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What else besides memory can possibly trace the movement between life and poetry Poesie? Is all philosophy homesickness, as Adorno and Horkheimer, echoing Novalis, claim in Dialectic of Enlightenment?

Is There Beauty in Forgetting?

Odysseus' homesickness, on the other hand, is a escape from the myth of the prehistoric world; he returns home, like the Hegelian spirit, to find, and to regain himself. The reminiscences of "domiciled and settled life" of Odysseus marks a bitter contrast with Proust's "distorted world of resemblances. When rolled up it is a bag that appears to contain something. The game, that the children know only too well beforehand, is to reveal this empty nature of the container.

In repeatedly playing the game, the children's joy is not in finding a hidden or secret content, but in repeatedly transforming the container and the content into something else--the real stocking.

Forgetting | Simply Psychology

Like the rolled up stocking it promises "plenitude," but delivers a mere empty sign. This countless playing of the empty sign, of an apparent fullness and subsequent nothingness, in Proust acquires "the structure of From an empty sign and an empty content a third thing is produced--the image, the stocking itself.


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Where did it come from? It came from the process of emptying of the self as sign, as presence. Thus Benjamin remarks, "Proust could not get his fill of emptying the dummy, his self, at one stroke in order to keep garnering that third thing, the image which satisfied his curiosity," and in Proust's curiosity, if we recall what Benjamin tells us, "there was something of the detective.

The relationship between sign and meaning is that of similarity, resemblance as in the case of the rolled up stocking as a sign for a bag or a container containing a "present" as meaning, which we know is as empty as the sign itself and not a play of identity. The structural or primordial relationship between the self and its image, between life and literature, is primarily an issue of resemblance, of similarity, which ought not to be confused with identity. As if Benjamin is providing us with the key to decode his own work through the "guise" of attempting to interpret Proust's work, a work which he [end of p.

Or should one call it, rather, a Penelope work of forgetting? And is not this work of spontaneous recollection, in which remembrance is the woof and forgetting the warf, a counterpart to Penelope's work rather than its likeness? For here the day unravels what the night has woven.

Ian William Craig-A Forgetting Place

When we awake each morning, we hold in our hands, usually weakly and loosely, but a few fringes of the tapestry of lived life, as loomed for us by forgetting. However with our purposeful activity and, even more, our purposive remembering each day unravels the web and the ornaments of forgetting.

Nevertheless, the above passage illuminates a whole range of Benjaminian territory or paths that lead to some of his major preoccupations. The "key" to understand any Benjaminian text is through an understanding of how the concept of remembrance, or for that matter forgetting, functions. In this secret world of language, of image, of remembering and forgetting, the usual expectation of history, that is meaning, is not simply rendered.

There is a secret that the author keeps from society and unburdens to his readers. Benjamin says that the secret of nineteenth century France, a secret which history secretly communicates to its legitimate inheritors, was not revealed to the naturalist writers like Zola and Anatole France,[end of p.

Nor do we always privately share it with those closest to us, our intimate friends How often has one tried to read Benjamin historically or materialistically at the very moment when he is most certainly at his theological and messianic best? He has already cautioned his readers, by way of Proust, not to look for meaning that is not intended for them.


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The proscription applies to his text as much as to any other text whose subject is memory. That yearning for the past is not merely a symptom of stupefying nostalgia; rather, it is a "rejuvenation" of memory brought about by aging. One of the oldest memories of language in Benjamin's "On Language as Such and the Language of Man" was the forgetting of the "Fall" of language.

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When the past is reflected in the dewy fresh 'instant,' a painful shock of rejuvenation pulls it together" that reveals "the whole world age by a lifetime in an instant. Among the most important contributions of Benjamin's essay on Proust to literary criticism are his ideas of temporality. Benjamin has commented repeatedly on this phenomenon, but, for brevity's sake, we will consider only two concrete instances from his writing. The first is from "The Image of Proust": The eternity which Proust opens to view is convoluted time, not boundless time.

His true interest is in the passage of time in [end of p. Proust's eternity belongs to the realm of convoluted time, according to Benjamin. The boundless time of eternity is obviously a reference to Bergson. Before commenting on the relationship between the two different realms of eternity mentioned above we will first discuss the nature of "space-bound" time. What is predominantly interesting in the Benjaminian formulation is the spatial or "space-bound" aspect of convoluted time. Thus, Jacobs perceives, the "counterplay" between remembrance and forgetting, through which "the past is reflected in the dewy fresh 'instant,'" is finally the "ascendancy" of forgetting over remembering.

This brings us to the second part of our commentary.

How important is the sense of time to Benjamin in his reflections on memory? Temporality and history often emerge at loggerheads in Benjamin. We find yet another instance in Benjamin which clearly demonstrates the primacy of experience over temporality. A scent may drown years in the odor it recalls.

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Benjamin recounts that on July 29 in Marseilles, after taking hashish, he lay on the bed listening to a child crying. But it is only twenty minutes What could be possibly common between the amateur drug experimenter and a professional user, if not the experience of time--"of absolute duration and immeasurable space" that "a dull feeling of foreboding" brings along? In his work there are noticeably few 'childhood memories.

Benjamin, at this point, stresses that the true nature of [end of p. Casey, "Keeping the Past in Mind," in Descriptions, eds. Don Ihde and Hugh J. Her main ideas will continuously resonate through our analysis, and thus any similarity noted should be attributed as homage to her. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans.

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