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    A history of dreams: reading Adorno and Benjamin through memory and forgetting

    Bard-Rosenberg, Jacob Solomon (2022) A history of dreams: reading Adorno and Benjamin through memory and forgetting. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis is concerned with the role of memory and forgetting in the thought and writing of Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin. While it takes as its source materials their complete works and letters, these are addressed through close readings of the smallest parts: jotted down dreams, turns of phrase, and repeated images. The introduction sets the scene: it addresses a landscape composed of language and the rubble of script. In this landscape, Adorno and Benjamin’s perspectives are set against Hegelian and Nietzschean theories of memory and forgetting. The first half of the thesis (Chapters 1 and 2) essays a pair of notions developed between the 1910s and the 1940s. In the first chapter, Benjamin’s concept of remembrance [Eingedenken] is considered from the perspective of a number of fragments on the phenomenon of blushing, written between 1919 and 1920. The second traces Adorno’s concept of regression [Regression] in the figure of flowers, picked from the landscape by children, and returned to the home. Following this image leads from a critique of organicism in musical works to an account of Adorno’s metapsychological thought. Together, these chapters together develop an unreconciled ‘natural-historical’ dialectic of memory and forgetting: the first, a mode of apparently historical thought that illuminates nature; the second, a form of apparently natural thought rupturing into historical knowledge. The second half (Chapters 3 and 4) attempts to show what happened to this dialectic after Auschwitz. Chapter 3 offers an extended reading of a single dream that Adorno noted down in November 1956, while also developing a reading of Benjamin’s essay ‘Goethe’s Elective Affinities’ from the other side of the Holocaust. The final chapter considers the memory and forgetting of Benjamin’s death within Adorno’s late metaphysics, albeit with a detour through Benjamin’s late commentaries on Brecht’s lyric poetry.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2022 10:51
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:25


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