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“Literarization of the Conditions of Living“: The Changing Status of the Author in Walter Benjamin’s Works

Antonia Stichnoth

“At any moment, the reader is ready to become a writer“*, Walter Benjamin writes in several texts from the beginning of the 1930s. He uses this formulation to describe a change in attitude of the reading public that lays claim to the possibilities offered by members of the contemporary press wanting to write about their own life and work. In the wake of this generalization of the role of the author, the exclusive position of singular author figures disappears, and writing becomes a form of public expression accessible to the masses. For Benjamin, the idea of the creative subject is replaced by the assumption that the competence to write about a certain kind of work comes along with practicing it.

Starting from the nuances that are brought to Benjamin’s thought through its variations in different versions of text, my project seeks to understand how Benjamin conceptualizes the “literarization of the conditions of living”** that comes with this development. Doing so, Benjamin’s thesis shall not only be contextualized within his works, but also with regard to the media about which he writes.

*trans. by Edmund Jephcott and Harry Zohn
**trans. by Edmund Jephcott