Walter Benjamin’s Parisian passages: correspondences in European thought

Cumming, Sofia (2022) Walter Benjamin’s Parisian passages: correspondences in European thought. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of SofiaCUMMING_100213846_PhD_2022.pdf]
Download (3MB) | Preview


This thesis investigates the impact of France and its literary and philosophical heritage on Walter Benjamin’s writings. It argues that this influence is not merely circumstantial, but dates back to Benjamin’s early fascination with the nation’s history and culture and was crucial to the development of his methods as well as the reception of his ideas beyond German borders.

Benjamin’s unfinished study on the passages of nineteenth-century Paris — the Passagenarbeit [The Arcades Project] — acts as the connecting thread throughout the chapters of the thesis which chronicle his activity as a reader, writer and translator before and during his exile in the French capital. In addition to being considered for their status as the database of Benjamin’s French interests, the arcades materials function as a case study to illustrate his methodology as a Franco-German comparatist. In turn, the thesis also reverses the question of French influence by challenging the significance of Benjamin’s writings for post-war French thought and theory.

Central to my analyses is the notion of ‘correspondence’— understood in an epistolary sense but equally as a type of intellectual and literary dialogue between texts and figures — which I propose as a means of conceptualizing the effects of particular French works on Benjamin’s practice as a critic and thinker. The fusion of Benjamin’s investment in francophone literatures with his grounding in the German intellectual tradition means his works emerge as interdisciplinary, transnational and translingual fields, where French and German sources are in constant ‘correspondence’ with one another.

By analysing the depth of Benjamin’s ties with French literary and aesthetic culture and their influence on his work, the thesis highlights his role and legacy as a European intermediary within the history of Franco-German cultural and intellectual relations, and the ways in which philosophies from both nations were exchanged, inherited and developed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2022 09:12
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2022 09:12


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item