Cover: Benjamin's -abilities, from Harvard University PressCover: Benjamin's -abilities in PAPERBACK

Benjamin's -abilities

Add to Cart

Product Details

PAPERBACK

$24.50 • £19.95 • €22.00

ISBN 9780674046061

Publication Date: 04/10/2010

Academic Trade

376 pages

5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches

World

“There is no world of thought that is not a world of language,” Walter Benjamin remarked, “and one only sees in the world what is preconditioned by language.” In this book, Samuel Weber, a leading theorist on literature and media, reveals a new and productive aspect of Benjamin’s thought by focusing on a little-discussed stylistic trait in his formulation of concepts.

Weber’s focus is the critical suffix “-ability” that Benjamin so tellingly deploys in his work. The “-ability” (-barkeit, in German) of concepts and literary forms traverses the whole of Benjamin’s oeuvre, from “impartibility” and “criticizability” through the well-known formulations of “citability,” “translatability,” and, most famously, the “reproducibility” of “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.” Nouns formed with this suffix, Weber points out, refer to a possibility or potentiality, to a capacity rather than an existing reality. This insight allows for a consistent and enlightening reading of Benjamin’s writings.

Weber first situates Benjamin’s engagement with the “-ability” of various concepts in the context of his entire corpus and in relation to the philosophical tradition, from Kant to Derrida. Subsequent chapters deepen the implications of the use of this suffix in a wide variety of contexts, including Benjamin’s book Trauerspiel, his relation to Carl Schmitt, and a reading of Wagner’s Ring. The result is an illuminating perspective on Benjamin’s thought by way of his language—and one of the most penetrating and comprehensive accounts of Benjamin’s work ever written.

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2009
  • An Artforum Best Book of 2008
Common Reads: First-Year Experience [picture of open book]

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy, by Sharon T. Strocchia, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with Sharon Strocchia, author of Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy

As part of Women’s History Month, we spoke with Sharon T. Strocchia about her new book, Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy, which uncovers the crucial role women played in the great transformations of medical science and health care that accompanied the Italian Renaissance. Your research demonstrates that women in Renaissance Italy played a major role in providing health care.

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library (loebclassics.com) extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.