Around the time he was conceiving his thesis on allegory in the Baroque mourning-play, Walter Benjamin equated perception with reading. To align phenomenal experience with reading texts is unusual, and gives rise to questions. Benjamin's teacher, Georg Simmel, had identified a crisis in perception brought on by the development of the metropolis. What is the effect of the crisis in terms of reading and writing for Benjamin? What happens to the responsibility of art? More specifically, which genres and modes are apt 1) to help the city-dweller adapt to perceptual changes and 2) to clear the way for further invention? The usual answer to the last question has been cinema and the allegorical image. This essay proposes that, while for Benjamin cinema and images aid in adapting to existing circumstances, the disappearing poetic art and the allegorical writing modeled on it provide more chances for invention.
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E. S. Burt; The Hands and Eyes of the Allegorist: The Crisis of Perception in Walter Benjamin. Comparative Literature 1 June 2017; 69 (2): 181–200. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-3865393
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