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By Elizabeth Stewart

Indicates how Benjamin’s innovations in regards to the individual’s adventure of the cloth international make major touch with post-Freudian psychoanalytic concept.

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Extra resources for Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis

Sample text

Immersion into the creaturely in order to lend it our sound and breath was the original human task. Thus, quoting Hamann, Benjamin emends what he has just written: Everything that man heard in the beginning, saw with his eyes, and felt with his hands was the living word; for God was the word. With this word in his mouth and in his heart, the origin of language was as natural, as close, and as easy as a child’s game . . But paradisal language is not historical language. It is in this breach between paradisal and historical language, where language is both ethereal and strangely material, that Benjamin’s philosophy of language encounters psychoanalytic theory most significantly.

Human language, for Benjamin, can only go so far as to “communicate itself” in language (which is itself a breach and “dislocation”) and to an original abyss, the traces of the original word, as Weber puts it, and not to God, as Pizer has it (unless “God” is identified with the leap between human and divine language). The name, as language-matter, in Benjamin’s hands acquires the status of the Lacanian objet a, the imaginary part-object which stands for the unattainable object of desire. For psychoanalysis and for Benjamin, subjectivity is structured by edges and cuts that are linguistic in origin.

Disarticulations of thought and language find their response and “solution” in the “restoration” of Calderón’s and the Counter-Reformation’s closed drama of fate and guilt, where power, authority, and stability are 28 Catastrophe and Survival reestablished by way of closures and stoppages that stand at the other extreme of the fragmenting stoppages of the martyr. Fate in these dramas of reaction is not what hangs over everyone in the form of ambiguity, as it is in the Trauerspiel, but is rather embodied and controlled by the king: In the drama of the Spanish dramatist [Calderón] fate emerges as the elemental spirit of history, and it is logical that the king alone, the great restorer of the disturbed order of creation, is able to conciliate it.

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