From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Walter Benjamin (July 15, 1892 – September 27, 1940) was a German Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory and was also greatly inspired by the Marxism of Bertolt Brecht and the Jewish mysticism of Gershom Scholem.
As a sociological and cultural critic, Benjamin combined ideas of historical materialism, German idealism, and Jewish mysticism in a body of work which was an entirely novel contribution to western philosophy, Marxism, and aesthetic theory. As a literary scholar, he translated essays written by Charles Baudelaire and Marcel Proust's famous novel, In Search of Lost Time. His work is widely cited in academic and literary studies, in particular his essays The Task of the Translator and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and his unfinished magnum opus the Arcades Project.
Among Benjamin's most important works were the following:
- Zur Kritik der Gewalt (Critique of Violence / 1921).
- Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften (Goethe's Elective Affinities / 1922).
- Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of German Tragic Drama [Mourning Play] / 1928).
- Einbahnstraße (One Way Street / 1928).
- Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction / 1936).
- Berliner Kindheit um 1900 (Berlin Childhood around 1900 / 1950, published posthumously).
- Über den Begriff der Geschichte (On the Concept of History / Theses on the Philosophy of History) / 1939, published posthumously).
- Das Paris des Second Empire bei Baudelaire (The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire / 1938).