Revisiting Walter Benjamin’s Dialectical Image

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Revisiting Walter Benjamin’s Dialectical Image
Stream: Politics and Philosophy
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Kim Seonju, Goldsmiths College, University of London, United Kingdom


Dialectical image is primarily concerned with the unique Benjaminian means of production of historical knowledge. Historical intelligibility can only be achieved through its inherent process of ‘Dialectics at a standstill’ wherein "what has been comes together in a flash with the Now to form a constellation". Dialectical image as the flash-like, arrested temporality of the Now counters the ordinary continuity of syntax and semantics by virtue of the ‘interruptive force’ that it exerts onto experience in his philosophy. This process turns the present moment into ‘the Now of recognisability’ and, in turn, transforms experience into an aesthetic and political category.
This paper sets out to question these prior understandings, pointing out their problems and limitations by giving more in-depth analyses to the terms ‘Dialectics at a standstill,’ ‘the Now of recognisability', and ‘interruptive force'. It will claim that an emphasis should be equally placed on the aspect of ‘dialectical', rather than just on that of ‘standstill’ in the notion of ‘Dialectics at a standstill’ explaining that the concept should be more about a dynamic within a standstill after all, rather than a stop/pause of a dynamic (as in the word ‘arrested’). Also, this paper will request, emphatically, a deeper attention on the part of ‘-ability’ which suggest a character of potentiality, in ‘the Now of recognisability’ — contrasting with ‘the now of recognition'. Lastly, it will interrogate the notion of an ‘interruptive force’ of dialectical image, calling on a clearer understanding about the object of this interruptive force—that is, interruption to what?

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