Walter Benjamin and the Networks of the Frankfurter Zeitung

Matthew Handelman


The Frankfurter Zeitung offered an important if also often unreliable publishing venue for Walter Benjamin during the Weimar Republic. Many texts central to Benjamin’s literary and theoretical corpus appeared in the newspaper’s wellrespected feuilleton, from the Denkbilder of Einbahnstraße and some of the vignettes of Berliner Kindheit to his essays on figures like Karl Kraus. At the same time, many of Benjamin’s pieces, such as his essay on Bertolt Brecht’s epic theater, sparked controversy among the feuilleton’s editorial staff. With Benjamin’s frequent travels, letters written to friends and the feuilleton’s editors thus provide an important paratext mediating such publications. This article uses computational methods to visualize (as a network) and analyze (as network metrics) Benjamin’s correspondence networks with the editors of and other authors who wrote for the feuilleton of the Frankfurter Zeitung up to the end of the Weimar Republic. They show Benjamin’s distance to German-Jewish intellectual communities and his distance to those associated with the newspaper, despite being highly connected with important individuals in the network. It concludes with the consideration that Benjamin’s own thinking on networked phenomena offers a perspective on networks that allows for the difference within connection that describes his interactions with the networks of the Frankfurter Zeitung. (MH)

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