Walter Benjamin Reproducing the Scent of the Messianic

Jay Geller

in The Other Jewish Question

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233618
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241781 | DOI:
Walter Benjamin Reproducing the Scent of the Messianic

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This chapter explores how Walter Benjamin sought to mediate the duality of German and Jew in his writings. It focuses on two primary “names” by which he analyzed modernity, aura and mimesis, and how they emerged, respectively, from smell and reproduction: two principal sites for the social and scientific identification of alterity, generally, and Jewish difference, specifically. It then traces the remains of those sites throughout Benjamin's work. The analysis is furthered by juxtaposing his corpus with contemporary writings familiar to him, notably by Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Klages, and by examining Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's olfactory analysis of antisemitism and its relationship to mimesis in Dialectic of Enlightenment. It concludes by essaying whether Benjamin and other Jewish-identified authors commerce with the Other Jewish Question was “endowed with a weak Messianic power.”

Keywords: aura; Walter Benjamin; Dialectic of Enlightenment; Sigmund Freud; German; Jew; messianic; mimesis; reproduction; smell

Chapter.  19984 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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