Walter Benjamin – Biography

Walter Benjamin, born on July 15, 1892, studied philosophy in Freiburg, Munich, Berlin, and Bern. Earning a degree with his Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism, he was not successful in his attempt to become a university professor. His Habilitationsschrift, On the Origins of the German Trauerspiel, was rejected by Frankfurt University only to become a canonized classic of 20th Century literary criticism.

Benjamin made his living as a free-lance author and translator in Berlin, where he also took part in German psychopharmacological research. A prolific critic, he was forced into exile by the Nazis in 1933. Emigrating to France, he became a member of the Institute of Social Research (which included Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Otto Kirchheimer, Friedrich Pollack, Leo Löwenthal, Franz Neumann, Karl Wittvogel and others). Benjamin made an attempt to join the Institute when it emigrated from Paris to New York. In flight from the Gestapo he took his own life in the Spanish border town of Port Bou on September 27, 1940. Some of his most important publications include:

  • Goethe’s Elective Affinities,
  • The Origin of German Trauerspiel,
  • One-way Street,
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,
  • Berlin Childhood in 1900
  • Paris Arcades Project.

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