The fractured subject : Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud

Schulz, Bernadette (2020) The fractured subject : Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis investigates the relationship of the work of Walter Benjamin and Sigmund Freud, reading Benjamin’s use of Freud based around the concept of the fractured subject. Through a reading of Benjamin’s work on sovereignty and myth in the Trauerspiel study, it establishes the emergence of this fractured subject in the Baroque. It then links these themes to Freud’s ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1917) as well as two case studies, showing that melancholia and possession emerge as two responses to the baroque subject’s fracturing in its loss of a cosmological horizon. Turning to Benjamin’s work on the nineteenth century in the Arcades Project, it then delineates the persistence of this fractured subject, showing how Benjamin conceptualises its development over the course of modernity. Combining Marxian and Freudian categories, the importance of the commodity form comes to the fore as the contemporary form of the mediation of myth and loss. Investigating the change of memory and experience in modernity, it discusses the resurfacing of melancholia as spleen, and the refracting of the fractured subject into types. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) is established as a central reference point for Benjamin’s work on the nineteenth century. The thesis then examines Benjamin’s dream theory in the Arcades Project and associated texts, exploring the ways in which it draws from Freud’s dream interpretation. It is argued that the 19th century dream is conceptualised by Benjamin as both emblematic of the type of subjectivity of the fractured subject, and constitutes an opening beyond it. It then examines Benjamin’s concept of awakening as a therapeutic, collective, political gesture that points beyond the fractured subject.

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