The image/word distinction in Walter Benjamin's "Arcades Project"
A/Prof. Alison Ross (Monash University)

March 12, 2015, 12:15pm - 2:15pm
Department of Philosophy, University of Melbourne

G16 (Jim Potter Room)
Old Physics Building

Topic areas


Abstract: This paper defends the thesis that there are multiple points of exchange between the categories of ‘word’ and ‘image’ in Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Benjamin describes the truth of the articulate wish of the past as ‘graphically perceptible’ and the image as ‘readable.’ In this respect the vocabulary of ‘word’ and ‘image’ that Benjamin’s early work had opposed are not just deployed in concert, but specific features of the vocabulary of ‘word’ and ‘image’ become exchangeable. This paper will set out the significance of this exchange in relation to the break it marks with Benjamin’s early way of opposing the word and the image. I will argue that the exchange of features between word and image in the late work can explain the mechanics and intended effect of his idea that the meaning of history can be perceived in an image. The study of this exchange shows that although the framework of ‘graphic perception’ entails an experience of motivating meaning that is epistemologically grounded, the citation model of history is unable to secure the extension of the sought after legibility of the nineteenth century to a recipient.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.