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By Benjamin, Walter; Weigel, Sigrid; Benjamin, Walter

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He understands literary language as a kind of counterdiscourse (p. 44), and thus literature as the reappearance of language ‘in a multiplicity of modes of being, whose unity was probably irrecoverable’, of language ‘in an enigmatic multiplicity’ (1970:304, 305). If Foucault devoted his attention in his last works to an historical constellation in which he found discourses in their least ambiguous form, namely in prescriptive texts,6 Benjamin by contrast tested his theory of deciphering and readability not only on the ambiguous literary texts of modernity, but extended it to other cultural ‘texts’: to the topography of the city, to architecture, interiors, objects, fashions, and so on.

Irrités contre l’heure’, both are strikes (Anschläge) against clocks, strikes of the now-time (Jetztzeit) against the measured, continuous, linear progression of time—or ‘homogeneous, empty time’, as Benjamin will call it in the historicotheoretical theses. Yet between these two images a difference may be remarked upon, readable as an allegory of the difference in conceptual armatures that give the texts of 1929 and 1940 their respective characters: body-and image-space in ‘Surrealism’, and the dialectical image in the theses on the concept of history.

On the one side, we shall find the signs that have become the tool of analysis, marks of identity and difference, principles whereby things can be reduced to order, keys for a taxonomy; and, on the other, the empirical and murmuring resemblance of things, that unreacting similitude that lies beneath thought and furnishes the infinite raw material for divisions and distributions. (1970:58) However, the lost similitude had as little to do with representation (Abbildung) as did the lost immediacy of Benjamin’s paradisiac language.

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