On Collecting: Writings of Walter Benjamin (VA4209.01)

Anne Thompson

This course examines major themes in the writings of German philosopher and cultural theorist Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) including history, politics, aesthetics, technology, urban life, archives, and collections. Our goal is to gain a greater understanding of Benjamin’s significance for cultural producers across disciplines, in particular artists, critics, and curators. Texts range from his seminal essays such as “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” to Benjamin’s enigmatic masterwork, the Arcades Project. Close readings of assigned texts are coupled with lectures and student research on contemporary examples of Benjamin’s influence—including engagement with a Usdan Gallery exhibition about personal collecting. A review of Benjamin’s tumultuous life provides a frame for his Marxist and antifascist positions; his analysis of the emergence of modern society and technology; and his faith in the survival of art and potential for redemption amid violence and repression.



Learning Outcomes:
_gain knowledge about one of the twentieth-century’s most influential thinkers
_conduct close readings of texts
_analyze Benjamin’s work in relationship to contemporary culture
_understand how critical theory applies to curatorial praxis
_learn how to analyze and write about art exhibition objects and installations

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Previous coursework in art history, literature, or SCT; and instructor's consent. Interested students must provide a writing sample. Contact: annethompson@bennington.edu.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 10:00AM - 11:50AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 14
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Visual Arts (VA)
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