Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The critic as poet ...

... Adam Kirsch's The Philosopher Stoned: What drugs taught Walter Benjamin. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Benjamin’s essay “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man” states, “There is no event or thing in either animate or inanimate nature that does not in some way partake of language, for it is the nature of each one to communicate its mental contents.” Everything in the world—stars, faces, animals, landscapes—has a meaning, and Benjamin accepts that this implies the existence of a cosmic author. “God,” he declares, “made things knowable in their names.” Of course, secular reason holds that human languages are purely conventional, but Benjamin would not countenance the idea that words are arbitrary: “It is no longer conceivable, as the bourgeois view of language maintains, that the word has an accidental relation to its object.” Instead, he holds that every human language is really a failed and garbled translation of a divine language that speaks in things: “It is the translation of the
language of things into that of man.”

Read the whole thing.

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