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The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,032 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Walter Benjamin's magnum opus was a book he did not live to write. In The Dialectics of Seeing, Susan Buck-Morss offers an inventive reconstruction of the Passagen Werk, or Arcades Project, as it might have taken form. Working with Benjamin's vast files of citations and commentary which contain a myriad of historical details from the dawn of consumer culture, Buck-Morss ma ...more
Paperback, 495 pages
Published July 1st 1991 by MIT Press (first published November 17th 1989)
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Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, history, religion
I’m not sure if this wasn’t a much harder book to read than it needed to be. There was a lot of this that I simply didn’t understand, that I expected the author to explain to me. This might not be entirely her fault. I’m painfully ignorant of theology and the Kabbalah, for example. I know next to nothing at all about German Tragedy. So, I felt I really needed much more handholding than I think Susan felt would be appropriate this early in our relationship.

She begins in the preface: “This book i
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A tour de force through one of the most puzzling books of the 20th century. Readers who do not have the time nor the patience to meander through the entirety of Benjamin's Arcades, can feast on this one in good conscience. There are so many good things about Susan Buck-Morss that I hardly know where to start; her defiantly, (almost Benjaminian) oddly unacademic tone while simultaneously being inscrutably Learned in everything from Marxism to Kabbalah, her continual stress on the interconnectedne ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a highly accessible explanation of one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. Walter Benjamin's essays are closely examined in light of the work he toiled at for most of his career: The Arcades Project. Essentially, the Arcades Project was an attempt to understand 19th century Arcades of Paris as allegory. Buck-Morss explains Benjamin's use of allegory in light of the Trauerspeil investigation of Baroque Tragic Drama. Through it, she connects Benjamin's unique, but ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book blew me out of the water! Got me really into turn of the (nineteenth) century Paris, Haussmann's reshaping of Paris, and flaneurs, which I later picked up in my art history classes.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Such a well written and interesting academic book. Contextualizes Benjamin's Arcades project in his own vision, the ideas that influenced him, and finally, in the modern post-WW2 context.
May 05, 2011 is currently reading it
My friend bought this for me for my birthday with an epigram, "Don't read this."
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There's a lot I didn't understand, but what I did was fascinating. Buck-Morss does a great job of contextualizing and engaging with what is an unfinished project and by doing so points out both the failure and promise of Benjamin's work as a cultural theorist. I especially appreciated how she situated Benjamin in relation to his Jewish-ness, his Marxism, his German-ness, his connection to Paris, and his connection to the Frankfurt School.
Mr. Nobody
Seriously breathtaking scholarship.
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A stimulating and exciting introduction to what is one of the most obscure, unique, and mysterious texts I've encountered. Benjamin truly is unlike any other thinker.
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An erudite, beautifully written overview of Benjamin's work. I recommend reading Benjamin's major essays —particularly "Theses on the Philosophy of History," "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," and the Baudelaire essays — before starting this book. It's not an easy read, but anyone immersed in Benjamin won't be daunted by that.
Mark Van Hollebeke
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most insightful philosophical commentaries around--not merely exclusive to Benjamin commentaries. I mean to say it is one of the most insightful commentaries, period. This book opened up Benjamin (as well as dialectical reasoning and critical social theory) to me in ways unanticipated. Highly recommend.
Güis Guerrero-Enterría
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filosofía
Muy buena investigación sobre un libro tan especial como el "Passagenwek" de Walter Benjamin.
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fine book. Extremely helpful understanding both Benjamin and what he attempted and what he managed to achieve. Very inspiring storytelling, very smart analysis. A good time was had by all.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Buck-Morss is the most capable and astute of current Benjamin commentators.
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
it's a good analysis of the arcades project. it helps clarify a lot of insight in which benjamin leaves extremely ambiguous. has to be read coinciding with the the arcades project or after.
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Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Benjamin is the Messi of hermeneutic Marxism.
Eva Pierce
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Nov 03, 2015
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Brain Pain: Discussion - The Dialectics of Seeing, by Susan Buck-Morss 6 35 Jan 18, 2014 02:55AM  

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Susan Buck-Morss is an American philosopher and intellectual historian. She is currently Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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