The method of the Poet of Walter Benjamin

El método del Paseante de Walter Benjamin

“It is possible that the ride is the poorest form of travel, the most modest of trips. And yet, it is one of the most decidedly involve the powers of attention and memory, as well as the daydreams of the imagination and do this to the point that we could say that cannot be met authentically as such without having them attend the appointment. Past, present and future intermingle always their presence in the experience of the present that accompanies the Wanderer and constitutes as such.”

MOREY, M. , “Kanslspromenade” in: Creation 1 (1990) pp. 95-102.

In the last few days I’ve been digging a little about the work of the enigmatic philosopher Walter Benjamin, a “new rich” –as defined by Eduardo Maura1 in his recently published book: The critical theories of Walter Benjamin (Bellaterra, 2013)– understood in the sense of rediscovery that involve reviews of past authors whose thinking has not had enough significance to our days, in such a way that they will return to the philosophical debate contemporary.

Maura highlights four particular elements in Walter Benjamin: first, “is about an author, an eccentric, unclassifiable and chiaroscuro”; the second, Benjamin is the first to see “the emancipatory potential of the work of art in the context d ela new culture of the masses”; third: your philosophy lacks sistemacidad and shy away from of the fundamental categories of the traditional philosophy, is “esoteric and changeable, is more akin to walk without direction” , a case of flânerie intellectual ((flânerie in French means loitering bill)); and fourth, “your thinking is confused with a life crossed by bad luck, rejection, secrecy, ‘ and above all by “nazi barbarism” in which he lived.

The Book of the Passages

From 1927 until his death in 1940, Walter Benjamin worked on his most ambitious project was going to be the Paris book, called the Book of the Passages, “the construction of historical-philosophical-NINETEENTH century as a time in which gave birth to the industrial society”. The greater part of the texts written during the last ten years of his life (the essay on the work of art, the work dedicated to Baudelaire and the theses “On the concept of history”) came from “Passages”. All that is preserved of this tremendous work -thousands of notes and fragments – was first published in volume fifth of the “complete Works” of Surhkamp.

According To Jose Mª. Melero Martinez and Carmelo Blanco Mayor, in his essay Walter Benjamin, the angelus novus as an allegory of History (1992), the very title of the Book the Passages it denotes the distancing of the doctrinal with the Benjamin undertaken the project. “It’s the opposite of a work ‘systematic’, with she wants to get the traits fisionómicos of Paris as the capital of the NINETEENTH century.”

In this essay, Melero-and-White, following Morey (1990), describe “The method of the Poet” as Benjamin saw it, an experience of everyday life much more transcendent than the one that can make the tourist or the “hunter souvenirs”. Similar to the saying “the best journeys are made without thinking”, something similar happens with the walk –the flânerie intellectual– even for the places that are familiar to us but for which we have never launched this “attention floating” to which Benjamin refers.

The method of the Passer

The ride to Walter Benjamin is a metaphor more of form itself of the experience, “the walk is a use of time that leads us to the encounter of our existence, and strolling a project that frees us of the entire project. Therefore, the domain of the experience of the Walker is no exception, another one,” the truth is, a trance, and the possibility of communicating it is given in the narrative in that trance.

The experience of the Passer could emerge as well:

  1. Requires an absence of intentionality.
  2. All authentic ride, it is always the first ride.
  3. Without a plan:
    1. It is a break with the whole will of recognition.
    2. As openness to the possibility of meeting.
  4. The Walker comes out to “capture moments, or the faces”, “a time of salvation”, “experiences of aura”…
  5. It is necessary to put in the work that care floating.
  6. The experience of shock leads to the specific task and painful task of elaborating them.
  7. It is a hunter of faces, you should return to things the right to have a face.
  8. There are in the Walker a leave of absence of pressure of the subject over the object, it is a “memory involuntary”, that has nothing to do with the tourist 0 the hunter of souvenirs.
  9. The imagination acts in the Walker, in a specific regime. The Poet only perceives that in some way repeats the second time and whose term of comparison is the enigma.

Bibliographic Sources:
  • Older White, C., Melero Martinez, J. Mª.(1992), Walter Benjamin, the angelus novus as an allegory of History, in: Essay No. 5, Journal of the Faculty of Education of Albacete (UCLM). pp. 47-67
  • Maura Zorita, Eduardo. 2013. The critical theories of Walter Benjamin: contemporary issues. Barcelona: Edicions Bellaterra.
  • Morey, M. , “Kanslspromenade” in: Creation 1 (1990) pp. 95-102.


  1. Eduardo Maura is a professor of philosophy at the University Complutense of Madrid and member of the Society of Studies of Critical Theory (SETC). His work is developed in the fields of critical social theory, social philosophy, aesthetics and political philosophy modern and contemporary. Editor of Critique of violence Walter Benjamin (Madrid, 2010), has published several articles on critical theory and participated in collective volumes. Currently takes care of the extensions, criticisms of the concept of cultural industry. [↩]

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