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Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture

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Edited By Dirk Göttsche

The fleeting nature of time is a defining feature of modern and postmodern existence. Identified by Reinhart Koselleck as the temporalization («Verzeitlichung») of all areas of human knowledge and experience around 1800, the concept of critical time continues to intrigue researchers across the arts and humanities. This volume combines theoretical and critical approaches to temporality with case studies on the engagement with the modern sense of time in German literature, visual art and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Contributions explore key areas in the cultural history of time: time in art and aesthetic theory, the intellectual history of time, the relationship between time and space in literature and visual art, the politics of time and memory, and the poetics of time. Essays question the focus on acceleration in recent critical discourse by also revealing the contrapuntal fascination with slowness and ecstatic moments, notions of polyphonous time and simultaneity, the dialectic of time and space, and complex aesthetic temporalities breaking with modern time-regimes.
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Brian Elliott – Revolution, History and Time in Benjamin and Sloterdijk

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BRIAN ELLIOTT

Revolution, History and Time in Benjamin and Sloterdijk

The theme of time is considered here through a comparative analysis of Walter Benjamin’s conception of revolutionary politics and Peter Sloterdijk’s recent work on a philosophy of globalization. For Benjamin, revolutionary thinking calls for a concept of time as radically discontinuous. In Zorn und Zeit [Rage and Time] (2006) Sloterdijk interprets the desire for revolutionary rupture in terms of a continuous accumulation of rage.1 The task of the revolutionary party, however, is to thwart any popular desire for the sudden, explosive release of this accumulated rage in favour of its calculated, disciplined deployment. For Benjamin, capitalist cycles of production give rise to a repressive historiography founded on the idea of irreversible technological and social progression. Like Foucault decades later, Benjamin highlights the discontinuities of history in opposition to orthodox narratives that stress continuity. Benjamin embraces the neo-Kantian notion that history, to be intelligible, must be consciously constructed. Revolutionary historiography must therefore take the form of counter-constructions. Benjamin elucidates the temporality of capitalist production through close attention to processes of obsolescence, both of things and places.

In Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitels [In the World Interior of Capital] (2005) Sloterdijk appears to have learned from Benjamin’s unfinished Passagen-Werk [Arcades Project] the art of reconstructing history based on unconscious cultural anticipations. Taking up Dostoevsky’s comments on ← 101 | 102 → the London Great Exhibition of 1851, he sees Joseph’s Paxton’s monumental Crystal Palace as premonitory...

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