Scattering community: Benjamin on experience, narrative and history

Philosophy and Social Criticism 27 (6):19-41 (2001)
In discussing the cultural history of the 19th century, Walter Benjamin diagnosed the emergence of the modern novel and its form of narration as the sign of a fracturing experience. The split in experience is related to the scattering of a homogeneous idea of space and time, constituted especially during the Enlightenment and in the German historicism. Benjamin's claim reflected the fracturing temporality of modern communities as well as the transformations in the understanding of the meaning of tradition. Here, I begin by discussing Benjamin's conceptions of experience and memory in detail. Secondly, I consider his ideas on history in the framework of challenging the new forms of narration. In the end, I consider the loss of a unified community, especially by indicating ways in which the after-modern community reflects the relationship between aesthetics and politics in Jean-François Lyotard's thought. Key Words: Benjamin • community • experience • history • Lyotard • memory • narrative • remembrance • time.
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DOI 10.1177/019145370102700602
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