Benjamin’s Baudelaire — Constellations of Modernity
In affiliation with the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought’s 2018–19 research seminar series on Baudelaire and Philosophy as well as the corresponding conference to be held in June 2019, a one-day workshop will offer early career researchers the chance to re-examine the conceptual and methodological implications of Walter Benjamin’s relationship to ‘The Writer of Modern Life’. The workshop will consist of several debates in relation to set reading as well as short presentations from all of the participants.
As a young student, Benjamin embarked on a translation project of Baudelaire’s ‘Tableaux Parisiens’ which would alter the course of his ensuing career. Not only did the poet spark his philosophical interest in the very act of translation, but he would shape Benjamin’s critical conceptions of 19th century modernity in the years that followed. Benjamin’s Baudelaire was anything but a triumphalist figure, conceived within the context of a mid-century crisis which saw the notion of a collective Gemeinschaft dissipate and a sense of ‘aura’ substituted by an aesthetics of shock.
The workshop aims to trace the development of Benjamin’s thought in relation to this intriguing source, in order to reflect on the extent to which Baudelaire feeds into Benjamin’s work on language, Surrealism, the visual arts and his fragmented study of 19th century Paris. The constellation of images that emerge from his later work on the poet (the flâneur, the rag picker, the panorama, phantasmagoria etc.) will be questioned in their capacity to express the experience of the ‘modern’. We will consider Benjamin’s writings alongside the verse that inspired them, but equally survey the critical field that has emerged since the circulation of the arcades materials that further solidified Baudelaire’s importance within Benjamin’s corpus. By attempting to probe at the process behind Benjamin’s innovative conceptions of the poet’s life and work, we ultimately hope to re-evaluate the relevance and critical potential of Benjamin’s Baudelaire today.
Aside from giving participants the chance to engage in group discussions over a number of works which have proven to be immensely influential for Benjamin’s writing, the workshop will also present a unique opportunity for early career researchers to present their own work within a relatively informal setting, and allow them to establish valuable connections with fellow researchers from other institutions.