Published in 2000, Without Guarantees — edited by Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie — brings together more than 30 essays inspired by, or written in honor of, the great cultural theorist Stuart Hall, who died three years ago this week. "It is appropriate," the editors write in their preface:
given the spirit of Stuart's own commitments that this volume has a second, subsidiary purpose. Cultural studies have been subjected to much abuse lately and the fragile institutional initiatives with which those words are entangled are now under great and growing pressure. In these circumstances it seemed right to try to make this public gift a modest interventionist act in its own right. Here then are some implicit and explicit reflections on what cultural studies can be and what it might become.
Below, we present one of the essays collected in the volume: Wendy Brown's now classic reflection on Hall and the condition that Walter Benjamin termed "left melancholia." First published in boundary 2 in 1999, Brown's essay spurred a debate that has continued through the present day.
via Stuart Hall Foundation
“In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it. ... only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”1 Walter Benjamin
It has become commonplace to lament the current beleaguered and disoriented condition of the Left. Stuart Hall is among the few who have tried to diagnose the sources and dynamics of this condition. From the earliest days of the rise of the Thatcher-Reagan-Gingrich Right in Europe and North America, Hall insisted that the “crisis of the Left” in the late twentieth century was due neither to internal divisions in the activist or academic Left nor to the clever rhetoric or funding schemes of the Right. Rather, he charged, this ascendency was consequent to the Left's own failure to apprehend the character of the age, and to develop a political critique and a moral-political vision appropriate to this character.
To celebrate Verso's new paperback edition of Erdmut Wizisla's Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship, we present this selection of Walter Benjamin's diary entries on Bertolt Brecht, translated by Anya Bostock, which appeared in Aesthetics and Politics.
Benjamin and Brecht. Svendborg, Denmark, 1934.
4 July. Yesterday, a long conversation in Brecht’s sickroom about my essay "The Author as Producer." Brecht thought the theory I develop in the essay — that the attainment of technical progress in literature eventually changes the function of art forms (hence also of the intellectual means of production) and is therefore a criterion for judging the revolutionary function of literary works — applies to artists of only one type, the writers of the upper bourgeoisie, among whom he counts himself.
The Storyteller: Tales Out of Loneliness gathers for the first time the fiction of the legendary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin. Each text in the book is accompanied by a Paul Klee illustration. Below, Stuart Jeffries examines the meaning that Klee's Angelus Novus held for Benjamin.
To celebrate the book's publication, The Storyteller is for sale at 40% off until Monday, August 8. Click here to activate the 40% discount.
In 1921, Walter Benjamin bought Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, an oil transfer drawing with watercolour, for 1,000 marks in Munich. His friend Charlotte Wolf then recalled how this “gauche and inhibited man” had “behaved as if something marvellous had been given to him."
The Storyteller: Tales Out Of Loneliness gathers for the first time the fiction of Walter Benjamin, edited and translated by Sam Dolbear, Esther Leslie and Sebastian Truskolaski. His stories revel in the erotic tensions of city life, cross the threshold of dreamworlds, celebrate the ludic, and delve into the relationship between fortune-telling and gambling. An edited excerpt from the editors’ introduction, ‘The Storyteller: Walter Benjamin and the Magnetic Play of Words’, is published below, laying out how, taken together, the novellas, fables, histories, aphorisms, parables and riddles in this collection illuminate the themes that defined Benjamin’s work.
In the latest Verso podcast in collaboration with the London Review Bookshop, Esther Leslie, Marina Warner and Michael Rosen join Gareth Evans to discuss his experimentation with form and media, his concept of storytelling and the communicability of experience, and the themes that run throughout Benjamin’s creative and critical writing.