Benjamin, Walter

ANDREA DASSOPOULOS

University of Nevada–Las Vegas, US

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs022

Walter Benjamin's (1892–1940) diverse intellectual influence extends throughout the humanities and social sciences. Most often, he is recognized as a literary critic or a philosopher associated with the Frankfurt School. His work covers a wide range of subjects, such as history, modernity, religiosity, art, literature, and technology, though most of it was published and translated posthumously. He earned a doctorate in Switzerland in 1919, but was unable to secure an academic position, eventually working odd freelance jobs as a translator and literary critic. He befriended poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, with whom he collaborated and shared leftist and Marxist ideals. He was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin and fled to Paris when the Nazis took power in 1933. While in Paris he continued to do freelance work for the Frankfurt School and corresponded frequently with his friends and colleagues Theodor Adorno and Gershom Scholem. He was interned briefly in a French prison camp in 1939 and, following his release, spent the next few months trying to flee France across the Pyrenees mountains into Spain. His attempts to escape were thwarted by customs officials, who sent him back to France. In despair, he took his own life in 1940. After the war, Adorno and Scholem generated a revived interest in his work. Benjamin left behind fragmented works and a legacy that continues ...

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