In his review of Chrut und Uchrut, an extremely successful and popular practical booklet of medicinal herbs, Benjamin tests a new concept of literary criticism. He links the reviewing of the popular guide with reflection on the media-technology-conditioned transformation of criticism. By doing so, he delivers at the same time an accurate physiognomy of Swiss society, whose self-image was more informed by its peasantry than by its working class. It is a test for the procedure that Benjamin, a year later, by using the term new popularity, would describe as emancipatory process, which is directed against the continuous information-response or stimulus-response apparatus. It assumes that the audience’s interest is always active—not passive, as in the stimulus-response model—and that this interest of the people should influence research and the sociology of audience itself.
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Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky; Herbs and Weeds: Benjamin on Popularity, Using the Example of Switzerland. positions 1 February 2018; 26 (1): 59–76. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-4263110
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