Style and mimesis in the name of Walter Benjamin

Palmer, F. 2016. Style and mimesis in the name of Walter Benjamin. PhD thesis University of Westminster Faculty of Media, Arts and Design

TitleStyle and mimesis in the name of Walter Benjamin
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsPalmer, F.

This study locates the consistency of Benjamin’s philosophy in its deployment of style. Since the style of his philosophy corresponds to its object, it always manifests differently. But the principle of its presentation remains the same: it is deployed to induce in the reader an act of mimetic assimilation to the constructive principle of the text. The purpose is to
bypass theory by effectuating praxis directly in an act of what is here called “staging.” Such direct effectuation of praxis by prose is the only way of avoiding contradiction in a philosophy committed to the linguistic nature of recognition. If all factual knowledge derives from a communion with the thing in its name by an act of ecstatic praxis, then this
same principle must apply to the presentation of knowledge itself. While this principle had always implicitly informed Benjamin’s practice, it was only later that he recognised how the symbolic character of language on which his concept of the name is based presupposes the mimetic faculty of man. The key to grasping the mediation he once claimed to exist from his
linguistico-philosophical standpoint to the approach of dialectical materialism is the priority that each assigns praxis. The development of the concept of similitude in terms of a theory of the faculty of mimesis between 1928 and 1933 sets the stage for the materialist appropriation of the conceptual resources of theology that characterises his late philosophy.
The role of style and mimesis in the staging of his philosophy has been obscured until now by a neglect of the interdependency of symbolic character and mimetic praxis; by the interpretation of his style in terms of the performative speech act; and by a failure to address
part of the reason for his prioritisation of Plato and Kant above all other philosophers, namely the role of dialogue in Plato and the mystical terminology of Kant.


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