Call for papers: Walter Benjamin

Gemeinsame Tagung der International Walter Benjamin Association und der
Internationalen Walter Benjamin Gesellschaft
Antwerpen, 14.-17. September 2009

The afterlife of Benjamin’s writings is remarkable. His texts have kept
their relevance even after the heated controversies about their meaning
and ideological position have subsided. At this point it seems fair to
ask whether the question of how to do justice to Benjamin is still, in
some form, alive. Or has the time now come to describe the polarizing
forces of his texts in terms of the divergent orientations resulting
from them in previous decades? “Fidelity” — Treue – is undoubtedly an
over-weighty and uncanny “German” word, but that is precisely why it
captures the paradoxes inherent in the process of transmitting a thought
that resists being turned into a tradition. These paradoxes have given
rise to indeterminacies that often preclude a clear distinction between
fidelity and betrayal.
Benjamin was as familiar with the dialectics of these processes of
transmission and reception as he was with the ironies of fidelity. His
theory of criticism as well as his critical practice both hinge on the
paradoxical impetus of preserving in order to destroy and vice versa.
Benjamin remained true to his topics, his intellectual orientation and
even his formulations while integrating them each time anew into the
changing constellations of his thinking. His fidelity of literalness in
translation, the “faithfulness to things that have crossed our lives —
an afternoon, a tree, patches of sun on the wallpaper” — his practice
of collecting and preserving, but also his habit of contemplation and
attentiveness and its “hopeless fidelity to creaturely life”
(hoffnungslosen Treue zum Kreatürlichen) characterize his theoretical
attitude no less than construction, destruction and mortification.
Given the continuing interest in Benjamin und the ever greater
differentiation of the research on his work, his faithfulness to the
material at hand is as worthy of scholarly attention as it is imperative
to reflect on the relation one entertains to one’s own readings of his
work. Does the priority today lie in preserving or popularizing
Benjamin’s texts? Should one carry his thinking further, historicize it
or project it onto the present and “apply” it? Exploring Benjamin’s
fidelity and the fidelity to Benjamin implies more than the mere
objective search for the “appropriate” reading of his work. It
challenges the very emplacement and presence of the reader and forces
one to reflect on the unique attraction and resistance of one’s own
position towards Benjamin.

The sections are:
Section 1: Legends of Benjamin (Detlev Schöttker)
Section 2: Materiality of Writing (Davide Giuriato)
Section 3: Faithful to Baroque (Jane Newman)
Section 4: Knowlegde of Art (Sabine Flach)
Section 5: True to the Last Letter (Bettine Menke)
Section 6: Treacherous Faithfulness to Citation (Gerhard Richter)
Section 7 : Legacy and Writing (Burhardt Lindner)
Section 8 : Fidelity, Politics and Fetishism (Jeanne Marie Gagnebin)
Section9 : Popular Benjamin (Justus Fetscher)
Section 10 : Correspondences (Momme Brodersen)
Section11 : Perfidious History (Paul North)
Section 12 : Translations and Transformations (Karl Solibakke)
Section 13 : Religion, Theology and Commemeoration (Vivian Liska, Daniel

For a detailed description see:

You are invited to submit abstracts of your presentation. Papers will be
allocated a maximum of 25 minutes of presentation time. Candidates
should submit abstracts (approximately 200 words, attributed to one or
more sections) by email to:

The deadline for submitting abstracts is December 31th 2008.


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