Religion Around Walter Benjamin
- ISBN: 9780271094502
- Published By: Penn State University Press
- Published: September 2022
This book shows how institutional religion and the religiosity of political and cultural life provide a necessary dimension to Walter Benjamin, one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.
Lived religion surrounded Benjamin, whose upper-middle-class Jewish family celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah in Berlin as the turmoil of war, collapsing empires, and modern urban life gave rise to the Nazi regime that would destroy most of Europe’s Jews, including Benjamin himself. Documenting the vitality and diversity of religious life that surrounded Benjamin in Germany, France, and beyond, Brian Britt shows the extent to which religious communities and traditions, especially those of Christians, influenced his work. Britt surveys and analyzes the intellectual, cultural, and social contexts of religion in Benjamin’s world and broadens the religious frame around discussions of his work to include lived religion—the daily practices of ordinary people. Seeing religion around Benjamin requires looking at forms of life and institutions that he rarely discussed. As Britt shows, dramatic changes in religious practices, particularly in Berlin, reflected broader political and cultural currents that would soon transform the lives of all Europeans.
An original perspective on the religious context of a thinker who habitually raised questions about the survival of religion in modernity, Religion Around Walter Benjamin contributes to wider discussions of religious tradition and secular modernity in religious and cultural studies. It provides a foundational overview and introduction to the context of Benjamin’s writing that will be appreciated by scholars and students alike.