ ]
of establishing a unity.79 The means by which Hobbes argues that such a unity can be established is by following an imperative, the central, second law of nature from which all the other laws are derived: From this Fundamentall Law of Nature, by which men are commanded to endeavour Peace, is derived this second Law; That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himselfe he shall think necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented
life in the moment rather than hurrying on past it; during the considerable period of the exposure the subject as it were grew into the picture’ (GS II 373; SW II 514). This concentration of the subject’s gaze is one of the reasons for the aura which we experience when looking at early photographs. Speaking of an early portrait of Kafka, dressed up in a ‘humiliatingly tight child’s suit’ in the bizarre artificial environment of the photographer’s studio, Benjamin comments: This picture in its