Writing at the End: Benjamin, Kraus, and the Image of Journalism

Tom Vandeputte


Walter Benjamin’s critique and interpretation of journalistic form may be understood against the background of the longer-running philosophical preoccupation with newspaper reading and journalistic writing. His own contribution to this tradition takes shape in large part through his engagement with the work of Karl Kraus, the Austrian writer who, for Benjamin, embodied journalism “in its most paradoxical form.” As this article shows, the work of Kraus is treated as the model of an “originary” journalism, reminiscent of the neue Zeitungen circulating at the threshold of the modern age, chronicling a history grasped as continuous catastrophe. But the Ur-journalism modelled on Kraus does not stop at lamenting a world that has reached its fateful end; in Benjamin’s rendering, it also turns every world-historical “now” into a “courtroom” where the present world both demands its liberation and prefigures the realization of this demand. (TV)

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