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Walter Benjamin, film and the ‘anthropological-materialist’ project

Mourenza, Daniel (2014) Walter Benjamin, film and the ‘anthropological-materialist’ project. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis examines Walter Benjamin’s film aesthetics within the framework of his ‘anthropological-materialist’ project. His writings on film are dispersed among essays, notes and letters and may appear at first sight to be an incoherent collection of thoughts on film. However, I will try to argue that they form part of the same philosophical and political project as his ‘anthropological materialism.’ Thus, these writings sought, first, to analyse the transformation of the human senses brought about by the appearance of film technology; and secondly, to envisage the possibility of undoing the alienation of the senses in modernity through that very same technology in order to, eventually, create a collective body (Kollectivleib) out of the audience. This project dates back to Benjamin’s anthropological texts from the early 1920s and was central to texts such as One-Way Street, the Surrealism essay and ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.’ The reconfiguration of aesthetics as aisthēsis that takes place in the latter text is analysed as forming part of this project, in which Benjamin is concerned with the transformation of the human body according to its interaction with technology. From this anthropological-materialist perspective, I address from the second chapter onwards the film figures—directors, actors, characters—and films that most concerned Benjamin. Thus, I analyse his writings on Soviet film with regard to the use and conception of technology in the country; the impact of the bungled reception of technology in Germany upon films from the Weimar Republic and National Socialism, especially in their representation of mass movements; the rehabilitation of allegory in the twentieth century with Charlie Chaplin and the possibility of undoing the numbing of the senses through his gestic and allegorical performance; and, finally, Mickey Mouse as a representative of the new barbarism that Benjamin advocated within his critique of bourgeois humanism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.634315
Depositing User: Leeds CMS
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2015 14:16
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8041

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