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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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Messianism, “Weak” and Otherwise

Messianism, “Weak” and Otherwise

(p.147) Six Messianism, “Weak” and Otherwise
Benjamin's Passages

Alexander Gelley

Fordham University Press

Messianism for Benjamin was in no sense the expectation of an ultimate redemption but rather a willingness to confront the extreme alternatives posed by the present situation. This messianism is not equivalent to a utopian position. Where a utopia is future directed, Benjamin’s messianism is radically presentist, in the sense of Vergegenwärtigung, which stresses the dimension of realization or fulfillment in a present moment. What Benjamin termed “weak” messianism in the Theses is consistent with the fundamentally performative aim of his writing, designed to awaken a readership by means of image, example, anecdote, citation. The intent of The Arcades Project was to realize a textual medium that would have the kind of capacity that Benjamin ascribed to fashion and to revolution-“a tiger’s leap into the past.” This chapter traces, in a series of evolving stages, a discontinuous messianic current in Benjamin’s work, beginning with his early “The Life of Students” and extending to his preoccupation with certain fantastic and parabolic narratives.

Keywords:   Judaism, Messianism, Parable, Utopian Politics, Haggada, The present-now (Jetztzeit)

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