The last decade has seen a new wave of interest in philosophical and theoretical circles in the writings of Walter Benjamin, associate of the early Frankfurt School and among the most innovative and uncategorizable of German modernist thinkers. And it is against the horizon of the contemporary theoretical scene, combining impulses from post-structuralism, feminism, cultural anthropology, and psychoanalysis, that Sigrid Weigel, one of Germany's leading Benjamin experts, undertakes her re-reading of his work. The subject of this sequence of eleven essays, assembled here for the first time in English translation, is Benjamin as theorist, whereby his work on thinking in images or Bilddnken and the relation of this to 'the first material of human existence ...the body' is taken as constituting the specificity of his philosophy. Arranged in three sections, 'Politics of Images and Body', 'Other - Gender - Readings', and 'Memory and Writing', the essays provide a passage into Benjamin's thinking in images, examining the genesis of the concept of 'body- and image-space' in his 1929 essay on 'Surrealism' and of the 'dialectical image' in the Passagen project.
The essays analyse the shift from language/translation to memory/writing, explore correspondences with post-structuralist theory and suggest the potential productivity of Benjamin's theoretical approach for contemporary gender studies. The final section, presenting a cogent argument for the hitherto overlooked influence of Freudian psychoanalytic thinking on Benjamin's conceptualization of the image, on his reading of messianism, and on his topographical concept of memory when reading cultural artefacts of modernity as embodiments of the dream-work of the collective. In focusing on Benjamin's thinking in images, Professor Weigel's volume offers illuminating new insights into Benjamin's theory which can't be separated from his mode of writing. Beyond a reconstruction of a philosophical system or metadiscourse the volume presents examinations of the genealogy of Benjamin's concepts, images, figurations, and of his fascinated occupation by it. The re-reading of Benjamin the book presents is a reading which has come back to Benjamin after having crossed the thinking of Frankfurt School and post-structuralism. It contains literal reading with theoretical reflections.