Walter Benjamin's dialectics of attentiveness
Institute of Jewish Studies
Symposium: a quarterly journal in modern foreign literatures / Syracuse University. Department of Romance Languages. - Washington, D.C.
, p. 16-24
University of Antwerp
Walter Benjamin's literary, phenomenological, and analytical reflections on the concept of attentiveness reveal how distinctly his critical thinking was attuned to new forms of perception that arose from the cultural and aesthetic transformations taking place in the early twentieth century. Challenging existing distinctions between different modes of attentiveness-mainly absorption and concentration-he explores a radical form of attentiveness that enlists unexpected components, such as distraction or the power of habit. Tracing the development of a critical approach to the concept from the early to the late works, this article provides insights into Benjamin's alternative idea of attentiveness, one that emerges from a dialectics of opposites and is aligned with a 'physical presence of mind' ('leibhaftige Geistesgegenwart').