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Delve Spring 2019: Walter Benjamin

Tuesdays, May 7 – June 11, 2019 (six sessions) 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Guide: Bennett Gilbert, Tuition: $220 In this Delve seminar we will read some of Walter Benjamin’s essays


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Tuesdays, May 7 – June 11, 2019 (six sessions)
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Guide: Bennett Gilbert, Tuition: $220

In this Delve seminar we will read some of Walter Benjamin’s essays and notes in connection with the events of his times in order to understand the nature of his ideas as he developed them throughout his life.  Benjamin generally worked by re-configuring personal and civilizational memory.  In remembering Benjamin, we will try to extend this memory study to ourselves and our own situations.

In less than a quarter-century of his youth, Benjamin (1892–1940) created a vastly far-ranging, profound, and powerfully influential body of thought.  His writing is fragmented and metaphorical, rather than systematic; and yet it expresses a deeply coherent personal and intellectual approach to life, politics, memory, history, technology, theology, and the arts.  His prose ranges from telling children’s stories to acute theoretical critique to mystical vision.  Beginning with a collected edition of his writings and the introduction of his work to English-speaking readers in 1955, more and more critics, artists, and philosophers have been inspired by him.

But there is something more to Benjamin than there is to other thinkers of the same caliber.  He lived and thought at a tragic intersection of times.  His work not only examined the experience of the disasters of fascism, war, and genocide but also intensely explored the possibility of hope amidst hopelessness.  To find this hope, he attempted to reconstruct our notions of time, history, and culture by combining Marxism, Jewish mysticism, and ideas entirely original to him.

Bennett Gilbert teaches history and philosophy at Portland State University. His book, A Personalist Philosophy of History, will be published by Routledge in early 2019

No books need be purchased.  All the readings for each session are in one .pdf, each running from 30 to 60 pages. 

The weekly topics are:
Session 1, May 7: Small things
Session 2, May 14: Storytelling
Session 3, May 21: Translation and mimesis
Session 4, May 28: The city and consumption
Session 5, June 4: Justice and revolution
Session 6, June 11: History

Delve Access Program
We want Delve seminars to be accessible to everyone, regardless of income and background. We understand that our tuition structure can present obstacles for some people. We are happy to offer an Access Program which provides reduced tuition to qualifying participants. Our Access Program offers Delve seminar registrations at a sliding scale amount of $45-$100 per registration.

We are able to offer at least 25 Access Spots in the 2018-19 season, due to a generous gift from Sue and Ed Einowski. Contact Susan Moore at susan@literary-arts.org if you would like to take a Delve at the Access Rate.