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Benjamin's Readings Author(s): Fredric Jameson Source: Diacritics, Vol. 22, No.

3/4, Commemorating Walter Benjamin (Autumn - Winter, 1992), pp. 19-34 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 05/12/2009 15:20
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We have long been aware of the way in which significant writers assemble their own corpusor canonaroundthem,in whatit is no longerhelpful to thinkof as influences. So, a around Flaubert, constellationof readingsfromApuleius's GoldenAssto Candide,from the Quijote to Sade, makes one imagine some ideal seminarin which the earliertexts would be transformed readingthem throughFlaubert'seyes, andhis own augmented by by this idiosyncraticcanon it contains and presupposesall at once. The great modem theorists, meanwhile, also project their own private canon, for one-time, ad hoc use: witness the multiple references of Deleuze and Guattari'sAnti-Oedipus,which might humanities program. very nicely be transformedinto a whole new undergraduate Benjamin,as a critic and theoristnow also consideredto be a writer,compoundsthese relationshipsand seems to dissolve into his multiplereadingsfully as much as he turns them all into a unique"self' thatremainsto be defined. It is this syntextual,ratherthan intertextual,phenomenon-something on the order of symbiosis in biology-that we mean to examine here. But we must first learnto distinguishbetween a tradition-oriented canon (whether this traditionis in the service of a conventionalRight, as is most frequent,or of a Left or radicalmovement-buildinginspiration,as with RaymondWilliams, or Lukacs,or even the left-modernistssuch as Kristevaand Tel quel or the surrealiststhemselves) and a set of relativistically privileged references in which contingency is inscribed from the outset-what could be called a disposablecanonandwhat,in a moreBenjaminian avatar, it would be appropriate refashion into the "constellation"as such. The difference to between these two conceptions is not to be graspedin some "belief"in history, as the Zeitgeist would vulgarly give us to understand(there are believers and unbelieverson both sides of the divide). Rather,it is in the ways in which interpretive communitiesare and roles that master codes play in that formation. The second position, for formed, example, holds generally to a position that might, in distant parallel to now ancient structuralist as polemics and strategicpositions, be characterized a commitmentto the natureof the code. It might, then, in contrastbe abusive to attributeto the arbitrary traditionpeople some natural-law Cratylistconceptionof the code; on the otherhand, or it is not really them thatwe focus on here, but ratheron Benjaminhimself, and the way in which he is able (or unable)to coordinatetwo framesof referencenormallythoughtto be incompatible: the ad hoc culturalbaggage of his own idiosyncraticreadings and enthusiasmsandthe seemingly more absolutecode of Marxism(throughthe very center of which, however, this same opposition tends to run). Meanwhile, inasmuch as the notion of the code has some crucial commitments to Cratylist or tradition-oriented it is thatrelatively modernistproblemor dilemmathatwill also be itself, representation at stake (albeit in a new and unfamiliarway) in Benjamin'spractices. One way into the problemof the codes in Benjaminlies throughthe works he read andappropriated-and even this strategycomes in two distinctforms. One is temptedto organizetheenormousmassof bookreviews [collectedin vol. 3 of Gesammelte Schriften] of accordingto themes, but then those themes would be characteristic Benjaminand his subjectivity,ratherthan constitutive of the authorsand volumes thus described. We would find ourselves therebyback in some more traditional in kind of auteur-mapping relationto Benjaminhimself. But if we turnto the workswith whichhe was moredurably diacritics / fall-winter 1992

diacritics 22.3-4: 19-34


we engaged, and to which he consecratedlong program-essays,' face a more interesting itself andin proposingsubstitutesandmorecomplex problemin modelingappropriation transactionsfor what used to be called influence. Indeed, the engagementwith these works remindsus of the specifically modernistdynamics of reading,which have been comparedto a seriesof secularconversions: the greatmodernistauteuris not a furnisher of individual works in a genre, and one did not simply read a new Faulkner,a new these wereall fragments a monadictotality, of Lawrence,a new StevensorPound.Rather, which in the periodof the consolidationof a properlymodernistideology (in the US after WorldWarII, and in the aestheticizingsituationof Cold Warintellectuals)it gradually became conventionalto describein phenomenologicaltermsas a specific "world,"with its original temporaland sensory structures. It would seem more appropriate today, in to characterize each of these "works"in termsof a distinctivecode, which is hindsight, learnedlike a foreign language and then provisionallyused by the readerto articulate personalexperienceafterthe fashion of Lacaniantackingnails. Levi-Strauss'saccount of the surplusof signifier [see "TheSorcererand His Magic"and "TheEffectivenessof Symbols"],the way in which shamansor psychoanalyststeach the sufferingsubjectto its rearrange disorganizedsignifieds undernew signifiers,is also a useful referencepoint an alternate"code")for the process of conversionto those modernistworksof art(of (in which it can then correctlybe said, but only in these very narrowanalogicallimits andto the degree to which religion itself functionsthis way, thatthey functionsomethinglike spilt religion, or a religionof art). I do not know thata modernist"code"-that is, a fully achieved secular aesthetic system-has in this sense ever been adequatelydescribed, (which, as althoughwhatused to be called "style study"was a beginningapproximation its slogan suggests,limitedeverythingto languageitself). Sucha model would,however, that has always been felt go a long way toward reconciling the incommensurability of a work and a receptionistone, since the between an objective, or structural, analysis "code"in this sense is very precisely the mediationbetween these two dimensions. It would necessarilybe a comparatist model, since it premisesa similarreceptionat some it level for all the "modernist classics"(orrather, is by way of sucha receptionthatvarious classics ofjust thistype). Finally, writersbecomepromotedintomodernist contemporary and by the same token, the model would hold only for the moder period. Benjamin offers an interestingoccasion for raising such issues, since in him the thandiachronic.Intellectual in the life conversionprocessis most often synchronicrather modem periodseemed to demandalienationof this religioustype, in thatno one can live in culturaland intellectualisolation from such codes, while on the otherhandno single code can be dominantany longer. It is possible to convertreligiously in some absolute way to an individualcode or stylistic "world"(it being understoodthat modem philosophical systems seem to be of the same type as aestheticworksin this respect),andthen we have the phenomenonof disciples or else of scholars devoted lifelong to a single or corpus (spectacles eitherinspirational dispiritingdependingon one's point of view). But most people in the moder period spent theirtime passing in and out of the various across a range secularreligions and theirenthusiasms,offering the image of a trajectory of codes that would have to be examinedon the basis of rhythmsexternalto them (that for of the rise and fall of political or ideological temperatures, example),andin any case to the greatcycles of fashion. comparable
1. Theseessays were, untilthepublicationof Arcades,the most widelyknownand influential of his works. Most of themwere translatedby HarryZohnin theEnglish-languagevolumeentitled withthe signal exceptionsof the essay on KarlKraus,translatedin Reflections,and Illuminations, on the "Commentaries Poems by Brecht." Unless otherwiseindicated,referencesin the textwill identifyquotations in the German complete works, after reference to the appropriateEnglishlanguage edition.


In the case of Benjamin,however, all these enthusiasmsandaestheticcommitments are given to us simultaneously. Not the least interestingproblemraisedby this writeris how he can hold so many seemingly contradictory affiliationsat one time (and how we can thenourselvesgo aboutthe analysisof such contradictory lines of flight in his work). He himself was occasionally aware of this untheorizedmultiplicity,and raised it in the form of a problemthatwas also a whole program: "To encompassboth Breton and Le Corbusier-that would mean drawing the spirit of present-dayFrance like a bow and shootingknowledgeto theheartof themovement"["N"1a.5;Philosophy,Aesthetics46].2 But, as we shall see, this involves a little morethanmeresynthesis,or learningfrommany masters,or absorbingthe positive points. Le Corbusieralso meansfor him the beginning work on modem architecture SiegriedGiedeon (whose Space, TimeandArchitecture of laterbecame a kind of manifesto of ideological modernismfor US architecture), along with Mayer's book on iron construction: a Utopian vision of glass and steel is present here, along with a great many athletic and therapeuticovertones of the puritanical Corbusian vision (so central an exhibit of loathing in the current turn away from modernismin architecture).To juxtapose this clean consciousness, as brightlylit as a hospital,withthevery differenttherapyof Breton,as thatleadsdownintothe unconscious via those protocolsof dreamsand drugsBenjaminhimself practicedas an experimentat one point, is to lay out an equationwith variableswhose solution is not at all evident, unless it be simply Benjaminhimself. In otherinstances,Benjaminexplicitly worriedaway at the problem. It was clearto him thattheArcadesProject had its links with the older Baroqueone in at least one way, namelyvia Baudelaireandthe latter'sspleen, so often comparedto the melancholyof the Protestant Reformationdramatists.Whatfollows3is a very interestingset of deductions as to the role played by commodities and commodification in both periods, as the foundationon which this affect is based. But at this level, we still have to deal here with a juxtapositionof themes whose possible connection with Benjamin'sown psychology can be amply speculatedon, while he himselfjust as energeticallytriedto depersonalize themby magnifyingthem into a theoryof history. It is however not yet paradoxicalthat Benjamin,specialistin seventeenth-century melancholy,shouldhave been interestedin varieties. its nineteenth-century What finally succeeds in arousing our methodological curiosity is, however, the simultaneousenthusiasmfor two writerswho seem somehow absolutelyto exclude each other, and in far more fundamentallyideological ways than Adoro's gravitationally betweenBrechtandKafka,vividly repellentmonads. Suchis forexamplethe antagonism expressedin personby the formeras he demursfrom Benjamin'sKafkaessay ("Jewish fascism") [see the August 31 entry in Benjamin's "Conversationswith Brecht" in Brecht 110 ff.]. The antagonism, some deeper indeed,seems to dramatize Understanding fundamentalantinomyin modem culturalthought,if not its reality, namely that which assigns antitheticalpositions to the political and the subjective or existential, to the didacticand the expressive, to consciousness or agency and to the unconscious. Indeed, while it mightbe abusiveto thinkof Brechtoverhastilyas a realist,it is certainthatKafka quintessentiallyoccupies the stereotypicalpositionof the modernist,awakeningall of its shadow opposite numbers. To all the mythic and formalistimpulses that cluster about Brechtin the West, seeking to reappropriate as an "existentialist" him afterthe fashion of Esslin's book (or as a greatpoet, instead of a dramatist),may be opposed Brecht's artisanaldemandfor usefulness:
2. Thefile of methodologicaland epistemologicalnotes in the Arcadesdossier is designated "N." I have sometimesmodifiedthe English translationwithoutindication. 3. In the Nfile, butalso in the very interestingprovisional set of aphorismshe extractedfrom the Baudelairefile under the title "CentralPark" [see 1: 657-90]. For an English-language translationby Lloyd Spenser,see New GermanCritique34 (1985): 32-58.

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"I don't accept Kafka, you know," says Brecht. And he goes on to speak about a Chinese philosopher's parable of "the tribulations of usefulness." In a wood there are many different kinds of tree-trunk. From the thickest they make ship's timbers; from those which are less thick but still quite sturdy, they make boxes and coffin-lids; the thinnest of all are made into whipping-rods; but of the stunted ones they make nothing at all: these escape the tribulations of usefulness. "You've got to look around in Kafka's writings as you might in such a wood. Then you 'llfind a whole lot of very useful things. The images are good, of course. But the rest is pure mystification. It's nonsense. You have to ignore it. Depth doesn't get you anywhere at all. Depth is a separate dimension, it's just depth-and there's nothing whatsoever to be seen in it. " [Understanding Brecht 109-10]

In this workingprocedure,which chops up the aspects and isolates the usable themesor fashion,we slowly come uponthe levels, the quotablechaptersor verses, in interrogative basic clue of formal autonomization-the objective propertyand capacity of modem works to be brokenup and used in just this way. Brecht was himself the idiosyncratic theorist of this deeper formal tendency, a concept underscoredby Benjaminin his luminouspresentationessays (still among the to best introductions Brecht's ideaof anepic theater,fromwhichthepoeticcommentaries must be sharply distinguishedas having a ratherdifferent inner rhythm and generic as dynamic). It is the concept of the gestus, translated the "quotablegesture":
An actor must be able to space his gestures the way a typesetterproduces spaced type. This effect may be achieved, for instance, by an actor's quoting his own gesture on the stage.... Epic theater is by definition a gestic theater. For the more frequently we interrupt someone in the act of acting, the more gestures result. [Illuminations 151; 2: 536]

How does one reconcile this voluntaristaccountwith the notion that modem life tends objectively, underits own momentum,towardsthe fragmented,towardsthat which is reification,the city, the forcible (whetherby Taylorization, interrupted "always-already" of capitalinto the village, or whatever)? It is the greathomeopathicstrategy penetration thatcan be detectedin very differentformsat distantplaces in the modernistlandscapenamely,the decision andthe will to choose the inevitable,to affirmwhatis an irreversible tendency, and, by makingnecessity into a virtue,to open up a rangeof possibilities for of its possible appropriation.The transformation the fragmentas a result of a sociohistoricalprocess into the gestureas an object of didacticinquiryand scientific investithe gation outflanksthe Zeitgeist. It short-circuits temptationto reinventthe pathosof a of call for the "reunification" life (as in Lukacs), and it underscoresthe way in which has naturalization tended to accompanysocial fragmentation.As a result,not only the intelligible pieces but this very process comes before us as somethingaltogethernatural and commonsensical, as what goes without saying and, utterly self-evident, needs no effect will now takeits departure further comment. The Brechtian precisely estrangement of from this unnaturality the gestus, as that starklyreappearswhen the fragmentis held up dripping and streaming in the cold light of day. But the very process which "interrupts"-whetherit be the logic of capitalitself or the enlightenedwill of the actoras pedagogue-is also grist for the mill of modernism'shostility to narrative such (and Benjamin'sown, as we will begin to see). It is thereforeperhapsnot so unexpectedthatsomethingsimilarshouldnow transpire in Kafka's own form-production, that is uniquely anatomizedfor us in Benjamin's as 22

on at greatprogram-essay the Praguefabulist. It can be detected,not unsurprisingly, the point at which genericallythe two oeuvres of Kafkaand Brechtintersect,namely in the in theatricalitself. In Kafkathis significantlysurfacesat the momentof the paradisiacal, the NatureTheaterof Oklahoma(in Amerika):
One of the most significantfunctions of this theater is to dissolve happenings into their gestic components. One can go even further and say that a good number of Kafka 's shorter studies and stories are seen in theirfull light only when they are, so to speak, put on as acts in the "Nature Theater of Oklahoma." Only then will one recognize with certainty that Kafka's entire work constitutes a codex of gestures which surely had no definite symbolic meaning for the authorfrom the outset; rather, the author tried to derive such a meaning from them in everchanging contexts and experimental groupings. [Illuminations 120; 2:418/111]

Thatthis objective gesturalityin Kafkaseems to presupposea peculiarlyimpersonaland decentered consciousness (derived, via Rosenzweig, from China and its theater and psyche) is of great,if secondary,interestto us in this context. To putthe centerof gravity of of this crucialBenjamin/Kafka thanin the relationship Kafka essay in the gestus rather to a popularJewish storytelling tradition-this last leading back furtherin the twin directionsof the precapitalistmode of productionand of cosmology proper-is at least to estrangethis familiarwork, which is more often used in evidence for the Zionist or mystical Benjaminthan in coordinationwith his othertexts. Yet Benjamin'sfundamental pointlies here,andthe conceptof thegestus will be the in crucialmechanismwherebyhe negotiatesthemost difficultanddelicatetransaction the Marxianapproachto a literarytext, namely the acknowledgmentand ad hoc working coordination its simultaneous of claimsto value andto ideologicalmystification.Thetwo faces of the gestus-its visual form and the undersideof an interminablyglossed set of possible meanings-offer a means of coordinationhere that is ratherdifferentfrom the Fuchs ("The equally ad hoc solutionsto be foundin the essays on KarlKrausandEduard Not only do events sortthemselvesoutintoa seriesof gestures("eachgesture Collector"). is an event-one mighteven say a drama-in itself' [121; 2: 419/1 11]) in such a way that the Kafka narrativefinds itself imperceptiblytransformed into a kind of Eisensteinian of attractions," itself not unrelatedto the peculiarly discontinuousmontage "montage form of the Benjaminessay (even before the absence of the scaffolding in the Arcades Project allows thebuildingblocks of such an essay to be inspectedin theiroriginalform). This form also opens up a distancefrom meaningthatcan only be filled by interminable commentary,which is itself not inconsistent with absolute incomprehension: "Kafka could understand things only in the form of a gestus, and this gestus which he did not understand constitutesthe cloudy partsof the parables" [129; 2: 427/111]. This is finally his the social meaningof Kafka's form-production: possibility of perceptionand of the micronarrative the gestureis at one with the omnipresent of experienceof outsidereality in as whatcannotbe graspedor understood.But when Benjamingets this farpressing it yields a pictureof Kafkaas a kindof privilegedrecordingapparatus who mustmultiply his vivid notes and sketches in exact proportionto the incomprehensibilityof the phenomenathey designate-he suddenlyrefersto an alienationby way of the machine:
The invention of the film and the phonograph came in an age of maximum alienation of men from one another, of immeasurably mediated relationships which have become their only ones. Experiments have proved that a man does not recognize his own gait on the screen or his own voice on the phonograph. The situation of the subject in such experiments is Kafka's situation. This is what directs him to learning [Studium], where he may encounterfragments ofhis own

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existence thatare still withinthe contextof the role. He mightcatch hold of the lost gestus the way Peter Schlemiehlcaught hold of the shadow he had sold. [137-38; 2: 436/111] This anticipationof the classic existentialfigures (Malraux'sanecdoteof your inability to recognize your recordedvoice, Camus's image of the man in the phone booth whose voice you cannot hear) serves less to document Kafka's relationshipto the thing they explained and domesticated (by calling it "the absurd")than to underscorehis very distance from them. Meanwhile, the reference to Schlemiehl reminds us of one of Benjamin's most dramaticinterpretiveacts and reversals, in which, in a discussion of and as fore-form mirror-images reflections,he suddenlygraspsthemirror theanticipatory of themodemmedia[see "TheWorkof Artin theAge of ItsMechanical Reproduceability," Illuminations 230]. This then unexpectedly binds the Kafka essay into the later while a sentencethatimmediatelyfollows of problematic technologyandreproducibility, this extract("it is a stormthatblows towardsus out of forgetfulness"),anticipatingthe well-known cadences of the Angelus Novus thesis, now seems to juxtapose Kafka's stubborn artfulnotationswith the whole questionof the culturalhistoryof the human and and its relationshipto progress(which the "Theseson History"take up directly). past I want to suggest thatthese are not to be graspedas thematicconnections,although we seem to be unableat first to enumeratethem otherthanin the form of themes. I will try to show elsewhere how simultaneous cross-referencesof this kind in Benjamin functionless to link varioustopics thanto differentiatethem. Whatis underscored here the incomprehensible of the same topic in two distinctplaces at the same by appearance time is ratherthe multiplicityof distinctmeaningsor aspectsthatcan be made to project off distinctfaces of the same "seme"or namedconcept. This alreadybegins to show in a more concrete form, but in the realm of themes and ideas, what Benjaminmust have meantby a constellation. In the relationshipof Brechtto Kafka,however, we find a more external,canonical manifestationof this way of constructingthe object of study and of linking privileged texts, which are so many objectifiedcodes in theirown right. GestusconstellatesKafka with Brecht: it makes each one usable in terms of rewritingthe other. The Brechtian analyticconcept,for example,allows us to rereadthe modernistKafka,while at the same time demonstrating active relevanceof Brecht's own didacticandpedagogicalforms the for the widerintelligenceanden-act-mentof a nonpedagogicalandexpressivemodernist literature. It does yet not seem clear to me that we can definitivelymap the constellationsof Benjamin'sreadings(somethingin anycase implausiblein view of the thesis aboutcodes thatwe aredefendingin Benjamin'spractice). Indeed,thatthey arelargely substitutable constitutesa first answerto the objection (implicit in Scholem, for instance) that since many of these essays were occasional and even commissioned-Benjamin had no interestin Leskov, but had to make the job of writing a review of a German particular collected worksinterestingfor himself, etc.-the presenceof this or thatparticular writer or culturaltext would not be primaryevidence for anything. Still, it seems to me thata certainformal descriptionof the constellationas such is possible. Indeed,we have alreadyisolatedtwo featuresof its structure:a differencein identity incarnations the moder) and an identity of (Le Corbusierand Bretonas two antithetical in difference(Brechtand Kafkaas antitheseswho sharethe formof the gestus). Now we need to examine what I will call a verticalpatternin this corpusof essays, which has to do with the groundingof an otherwisefree-floatingconstellation,with the naturalization of the content of a set of relationshipsotherwise withoutcontent. The shadowpresencewithin the essays of a kind of linked trilogy or tripartite series has often been acknowledged:this is themovementfrom"TheStoryteller" across"Some diacritics / fall-winter 1992

to Motifs in Baudelaire," "TheReproducibleWorkof Art." Read as a sequence,this set of three steps or stages offers a relatively coherentmessage thatcan be articulated a in as series of propositionsaboutthe relationshipbetweenexperienceandcommunication, these are impacted by technology (or modernization) and find their ratios varied dialectically along with it. A thesis might be constructedfrom these stages that would have some formal analogies with Lukacs's Theory of the Novel (to which a lengthy referenceis made in "TheStoryteller"), bringingthe latterup to date as it were with the inclusion,if not of mass culture,then at least of technologicalrealities. But such a thesis, it should be clear, is not "in Benjamin," who does not argue for propositions or in interpretations this way: it is the effect of a montage,somethingderivedand fully as as anyconceptualreconstruction this or thatalleged intentionattributed the of to arbitrary Arcades fragments, which does not mean that it is wrong or uninteresting. In fact, of and Benjaminsolicits this kindof attribution, conceptualreconstruction interpretation after the fact, on the partof his reader;he cannot be read without such a retrospective operation,no matterhow questionablethe results. It would now seem possible to affirm the existence within the corpus of the great program-essays(of the "middleperiod")of yet anothershadow trilogy, a much fainter tripartitemovement that intersects the one in "The Storyteller"but that deals with and thanwith the determination of thanmodernization, with belief rather ideology rather can thetechnologicalbase. This "trilogy" be calledthecosmologicalseries, perceptionby andit moves fromthe fundamental essay on KarlKraus,againthrough"TheStoryteller," on andon to the "Commentary Brecht's Poems,"not normallyconsideredto be one of the program-essaysas such (owing to its discontinuousform) and neglected in both Brecht andBenjamincriticism.Ineachof theseessays, as we shallsee, Benjaminfindshis textual investigationmoving, as it were, againsthis own conscious will and intent,towardthe of identification,as of a watermark, somethinglike a "greatchainof being"in connection with the three very dissimilar texts in question-the pamphletsof Kraus,the tales of Leskov, and the lyrics of Brecht. This ladderof forms, or chain of being, seems to lead down into ontologicalregions, sedimentedlayersof a natureunderthe social phenomena of what, at least in the Vienna of Krausand the Berlin of Brecht,are urbanand thereby historicalrealities subjectto humanpraxis and accessible to change and modification. What can now be the statusof such a ladderof forms and of the Nature,or at least the naturalization, they propose? The question has two implications: the one for what it may be abusive to call Benjamin'smethodhas to do with the relationshipof the constellationsof his objectsof in studyto some ultimategroundingin humannatureitself, some ultimateconstraint need on of andfinitude(whichwouldalso imply anultimateconstraint the mutability thecodes themselves,some ultimatetruthof natural law). The otherconsequenceis perhapsbutthe inversionof this one andconcernsideological analysisas such, somethingwhose relative absence seemed to markthe originalityof Benjamin'sMarxismandhis mode of cultural commentary.It would,however,be a mistaketo thinkit absent:the SecondInternational (as, for example, in the essay on EduardFuchs) is not the only object of an explicit ideological critique(in termsof the thematicsof progress). Ideologicaldemystification is present,tactfully,in the Surrealismessay, where the well-known distinctionbetween revolt and revolution is firmly objected, in passing. And it is present openly but respectfullyin the greatKrausessay, in which the passionatenegativityof the satirist(it has seems clear that the little fragmentcalled "The DestructiveCharacter" to do with Kraus,ratherthanwith Brechthimself, as has been claimed) and the laterconversionto Catholicismareboth objectedto be necessaryflaws, unacceptableideological deformas tions withoutwhich,however,Kraus' historicandprogressivemission wouldhave been inconceivable.


It is a familiar dialectical trope, whereby the flaw is retrospectivelygrasped as necessary for the strength, and the ideologically doubtful reread as the ally, of the politically correctandprogressive. Yet it would not be genuinelydialecticalif one went on to claim that this reinforcementof opposites was always and at every historical trueand operative. WhateverBrecht's ideological flaws, for example, they conjuncture do not have to include these Krausianones of a kind of baroquecum Viennese Catholic nature:Brechtfaced a very differentpolitical andhistoricalsituationfrom thatin which Krauswas formed as a young man. Leskov's situationwas very differentfrom either of these, and it may thereforebe useful to start with him. The traditionalview of Leskov as a "profoundlyRussian" storytellersomehow organicallyrootedin the peasantryand its superstitionsand tales is at least partiallyestrangedandchilled by his commercialandfamily links to England(in its dryempiricalbusinessspiritthe very antipodeof Slavic peasantmysticism)andby his sympathieswith the heretics of Russian orthodoxy(who may in this respect also offer meantin the West). some very distantand heavily Slavic version of what Protestantism a Leskov who atthe veryleast constructshis "russianity" These gaps in the "organic" give (to use a Barthesian expression),who worksit up as an artobjectout of systematiccodes ratherthanexpressingit unconsciouslylike some kind of earthoracle. Meanwhile,this distance-which might well be compatible with the aesthetics of "estrangement"-is more difficult to reconcile with thattheoryof the conditionsof possibility of storytelling and the tale itself which Benjaminhas famously offered us in an earliermomentof the to essay: namely,its constitutiverelationship the threekindsof social situationsin which it variouslytends to flourish. These are all somehow situationsof handicraft thatthe (so practice of handworkclings to the oral narrative"like the potter's fingermarkson the clay"),butthe kindsof storieswill varyaccordingto theirorigins: in a peasantor village milieu, among sailors, or in the mouths of merchantsand commercial travelers. This enumerationis surely meant to draw a fundamentalline between this kind of narrative productionand what is consistent with the psychologies, sensoria, and lifeworlds of people who handle modem machinery-namely, factory workers. Their needs are examined in "The ReproducibleWork"; meanwhile, "The Storyteller"gives us the obverse face of Brecht's reflections on his theaterpublic, since this handicraftpublic, closer to the earth itself, is not likely to present itself in his urbantheater. Are we to imagine that Leskov's travels form him into some distant modem analogue of the outlinedin the firstpartof theessay? Perhaps,if we takeinto account medievalstoryteller the mediationof the earthitself (as content) and above all the formal mediationof the requisiteirrevocabletenses in the storytellingnarrative:"A man who dies at thirty-five provesat every momentof his life to be a manwho will die at the age of thirty-five."This he sentenceof MoritzHeimann's is a privilegedobjectof Benjaminian meditation; denied andaffirmedit atthe sametime. Untrueexistentially(atthispointa long implicitdialogue Sartre,who wishes to opens up between Benjaminand the rathermore Kierkegaardian insist on the irreducibilityof the lived moment, in which the futureis never visible), it becomes true in commemorationand in the tale. The issue is not only aesthetic or philosophical but also historiographicand political (as in Sartre) and will later, in Benjamin,be staged in competing conceptions of the past. For as passionately as he conceptionsof progress, repudiatesbourgeois/socialdemocratic(Second International) he just as stubbornlyseeks to refutethe historicistconceptionof the isolated momentof thepast ("wiees eigentlichgewesen")andto refusethe historicistimperativeto recapture the sense thepastmomenthadof itself withoutanyknowledgeof its futureandits destiny. For us, rather,the fate of the past must be includedin our pictureof it, as a sadness or a defeat, a massacre,or, on the otherhand, a barely perceptiblesensing of dawn air. But this is hardto squarewith the tabooon marginalizing conceptionsof thepastas decadence

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or regress4and flips the polemic into another,upwardspiral. Death is the markhere for narrativeirrevocability. The ambivalenceof this conceptualtwo-way street-Is it an existentialquestionof mortalityand finitude,of Being itself? or a narrative questionof and construction?-will be the most interestingnegotiation we watch praxis, choice, Benjaminmake in this series. At any rate, Nature-in the form of organic death-enters the narrativepictureat preciselythis point,whereit becomes clearthatstorytellingas such, in its classical form, demandsnaturalization.Unless the events of the tale are irrevocable,its shape sags; it dissolves into the formlessandthe non-, anti-,or a-narrative.(Indeed,one way of talking aboutthe modem andwhatit does to the novel is offeredpreciselyby the examinationof whatmodemfreedomsdo to the "destiny" its characters.)Butthisnaturalization of means a powerfuldisplacementand shift in focus wherebythe social andthe historicalareonce again-as in precapitalistsocieties-grasped as forms of naturalhistory: the emergent secularpoliticalityof modem times must here again be petrifiedand struckby the wellnigh apocalypticlight of a ladderof species andforms. Shadesof the tragedybook, with its gloomy revival of the cyclical view of humanevents andhumanstrivingsas a dance of death, a funerealpageant! Leskov's cosmology thus proves to be (using the Russian Formalist term) a "motivationof the device," a condition of possibility of his storytellingitself, which demandsa chain of being thatreachesdown into the mineralworld andthe inanimateone can now tell stories about magical stones!-and up towardthe apokatastasis(the release of souls into redemption),interpreted Benjaminas a kind of disenchantment by in which suddenlyall the earthlybeings underthe spell of the fallen world suddenlyfind theirvoice andbegin to "tell theirstory." At the height of this summitof forms is found the righteous man himself (the storyteller, who affords counsel) in the form of the who reunitesthis variety by way of the symbiosis of the sexes and the hermaphrodite, It is an oddly postcontemporary genders. Utopian note to find at the heartof a peasant world view. Butwe mustbe carefulhow we evaluatethisnaivecosmology, as dazzlingas anarbol de la vida, or rather,how we evaluate Benjamin's evaluation. He was theoretically as and suspiciousof narrative such (the historicalcontinuumor "progress") passionately committed to the Enlightenmentprogramof the dissolution of myth. Myth would of content,or presumablyinvolve whatwe have called grounding,the attribution natural naturalization: belief in the ontologicalprimacyof a specific code, the ladderingthat the shadesdown fromhistoryandthe politicalinto natural andthe formsof being. What law stance from the more familiar iconoclastic distinguishes Benjamin's Enlightenment forms of ideology-critiqueanddemystification,however, is his idea thatone must go all as the way throughmyth in orderto free oneself from it. (This has been interpreted a andoriginalformof collective therapy cultural or We musttherefore revolution.) specific expect his views of cosmology to be both ambivalentand complicated. Still, the great Krausessay betraysthe more classic lineamentsof the operationof becausethisparticular is relatively case unencumbered ideologicaldemystification, perhaps of and by narrative finds its centerof gravityin the relationship the writerto languageas in thanto storytelling. Yet Krausalso needs a formof mythicnaturalization such, rather orderto fulfill his vocation. This functionis providedby anAustrian Catholicism baroque (to which the Jewish Krauswill laterformallyconvert),which authorizesa paradisiacal
4. Benjamin'sconceptionof the relationshipof present to past is governedin part by Riegl's Late Roman Art Industry-by a principled repudiationof the notion of historical decadence: "There no periods of decline " ["N" 1.6; 5: 571/44]. Thesatirical stance of a Kraus,however, are is precisely grounded in the belief in contemporarydecadence; whence complex tensions in Benjamin'sthoughtI will examine elsewhere.


conceptionof a full language,in the light of which its deformationsby the modem press can be denounced: His conceptof creationcontainsthe theological inheritanceof speculationsthat validityforthe whole of Europein the seventeenth lastpossessed contemporary has At the theological core of this concept,however,a transformation century. taken place that allows it effortlessly to fit into the cosmopolitan credo of Austrian worldliness, which made creation into a church in which nothing remainedto recall the rite except an occasional whiff of incense in the mists. [Reflections263; 2: 339-40] What distinguishesBenjamin's ideological analysis of Krausfrom those in which the and wheatis separated carefullyfrom the chaff, andthe superstitious regressivefromthe correctand useful, is thatin orderto generatea rich, "historicallyoperative" politically critique,this ideological vision of linguistic plenitudemust pass throughthe mediation of a whole new personalityor psychic structure.It is this mediationthatthe titles of the and threesectionsof the Krausessay-namely, "CosmicMan,""Daimon," "Monster" (in the Germanmore pointedly renderedas "Allmensch,""Daimon,"and "Unmensch")to begin to project. Here the obligationof the ideological underpinning producea new is clear: the creational vision must now generate that "destructivecharacter" agent requiredfor the tireless labor of the linguistic diagnosticianand prophetof doom that Krausincarnatedfor over thirtyyears. It must now be called upon to explain the necessity that compelled this great bourgeois character to become a comedian,this guardianof Goetheanlinguisticvalues a polemicist, or whythis irreproachablyhonorable man went berserk. This, however, was bound to happen,since he thoughtfit to begin changing the world with his own class, in his own home, in Vienna. And when, recognizingthefutility of his enterprise, he abruptlybroke it off, he placed the matterback in the hands of nature-this time destructive,not creative, nature. [Reflections288; 2: 365] To grasp what Benjamin means here, we need to consider the sketch entitled "The and DestructiveCharacter" in a more generalway to sense the quotientand reservoirof sheerantisocialpower, rage, and internalizedviolence thatany solitaryindividualneeds to summonin orderto withstandandassaultthe massive being of the social orderoutside. Kraus needed to become a monster in order for his art-for-art's-sake programto be convertedinto the virtualcritiqueof the media thatbecame the politics of the antifascist era(andbeyond). Andhe could do thatby convertinghis ideology of natureinto a daimon his whose guidance transformed own personalityinto a "forceof nature." The new mission of this naturalized force then becomes the inventionof a first and fundamentalcritiqueof the media. Its originalityis the result of a match between the of temperament the writerand the changingdemandsof the historicalsituationitself, a match that can only be appreciatedas a dialectical irony. For Kraus sets forth as an aesthete, and it is within the well-nigh planetaryand gravitationalshift from the belle epoqueto the fascist andantifascist1930s thathis passionsandobsessions takeon a very differentmeaningfrom the one they startedout with: "You would have had to graspthe Fackel literally, word for word, from the very first issue, in order to foresee that this aestheticallydetermined journalismwas destined,withoutlosing any of its basic motifs, but rathergaining one, to become the political prose of 1930" [Reflections261; 2: 335]. Yet at this ultimatepoint of the satiricand the prophetic,at which all the corruptionsof the age aredenounced,we must not neglect readingthem in theirfinal form in the music of Offenbach, in whose ultimate artificial and social frivolity naturereturnslike the diacritics / fall-winter 1992

repressed,and in which the delirious vision of social nullity and vacuousness wins an aestheticappearance turnsinto the euphoriaof play and style (music appearing and here at the otherboundary satiriclanguage). This now allows us to superimpose of Offenbach on Kraus himself and to insert music into the Benjaminianconstellation (just as the of caricatures DaumierandGuys conjugatethe historicalmaterialist collectorFuchswith the modernistpoet Baudelaireand allow the opening onto visual art). Yet in both Leskov and Kraus,the ideological appealto nature,however necessary for theirform construction-in Leskov for narrative,in Krausfor the denunciationand regenerationof a damaged and corruptpublic language-demands the supplementof ideological critiqueto become visible as such. Nothingin the workitself, except a certain as slight internaldistance,identifiesthe ideologicalprecondition sheerideology, thereby allowing the readerto take the properprecautionsand to open a furtherdistance in its reception. The thirdexhibit or panel, the Brechtianone, which consists in a seemingly randomset of brief commentarieson thirteenlyrics or songs, does precisely this, by the way it includes the naturalwithin itself. title of Theuntranslatable andtheorganization Brecht's earlycollection,Hauspostille, suggests a reworkingof a hymn and prayerbook for moder urbancircumstances. It "objectsto much of our morality;it has reservationsregardinga numberof traditional commandments. It has not the remotestintention,however, of explicitly statingthese reservations. It bringsthem out in the form of variants,precisely, of the moralattitude andgestureswhose customaryformit considersto be no longerquitefitting"[Brecht58; 2: 562]. This is not to be confused with irony, but it does suggest an operationwhereby is and the traditional incorporated indeedis required the formas the ladderit mustboth by In these lyrics and songs, "tradition," climb and kick away. variously indicating sin, puritanism, piety, properbehavior,hospitality,patriotism,cleanliness,andpedagogy, is forms. Indeed,in both whatremainsof whatI havecalled theontologicalladderof natural as much as Leskov-the acquired conviction of a the preceding exhibits-Kraus groundingin naturenecessarilybecame what we would call a religious worldview. But in Brecht's poems, God himself appearsin person, only to be hooted and booed by the of humanhistorylike natural "menof Mahagonny."Heretherequirement treating history into also examinedfrom all sides and transformed a new kind of is not only fulfilled but poetic object in its own right. Such is Brecht's way with the seeming naturalness-or "naturality"-of emotions and his unique approachto the historicallynew phenomena embodiedin big-city life (anotherdirectlink acrossthe entireconstellationto Baudelaire himself): One cannot imagine an observersurveyingthe charmsof a city-its multitude of houses, the breath-takingspeed of its traffic, its entertainments-more unfeelinglythan Brecht. This lack offeeling for the city decor, combinedwith an extreme sensibilityfor the city-dweller's special ways of reaction, distinguishes Brecht's cyclefrom all big-citypoetry thatprecedes it. [Brecht61; 2: 556-57] exteriorand the detail of the streetto the Paradoxically,this turnfrom the architectural new habitustheformerrequiresandgeneratesis not only consistentwithBenjamin'sown it approachto the urban(in "OnSome Motifs of Baudelaire"); also allows for a kind of of and invertednaturalization precisely those new urbanfeelings-of rage and perverse and of "illegality"-culminating in an racism, of the psychology of the underground, moment in which political graffiti on a wall take on all the "lapidary" astonishing natureof the naturalityof the Latinclassics. Now the actuallandscape-the "original" Romantics,say-betrays the effects of these operationsin a peculiarlyBrechtianfashion of by way of the fading and impoverishment the decor: the washed-outsky, the pitiful 30

stick-treeall by itself in the emptylot [Brecht68-69: 2: 566]. Meanwhile,in the glorious of final poem on Lao-tse's dictationand promulgation the Tao, in the momentbeforehe crosses the borderinto exile and out of the sight of humanbeings, somethingcrucialis rectified about the vengeful God of the opening poem; something is said about the relationshipbetween revelation, poetry, and friendliness. A most unnaturaldoctrinal lesson is left behind,namely thatthe weak can overcomethe strongas waterwearsdown solid rock. Thisis notmerelythereversalof theladderof naturewhose structural presence sectionof theconstellation; is affirmedin thethreeconstitutivemomentsof thisparticular it also reads into the recordBenjamin'sown relationshipto nature,being, and religion, as the quintessentialcity-dweller and Enlightenmentskeptic. of This is thensomethingvery like the verticalstructure the constellation(as opposed to what we have called syntactical or horizontaloppositions), which responds to the necessity of content and groundingand of the ideology of the naturalby including and it-foregrounding it and turningit into a message aboutitself. One final transforming now needs to be set forth, namely what might today be described as the example relationshipwithin Benjaminof Proustand culturalstudies, of modernismand enlightof enment,of aestheticismandpolitics. It turnson Benjamin'ssystematicappropriation Proust'smotif of waking and sleeping, of rememberingand forgetting,for the purposes of the Enlightenment projectof "wakingup fromthe nineteenthcentury"5-that is, from of cultureitself, from the superstructure capitalism. It is a waking that, as in bourgeois relationswith the mythic generally, he wishes to stage as a full settling of Benjamin's accounts, a passing all the way throughto the other side, ratherthan a revolutionary puritanismand iconoclasm whereby the bourgeois heritage is simply repudiatedand destroyed. This form of waking and remembering,whose concept Benjamin finds developed in Proust,constitutesa kind of collective therapy,not to say culturalrevolution-a systematic working through and reexperiencingas though for the first time, which, as in Freud,by the completenessof its commitmentto the past now at last allows the past to be left behind and more fully forgotten(the dead finally buryingtheirdead). and Thoughthereis no timeto developtheparticulars theintricaciesof thisoperation, its which has much to do with Proustand with culturalhistoriography, formal structure mustbe underscored.It is a structure bearssome similaritiesto the conjunctionwith that which we began,namelythe odd sharingof a mutualelectronbetweenKafkaandBrecht, the way in which the Brechtianconcept of gestus became the Kafkaesquecategory of narrative. Here too a Proustianfigure becomes a Benjaminian(or at least a nineteenthcenturyarchaeological)methodology. But wherein the firstinstanceit was one aesthetic document,one pointin the constellation,which therebymanagedto link up with another, here it is the entiremethodologicalpracticeof the constellationthatcomes into view in conjunctionwith one of its crucial components. It is a mode of relationship(which it in might be betterto call automethodologicalratherthan autoreferential) which a part, while remainingin its place as part,also programsthe totalityand offers its unexpected manifesto. We now have a provisionalconclusion to drawfromthese figures. They displaythe left tracings,the afterimage,andthe ghostly watermark by the objectiveforces of the age, or of the "current situation."We shouldnot too rapidlysubjectivizeBenjamin'sreadings of by graspingthemas the idiosyncratic"tastes" an alreadyprofoundlyidiosyncraticand privatereader(what makes Benjamin's idiosyncraciesepistemologically privileged is for precisely his abhorrence the personaland the subjective as such). Rather,"tastes," particularlyin the moder period, are the way in which the forces of the moder age, passing throughthe mediationof the aesthetic, show up on the individualsensoriumas
5. This is Benjamin's own description of the ambition of the Arcades Project; see above all the first reflections in the Kfile [5: 490ff.].

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on a Geigercounteror an EKG. My deepervisceralfeelings aboutLe Corbusier then can be translated back into a whole philosophyof historyand a whole political stanceon the natureof modem times andmodernization-and so for all the otherswe have herenamed in passing. Andif it is saidthatit is somehowa remarkable historicalaccidentthata Kafka comes into existence, or if we amuseourselvesby imagininga body of modernistwriting of a peculiar,unimaginabletype thatfailed to come into being-thereby failing to give to representation some deeperforce of the age, which for thatvery reasonremainsunsaid andnon-named-then that,too, makesup for the natureof ourhistoricalsituation,whose contingenciesarepreciselyinevitablein the othersense of the word. Itdefinesourhistory thata Kafkacameintobeingin it, andthe aforesaidunnameable modernist aestheticfailed to do so. It is to that contingent conjunctureof contingencies that the historical consciousness of the presentis a reactionand an articulation. I also want to conclude with a remarkabout what I called the codes and their essentially historical arbitrariness. Benjamin gives us the suggestive example of a betweenrelativismandabsolutenaturality, an squaringof the circle of the contradiction that consists in keeping faith with a nameless referent that can never find example and approximate adequate figuration,while therepresentations codes thatsimultaneously and it arebothhonoredandrelativized. Benjaminwas utterlynon- andantiphilosophical, I suppose that his constellative transcodingcan in no way be thoughtof as Hegelian. Perhapsit constitutes, rather,an approachto that postmoder spatial dialectic that so manypeople (most notablyHenriLefebvre)have called for in oppositionto the Hegelian temporalone. in But thatamountsto hammeringBenjamininto an instrument the strugglefor our own present and future. Only a first, provisional lesson can be drawn from these in for Benjaminianproceduresif we substitute"narrative" "representation" general. In seem at the very least susceptible case ourachievedreceptionsof any representation any into narrativeand expression in narrativeform. Yet it is precisely to transformation narrativethat wears the least well, that shows its age in the outmoded and merely "fashionable"-sheerly conventional-stories the older generations told themselves (without realizing, often, that these were stories or conventions). This is one of the of strikingfeatures of our reappropriation the past, that what separatesthe usable, the relevant or current,from the detritusof the junk shop, the uncanonizable,is the line between non-narrativeand narrativeitself. A structureis reconstructedwhich we that translate contemporary into terms,leavingbehinda periodnarrative we canno longer stomachandthatmustbe repressedandignored,if the oldertext is to be revived without Thustheconstructed of a Beethoven too muchguiltorintellectualself-recrimination. part sonata is tacitly separatedfrom the cloying period melody that comes to stand for Viennese Enlightenment frivolity, class guilt, and luxury,the self-indulgenceof culture at its most gratuitousand intolerable. Or consider EdwardCurtis's ambitiousPacific Northwestcoast film, in which the last vestiges of the most stunningKwakiutlmythsand love story,"withpriestlyvillainsand into ritualsarereorganized themostunlikely"Indian lovers: we hastento peel off this windowdressingandinventa non-narrative star-crossed in relationshipto the terrifyingthunderbird the war canoe, beyond all local fashion and sentimentalism. late nineteenth-century All separablenarrativemoments of this kind-which include what are sometimes of called the unconscious "masternarratives" history at work in the collective imagiinto alreadyimplicitlytransformed nary-are by virtueof thatreificationand separation images, which is to say, into objects. Notoriouslyimages soak up ideological investment of a secondarykind, and on some other level than their formercontent (for example, and notions of the "expansion"of an empire or a system, its fall, or its "maturation" development).


This objectificationstrikeskitsch andclassic alike;indeed,this is the basis on which both social phenomenaareconstructed:the reifiedprojectionof a kind of culturalobject capableof absorbingsheerconnotation,whetherthatof official cultureandcanonization or the more shabbydecorationsby which povertyseeks to adornandconceal itself (most often from itself). In either case, the guilt of culture is here reenactedby way of the the hollowness of official institutionsor the pitifulfailureof artobjectsto transform real. thereis also a truthto cultureis presupposed this effect, which sets in when that (That by truthhas been dispelled or neutralized.) It is thereforeas thoughnarrative-in the sense of hairstyleand clothing fashion, storytellingconventions, the sheer style of the social imaginaryor objective spirit of any given period-inspired what Barthes might have called a veritablenauseaof history,a deep visceraldisgustwith the ephemeralitiesof the of past. This is quitedifferentfromthatgenuinenightmare historywe glimpse whenever of of we begin to sense the permanence its failuresandthe irredeemability the generations of the dead (even more than the ferocious cruelty of human beings upon generations among themselves). Whatmustnow be assertedis the identitybetweenthis narrative rubbish-which the in its totality-and ideology proper,itself always susceptibleto narrative pastis, virtually form. This is the point at which we can venturethe unlikelypropositionthatBenjamin's "structural constellationshave a family likeness with Althusserian causality,"which also seeks to elude narrativeform while retainingthe elements of deep referentiality. The Althusseriandistinctionbetween science andideology is supremelypertinenthere, for it of is hardto see how that "representation the ImaginaryRelationshipof Individualsto their Real Conditions of Existence" [162], which he calls ideology, could be anything otherthannarrative.It is a position thatblocks the free-fall into sheerfictionality,since are the elements, the non-narrative componentsof the representation, scarcely optional and markthe place of some non-narrative real, an absentreferentiality.6 One can also tryto recode all of this in a kind of mathematical language. It is certain that one of the casualtiesof a contemporary, properlypostmodernnausea in the face of is narrativesand old-fashionedrepresentations what is takento be the Marxian"master narrative" history,by which is meantthe doctrineof the modes of production,which of we turn into stories-of the now supremely unfashionabletype of "philosophies of histories"-about the way in which one mode gave way to another history"or "universal how a "civilization" brokedown, how Rome declined,how some othersocial form one, will eventually take the place of the currentone, and so on. As narrativeobjects, these actorsand characters,are then availablefor historicalstories, with theirtransindividual all kinds of private libidinal investments, as when depressed individuals pine away thinkingimaginarythoughtsaboutexistentiallyunrealentities. The Nietzcheandiagnosis of historyandits unhealthyeffects is obviously strongestat this point. But one would also have to note the periodchanges in the Marxian"masternarratives," they arenot for differentin their actualizationor in their telling at any particulargenerational terribly moment from Curtis's intolerableromance. For the doctrineof modes of productionis not a narrative an axiomatic: it can be used in specific circumstances,at which point but it must always be narrativizedand representedin a story form that then soaks up and registers all the ephemeralfashions and tastes, the mortalconventions, of the period.

6. On the more general turnawayfrom "linear"(or narrative)causality,Adorno's thoughts bear reflection: "Causality has similarly withdrawninto totality ... each state of things is horizontallyand verticallyconnectedto all theothers,illuminatesall ofthemjustas it is illuminated this 1973) 267]. Whether synchronic by all in turn" Negative Dialectics (New York:Continuum, or structuralcausality isfiundamentally resistantto narrativization a matterfordebate. In some is narrativizedor culturalform, transformedinto doxa, synchronic or constellated causality may some day seem as old-fashioned,in the strong, nauseous sense, as Hegelian universalhistory.

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The basic elementsof whatis thuswronglycalled "themode of production narrative" are thus non-narrative, can only come before us in narrative but form. This is thebenefitfor us todayof Benjamin'sown deepformalsuspicionsof narrative as such (even as it is embodiedin the conventionalessay formor in conventionalliterary history). The upshot-the constellationas such-is not ammunition againsthistoryand a butrather way of sustainingthese values againstnarrative referentiality representation, in all its sheer fictionality. The Arcades notes and files project the imperative to to and narrativize, reorganizetheminto a representation a kind of story,at the same time thatfor tragicallycontingentreasonstheyresistany definitiverepresentational form. Yet what this immense ruindoes by its sheer immobilityand bulk across the landscapewas by accomplishedby the earlierprogram-essays sheermomentum,movingtoo fast for any to a that representation harden,turning workof meditationintoa seriesof rapidtransitions elude the capacity of the mind to retainthem and transformthem back into an image. Neither of these solutions can work for us: thematizedand reified, they are thereby into alreadytransformed a periodstyle and a nauseoushistoricalfashion. But the formforce us to workthrough-even if we stripaway the periodnames, such as problemthey synchronyand diachrony-is bound to be good for us in new and unforeseeableways. WORKSCITED Althusser,Louis. Leninand Philosophy. New York:Verso, 1971. Benjamin,Walter. Benjamin:Philosophy,Aesthetics, History. Ed. Gary Smith. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. on . "Commentaries Poems by Brecht." Trans. Anna Bostock. Understanding Brecht. New York:New Left Books, 1973. . GesammelteSchriften. Ed. Rolf TiedemannandHermannSchweppenhiuser. 7 vols. to date. Frankfurt Main: Suhrkamp,1972-. [GS] am -- . Illuminations. Ed. HannahArendt. Trans.HarryZohn. New York:Schocken, 1969. . "N [Re the Theoryof Knowledge,Theoryof Progress]."Trans.Leigh Hafreyand RichardSieburth. Benjamin43-83. . Reflections. Ed. PeterDemetz. Trans.EdmundJephcott. New York:Schocken, 1986. Levi-Strauss,Claude. "TheEffectivenessof Symbols." Vol. 1 of StructuralAnthropology. New York:Harper,1963. . "TheSorcererand His Magic." Vol. 1 of Structural Anthropology. New York: 1963. Harper,