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By Elizabeth Stewart

Exhibits how Benjamin’s techniques concerning the individual’s event of the fabric international make major touch with post-Freudian psychoanalytic idea.

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Extra info for Catastrophe and Survival: Walter Benjamin and Psychoanalysis

Sample text

The martyr-drama substitutes the saint for the tragic hero (Benjamin 1928/1998, 118). With the birth of Christianity, tragedy wanes, and in the martyr-drama, the drama of Christian history, what in tragedy had been tragic action and tragic death becomes a “repeatable act of ostentation” (119). Here we see the historical workings of “origin”: “restoration” with its necessary concomitant—transformation. In the Trauerspiel Christian notions of sacrifice, suffering, and passion combine with the symptoms of secularization: the dissociations, emptiness, abjection, and melancholia to which I have already referred.

Traits associated with martyrdom, then, pop up within the drama of tyranny: fragmentation, dissociation, dissolution, and opaque contingency. Language, too, suffers as it loses its communicative powers in the Baroque. Disarticulations of thought and language find their response and “solution” in the “restoration” of Calderón’s and the Counter-Reformation’s closed drama of fate and guilt, where power, authority, and stability are 28 Catastrophe and Survival reestablished by way of closures and stoppages that stand at the other extreme of the fragmenting stoppages of the martyr.

Through artifice allegory restores movement, time, and a fragmented tradition from out of the self-destructive and melancholic stasis of the martyr. It creates a breathing-space. The possible psychological responses to modernity that Benjamin presents in his Trauerspiel book—the martyr, the tyrant, the melancholiac, the allegorist, the intriguer—all relate differently to catastrophe, anxiety, and disappearance. They all also stand in a particular relationship to the peculiarly modern breaks and stoppages in meaning.

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