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Benjamin's PassagesDreaming, Awakening$
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Alexander Gelley

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262564

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262564.001.0001

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Epigones in the House of Language: Benjamin and Kraus

Epigones in the House of Language: Benjamin and Kraus

(p.69) Two Epigones in the House of Language: Benjamin and Kraus
Benjamin's Passages

Alexander Gelley

Fordham University Press

For over a quarter of a century Karl Kraus’s public impact in German-speaking circles was enormous. His journal Die Fackel (The Torch) consisted for the most part of critiques and parodies directed at Viennese political and social institutions, and particularly at the press as the reflection of the public doxa. Benjamin’s essay on Kraus focuses on the empty phrase, “die Phrase,” understood as banality, platitude, the hackneyed register of routine journalese. Both were fascinated by the dregs of public discourse, what Benjamin called the “by-products” and “waste products” of language, and they understood these as the negative pole of an exalted ideal of language, though each quite differently. What Benjamin envisioned in his study on Kraus was a radical cleansing of the cultural landscape, even at the cost of unyielding destruction: a new beginning that might well involve a “new kind of barbarism.” In the world situation of the early thirties such a therapeutic cleansing, however violent, may have seemed to him not the worst of choices.

Keywords:   Journalism, Doxa, Parody, Vienna, New Barbarism

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