A Cosmic Experience. Walter Benjamin in the AnthropoceneGiovanbattista Tusa (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Hope: Rethinking with Benjamin 2021. Conference of the International Walter Benjamin Society
Giovanni Tusa's talk focuses on the recurring motif, in Walter Benjamin’s writings, of considering the history of homo sapiens a fragment or infinitesimal part of cosmic duration, resonating with the characteristics of the era recently designated by some as the “Anthropocene”. This age folds geologic time into human corporeality, refocusing attention on the temporality of inhuman forces within the subject. But the concept of the Anthropocene also points to a paradox: the more powerful and real the collective impact of the species is, the less the billions of individuals living today feel capable of influencing their surrounding reality.
Tusa's intervention argues that Benjamin sensed the entropic drive of the Anthropocenic West, and thus postulated the burning need to explode all the anthropocentric variants that characterize traditional messianism but also historical materialism, staging a model of history in which all human action plunges into the mute timelessness of natural forces. Central to my reconstruction of these motifs in Benjamin’s work will be the close comparison with Blanqui’s Eternity by the Stars, and Kracauer’s Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality, both of which are works in which the products of human history tend to coalesce with the effects of cosmic forces to such an extent that they lose all sense of orientation toward any kind of meaningful progress or temporal continuity.
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