This essay develops a comparative account of Walter Benjamin’s and Hart Crane’s architectonic metaphors for text, culture, and history. I argue that theorist and poet alike employ parallel conceptual frameworks that analogize the “building” of the text to the condensation and constellation of disjunctive historical materials, thereby resisting progressivist conceptions of literary and cultural tradition. I further highlight the ways in which, for both figures, experiences of built images are ever-mediated, in contrast to certain strains of extant scholarship that interpret Crane’s poetry and Benjamin’s philosophy as dependent on the fiction of immediate affective experience, as if sensory perception were not always-already conditioned by the mediating abstractions of cognition and memory. Motivated by the personal and political struggles both men faced as outcasts, their visions of the fragmented cityscape as imbued with a complex, compositional logic of form and history ground, at once, the possibility of textual communicability and the preservation and transmission of memory—personal, collective, historical, and cultural. It is by virtue of this shared formal-historical logic—and the faith in a better future persisting therein—that I develop and defend Benjamin’s and Crane’s “architectonics of hope.”

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