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Constellation:Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin in the Now-Time of History

Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin in the Now-Time of History

James McFarland

Publication Year: 2012

Constellation is the first extended exploration of the relationship between Walter Benjamin, the Weimar-era revolutionary cultural critic, and the radical philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The affinity between these noncontemporaneous thinkers serves as a limit case manifesting the precariousness and potentials of cultural transmission in a disillusioned present. In five chapters, Constellation presents the changing figure of Nietzsche as Benjamin encountered him: an inspiration to his student activism, an authority for his skeptical philology, a manifestation of his philosophical nihilism, a companion in his political exile, and ultimately a subversive collaborator in his efforts to think beyond the hopeless temporality--new and always the same--of the present moment in history. By excavating this neglected relationship philologically and elaborating its philosophical implications in the surviving texts of both men, Constellation produces new and compelling readings of their works and through them triangulates a theoretical limit in the present, a fractured "now-time" suspended between madness and suicide, from which the collective future regains a measure of consequential and transformative vitality.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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p. v

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pp. vii-xii

In his essay “A Portrait of Walter Benjamin,” reprinted in the collection Prisms, Theodor W. Adorno gestures toward a methodological congruence between the work of his friend Walter Benjamin and the work of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche...


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pp. xiii-xvi

A Note on Citations

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pp. xvii-xviii

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pp. 1-15

At 10 o’clock on 22 May 1934, in a dim Paris room, Walter Benjamin injected 20 mg of mescaline into his thigh, one of the last of the drug experiments he had engaged in since the late 1920s. A protocol of the trip was recorded by...

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1 Mortal Youth

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pp. 16-66

Taking, for reasons that will prove to be not wholly arbitrary, 8 August 1914 as a terminus ad quem for the juvenilia in Benjamin’s oeuvre, we face a heterogeneous body of material. Some twenty essays, a few primitive verses, the first pages of a novella, ninety-one letters, several travel diaries, scattered fragments...

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2 Presentation

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pp. 67-102

Exposed by Zarathustra to the origin of Heinle’s ultimately suicidal stance, the Nietzsche of the youthful facies explodes into Benjamin’s mature writing with the full force of catastrophe. As youth’s displaced prophet, Nietzsche had...

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3 Inscription

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pp. 103-166

We owe the oldest formulation of the paradox of the Cretan not to a philosopher but to an apostle. Paul, in his Epistle to Titus, warns the acolyte: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil...

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4 Collaboration

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pp. 167-207

Benjamin published two aphoristic sequences under the title “Short Shadows,” the first in November of 1929 in the Neue Schweitzer Rundschau, and the second in 1933 in the Kölnische Zeitung. These two sequences have only one aphorism in common, the short concluding thought-image [Denkbild] that...

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5 Mad Maturity

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pp. 208-248

Benjamin’s youthful works approach theory from the orator’s stage. The position of the public speaker, hortatorily engaged with a collective audience on the basis of a prepared text: This is the situation implicit in the posture of the youthful facies and through which its conceptual apparatus is directed...

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pp. 249-262

In January of 1886, as Friedrich Nietzsche struggled to negotiate the private printing of forty-five copies of Zarathustra’s final book, the Scotch author Robert Louis Stevenson brought out a hugely successful story: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Its germ, like the germ of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, had...

not e s

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pp. 263-300


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pp. 301-310


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pp. 311-323

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245369
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245365

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text

OCLC Number: 830023503
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Constellation:Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin in the Now-Time of History

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Subject Headings

  • Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, -- 1844-1900.
  • Benjamin, Walter, 1892-1940.
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