Walter benjamin essay on collecting
Walter benjamin historian
I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. Or you can skate the surface with a collection. Just as the historical materialist constructs a narrative of the past that does not stand outside time in contemplation, so the collector finds an ultimate realization of his passion in the production of the material for his archive. Instead, it is the history of the objects reception that makes it worthy of attention, allowing for the invention of a lost meaning that never was in place of the preservation of a sacred intent. If the library is new, she defines the themes and scopes; if the library is older, he may be continuing a previous librarian's vision. In this way, to paraphrase Benjamin, our books do not live in us; we live in our books. For him.
If from a Marxist perspective, the joys of shopping belong to the realm of false consciousness, a form of mass deception, contemporary corporate discourse is equally moralizing in its justification of consumerism via green ethics, fair trade and other mitigating circumstances against an almost universally abhorred materialism.
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Columnist Virginia Heffernan compares what Benjamin wrote with her collection of e-books here. Mills College Library, for example, has the Jane Bourne Parton Collection of books about dance because an endowment was provided; the librarian continues to add to the shelves and may actively enjoy the act. The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition, passes over them. This is why collecting is also a creative project, an emptiness to be filled. These are the very areas in which any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I wrote about a talk he gave here. Walter Benjamin on collecting But Benjamin seemed more concerned with the "phenomenon of collecting" than the global meaning of the collection itself. This attitude is in part a critical development from earlier forms of the museum display, like the Wunderkammer, in which objects acquired at random were displayed with little consideration for their context mainly to produce a sensationalistic effect. He depends on this force, and knows things as they are at the moment of their ceasing to be.
As Benjamin wrote, "Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method" Nothing is further from my mind than to shake either your conviction or your distrust.
Benjamin asserted: —ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. That said, for the first time ever, packing and unpacking my library has been a bittersweet experience.
According to Benjamin, the collector is a link in a chain of events, owners and histories that make up the biography of the object.
A book is filled with memory by nature: each time you turn the page you must remember what came before.
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