Paris and Berlin: On City Streets and Loggias


  • Stéphane Symons



This review article probes a conceptual duality that can be recognized as central to two of Benjamin’s essays on cities: his essay ‘Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century (Exposé of 1935),’ and his autobiographical text Berlin Childhood around 1900. On the one hand, Benjamin renders numerous analyses and descriptions of buildings and experiences that present themselves as absolute and internally unified, giving the impression of being autonomous and immutable. On the other hand, Benjamin interrogates objects and perceptions that present themselves as transient and in flux and are therefore experienced as contingent and incomplete. These latter objects and perceptions derive their significance from something that is inevitably external.

Author Biography

Stéphane Symons

Stéphane Symons is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy (KU Leuven) in Belgium. His main field of research is continental, nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy of culture. He has published the volume Walter Benjamin. Presence of Mind, Failure to Understand (Brill), edited the volume The Marriage of Aesthetics and Ethics (Brill) and co-edited the collections Walter Benjamin and Theology (Fordham UP) and Theological Genealogies. Twentieth century, German thought on secularization (forthcoming).


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Walter Benjamin, Berlin Childhood around 1900, transl. Howard Eiland (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2006

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W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Random House, 2001)