(Listed alphabetically by surname, updated on a rolling basis)
Caroline Adler (Humboldt Universität)
Caroline Adler is a scholar of Cultural History and Theory and a curator. Her research focuses on representation and method in Walter Benjamin’s literary work, epistemologies of the aesthetic, and theory and critique of scientific exhibition practice. She currently holds a position as PhD Student in the Research Training Group “The Literary and Epistemic History of Small Forms” (HU Berlin). After studying Philosophy, Cultural Studies and Contemporary Art Theory in Berlin and London, she worked as project assistant and coordinator at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) Berlin until 2020. Most recently, she co-curated the exhibition project “Porous City: Thresholds in Urbanity” at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin. She is an active member of the collective diffrakt – centre for theoretical periphery.
Project Title: Moscow returns. Benjamin’s essay “Moscow” between vividness and construction
Description: The project situates Walter Benjamin’s essay “Moscow” historically and systematically within the framework of Benjamin’s writing practice. My focus lies on the process of construction from the “Moscow Diary” to the form(ization) of the essay itself as well as on an evaluation of this writing experiment in relation to the “incessant organizational change” of the Soviet Union in 1926/27. In the confluence and constellation of diary and essay, I would also like to draw attention to the madeness of experimental literary small forms of the 1920s (such as the ‘Städtebild’) as well as to the conflictual nature of the relationship between reality and representation. In this context, the pragmatic factors of a literarization of the lifeworld and the reformatting of knowledge orders within exceptional historical situations – in this case the ‘experiment of humanity’ of the Russian Revolution – are of particular importance.
Furthermore, the project concentrates on the interweaving of Benjamin’s examination of Soviet aesthetics and the resulting consequences for the chosen constructive method, as well as the significance of the essay “Moscow” and the method of representation carried out in it for Benjamin’s further reflections on a constructive materialism of ‘heightened vividness’ (‘gesteigerte Anschaulichkeit’), as they can be found in the Arcades Project..
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Joseph Cermatori (Skidmore College)
Joseph Cermatori is assistant professor of English at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York (USA), where he specializes in comparative literature, modernism, critical theory, drama and performance studies. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2016. He has just completed his first book, Baroque Modernity, forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press in 2021. His recent research appears in JDTC, JCDE, Modern Drama, and PMLA, among other academic journals. As a book and arts critic, he has written for Salmagundi, Criticism, PAJ, the Brooklyn Rail, Village Voice, and New York Times.
Project title: Baroque Modernity: An Aesthetics of Theater
Description of Research: My interest in Benjamin stems from my recent book, whose third chapter analyzes his Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiel for its conceptualization of baroque theater and its relevance to the author’s later debates with Bertolt Brecht. As part of my research for the project, I undertook archival studies at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste in 2017 and 2019. The larger book examines the period from 1875 to 1935, a period that overlaps with the emergence of the first avant-garde theaters on both continents, and it focuses on writers important for modernist theater theory, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Gertrude Stein. Benjamin plays a central role in this constellation. His theory of baroque allegory provides a lynchpin for both the critical historiography of baroque style and the development of theater during these decades.
The book demonstrates that, around the turn of the twentieth-century, European and American modernists connected to the theater became fascinated with the subject of baroque, and with baroque theatricality even more specifically. I argue that the memory of the seventeenth-century stage helped produce new forms of performance, space, historical experience, and political critique, at a time when modernism in the arts was otherwise being increasingly defined by demands for unornamented functionalism. I also show that modern theater helped animate the formulation of “baroque” into a modern philosophical idea, influencing the rise of “postmodern” and poststructuralist debates on baroque aesthetic forms. Along the way, my study puts 19th- and 20th- century theater innovators like Richard Wagner and Thornton Wilder into dialogue with their early modern predecessors, including Bernini, Shakespeare, and Calderón de la Barca, in order to delineate an enduring genealogy of baroque performance.
Apart from my academic research, I am also a professional art and performance critic, and a contributing editor to the avant-garde arts journal PAJ.
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Sofia Cumming (University of East Anglia)
Sofia Cumming is a PhD candidate working in the fields of Comparative Literature and modern European intellectual history at the University of East Anglia, where she also acts as an associate tutor. She is currently a visiting researcher at the Humboldt University of Berlin, as well as a doctoral associate at the Marc Bloch Centre for Franco-German Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2020-2021).
In 2019, Sofia was the co-organizer of Benjamin’s Baudelaire: Constellations of Modernity, a workshop for early career researchers as well as the screening event, Berlin Childhood around 1900: A Film Project in Progress, which were both held at Goldsmiths in affiliation with the Centre for Philosophy & Critical Thought.
Walter Benjamin’s Parisian Passages – Correspondences in European Thought
Sofia’s doctoral dissertation focuses on Benjamin’s life-long engagement with French literature, thought and culture and its implications for his ideas and methods. The project constitutes a chronologically comprehensive approach to Benjamin’s corpus and his activity as a Vermittler, featuring comparative analyses of key French works and sources as well as highlighting his interactions with notable French figures and intellectuals both before and during his Parisian exile. The thesis equally attempts to reverse the question of ‘French influence’ by tracing the history of Benjamin’s reception in France and challenging the significance of his writings for post-war French thought and theory.
From a wider angle, the project re-situates Benjamin’s work as an intermediary within the history of Franco-German cultural and intellectual relations throughout the twentieth century, and the ways in which philosophies from both nations were exchanged, inherited and developed.
Jordan Daniels (Emory University)
Jordan Daniels defended her dissertation, Figurations of Nature in Kant and Adorno, at Emory University in the fall of 2020. Her research focuses on continental philosophy, especially Critical Theory, and environmental philosophy.
Title: “Walter Benjamin’s Visions of Nature”
The project, “Walter Benjamin’s Visions of Nature,” seeks to lay out the multi-faceted and often conflicting instances of nature Benjamin treats throughout his oeuvre, namely messianic nature, mythic nature, and creaturely nature. Benjamin anticipates and enriches current conversations in the environmental humanities via 1) his unique method of interpretation, which makes visible the theological baggage inherent in the metaphysical and historical frameworks of the modern secular world, and 2) his attentiveness to the ethical possibilities inhering in these historical frameworks. The messianic inflection of nature casts human beings in terms of nature’s transience, which calls for an ethical orientation toward these beings who are by nature vulnerable, fragile, and perishing. This vision contrasts with his analysis of Goethe’s depiction of nature as mythical and enchanting (even demonic), and as precluding ethical relations. Lastly, Benjamin’s critical discussion of “creaturely nature” engages with Carl Schmitt’s justification of absolute sovereign power, which bears on political choices we now face regarding global warming.
Louis Klee (University of Cambridge)
Louis Klee is a PhD candidate at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge.
Title: On Obliquity
Description: My project focuses on obliquity in prose form, particularly in recent works of fiction that could be characterised as essayistic, baroque, or associative in their style. I draw, at various points, on Walter Benjamin’s theoretical description of the ‘constellation’ to analyse this form prose.
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Federica Muré (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Federica Muré is a doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on the relation between different textures of the image and the concepts of ‘frontier’ (Grenze) and ‘threshold’ (Schwelle) in Benjamin’s writings, vis-à-vis Aby Warburg’s and Georges Didi-Huberman’s species of the image-limit. She is a graduate affiliate at the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought (Goldsmiths), where she co- organized the international workshop Benjamin’s Baudelaire: Constellations of Modernity and the screening event Berlin Childhood around 1900: A Film Project in Progress (2019). She is also a contributing writer at the Italian journal Antinomie.
Leila Nassereldein (Birkbeck, University of London)
Leila Nassereldein is a doctoral candidate in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, University of London, where she teaches BA and MA students in English, and the History of Art. Addressing the work of Walter Benjamin and Humphrey Jennings, Leila’s thesis examines montage as a historiographic practice, in the context of the interwar avant-garde. Working with the ICA, British Library, Peltz Gallery and Turner Contemporary, Leila’s curatorial practice involves archival experimentation with arts institutions. Special Articles Editor for Brief Encounters journal in 2017, Leila has also organised and delivered critical excursions in Georgia, Redcar and Naples, since 2017, bringing together academics for collaborative, on-site, phenomenological research experiences, as part of the CHASE-funded research network Space Place Time.
Chrys Papaioannou is a London-based critical theorist and activist, working at the intersection of continental philosophy, comparative literature and cultural studies. Her work is informed by the legacy of the Frankfurt School; Marxist and post-Marxist literary and cultural theory; and contemporary queer-feminist and biopolitical thought. She was previously a co-convenor of the seminar Marxism in Culture (University of London), has been a long-running member of the London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT) collective, and has collaborated with Free University London, offering the module ‘Taking our Time: Critical Theories of Temporality’ designed for a pedagogical initiative outside traditional university structures.
Research on Benjamin
Papaioannou’s doctoral dissertation, Ahead of its Time: Historicity, Chronopolitics, and the Idea of the Avant-Garde after Modernism (University of Leeds, 2017), examined the relationship between historical temporality and the notion of the avant-garde through a comparativist lens, and through mobilising a libertarian Marxist reading of Benjamin’s early and late writings. She is currently continuing her engagement with Walter Benjamin through a project that reads Benjamin alongside Georges Bataille and contemporary theorisations of queer kinship, with a view to developing a theoretical analysis of chronopolitics and the political and libidinal economies of gift-exchange. Other pivotal interests in Benjamin’s work include questions of sovereignty and (non)violence, the chronopolitics of life-writing and its relationship to the historicity of Jetztzeit, Benjaminian comparativism as ‘method’, and the critical reception of Benjamin in Latin America.
(Queen Mary, University of London)
Agnieszka Puchalska is a doctoral candidate and a teaching associate at Queen Mary University of London. Her research centres on Walter Benjamin’s theory of baroque allegorical representation as a critical strategy applicable in analysis of contemporary novels of Salman Rushdie and Olga Tokarczuk. She was a co-organizer of the conference ‘Redefining Allegory: The Meaning of Allegory Now’ held in London in 2016.
Fulvio Rambaldini (La Sapienza, University of Rome)
Fulvio Rambaldini is a PhD student in philosophy at La Sapienza, University of Rome, where he works under the supervision of Prof. Donatella Di Cesare and Prof. Elettra Stimilli. His research interests are contemporary Italian and German philosophy, with a particular focus on Walter Benjamin and Furio Jesi. During his master’s degree he spent a period of study at the Freie Universität in Berlin. His current research project revolves around the topics of holidays, temporality, and their political implications.
The lost Holiday. The Creation of a new Temporality
This research focuses on the concept of holiday in philosophy. The holiday unravels as an interdisciplinary field, combining anthropological, historical, legal, and literary reflections. The work intends to reconstruct the treatment of the theme in its complexity by trying, on the one hand, to highlight its theoretical characteristics and, on the other, to emphasise its political potential. A historical-reconstructive approach is employed together with a hermeneutic-philological interpretation. The theoretical framework of the work is used to investigate the revolutionary potential of this concept. The authors that are taken into consideration are Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Furio Jesi and Walter Benjamin. Benjamin himself is the very focus of the investigation, due to the political importance of the holiday in his writings. The recognition of the existence of empty time in every-day life goes hand in hand with the impossibility of experiencing festive time. The creation of a new temporality (chronopoiesis) consists thus in the reassessment of the relationship between past, present, and future. In doing so, the relationship with myth is also analysed, observing how indispensable it is to reformulate this relationship in order to free the past from the way of making history just a matter of historicism. The impossibility of experiencing the holiday has to do with the lack of experience – as understood by Benjamin – and, concurrently, with the lack of a collective life.
Santhia Velasco Kittlaus
Santhia Velasco Kittlaus gained her master’s degree in Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Addressing Walter Benjamin’s thinking of dialectics, her research emphasizes the significance of the pause as a form-giving, philosophical element which facilitates thought. Her project shows how the reading of Benjamin’s idea of a standstill can illuminate the thinking of dance as a form of representation.