When Walter Benjamin wrote his main texts, the theme of the city as hell was extremely popular. Some of his German contemporaries, such as Brecht or Döblin, also used it. Benjamin was aware of these examples, as well as of examples outside Germany, including Joyce’s Ulysses and Baudelaire’s poetry. And he was — at least in some way — familiar with Dante’s Inferno and used it, and in particular Dante’s conception of hell, for his own purposes. Benjamin’s appropriation of the topos of the Inferno has been seen as a critique of capitalism and as a general critique of modernism by means of allegory. In the following analysis, I would like to take a slightly different approach and, despite Benjamin’s status as an expert on allegory, consider hell in its literal sense as a place and examine the issues of emplacement that might follow from this standpoint.
Keywords: Alighieri, Dante – Divina Commedia – Inferno; productive reception; Benjamin, Walter; eschatology; hell (theology)
Title
Dante’s Inferno and Walter Benjamin’s Cities
Subtitle
Considerations of Place, Experience, and Media
Author(s)
Angela Merte-Rankin
Identifier
DOI Target
Description
When Walter Benjamin wrote his main texts, the theme of the city as hell was extremely popular. Some of his German contemporaries, such as Brecht or Döblin, also used it. Benjamin was aware of these examples, as well as of examples outside Germany, including Joyce’s Ulysses and Baudelaire’s poetry. And he was — at least in some way — familiar with Dante’s Inferno and used it, and in particular Dante’s conception of hell, for his own purposes. Benjamin’s appropriation of the topos of the Inferno has been seen as a critique of capitalism and as a general critique of modernism by means of allegory. In the following analysis, I would like to take a slightly different approach and, despite Benjamin’s status as an expert on allegory, consider hell in its literal sense as a place and examine the issues of emplacement that might follow from this standpoint.
Is Part Of
Place
Vienna
Publisher
Turia + Kant
Date
2011
Subject
Alighieri, Dante – Divina Commedia – Inferno
productive reception
Benjamin, Walter
eschatology
hell (theology)
Rights
© by the author(s)
This version is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
short title
Walter Benjamin's Cities
page start
77
page end
87
Source
Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2011), pp. 77–87
Bibliographic Citation
Angela Merte-Rankin, ‘Dante’s Inferno and Walter Benjamin’s Cities: Considerations of Place, Experience, and Media’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2011), pp. 77–87 <https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_05>

References

  • Alighieri, Dante, La Commedia secondo l’antica vulgata, ed. by Giorgio Petrocchi, 2nd edn, 4 vols (Florence: Le Lettere, 1994)
  • Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno, ed. and trans. by Robert M. Durling, intro. and notes by Ronald L. Martinez and Robert M. Durling (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • Auerbach, Erich, Dante: Poet of the Secular World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961)
  • Barolini, Teodolinda, ‘Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender’, Speculum, 75 (2000), pp. 1–28 <https://doi.org/10.2307/2887423>
  • Benjamin, Walter, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. by Rolf Tiedemann et al., 7 vols (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1974–89)
  • Benjamin, Walter, Selected Writings, ed. by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith; trans. by Rodney Livingstone et al., 4 vols (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2005–06)
  • Benjamin, Walter, The Writer of Modern Life, ed. by Michel W. Jennings, trans. by Harry Zohn (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2006)
  • Casey, Edward S., Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993)
  • Casey, Edward S., The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)
  • Durling, Robert, ‘Deceit and Digestion in the Belly of Hell’, in Allegory and Representation, ed. by Stephen Greenblatt (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), pp. 61–93
  • Eliade, Mircea, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (New York: Harper and Row 1959)
  • Ferrante, Joan M., The Political Vision of the ‘Divine Comedy’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984) <https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400853991>
  • Gilloch, Graeme, Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
  • Gragnolati, Manuele, ‘Gluttony and the Anthropology of Pain in Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio’, in History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person, ed. by Rachel Fulton and Bruce Holsinger (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 238–50 <https://doi.org/10.7312/fult13368-022>
  • Honess, Claire, From Florence to the Heavenly City: The Poetry of Citizenship in Dante (Oxford: Legenda, 2006)
  • Joyce, James, Ulysses, ed. by Jeri Johnson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)
  • Keen, Catherine, Dante and the City (Stroud: Tempus, 2003)
  • Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980)
  • Lemke, Anja, ‘Berliner Kindheit um 1900’, in Benjamin Handbuch: Leben–Werk–Wirkung, ed. by Burkhardt Lindner (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2006), pp. 653–62
  • Lindner, Burkhardt, ‘Sprachphilosophie, literarisches und autobiographisches Schreiben’, in Benjamin Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung, ed. by Burkhardt Lindner (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2006), pp. 585–680
  • Merte-Rankin, Angela, ‘Creating the Map of Life: Imagining Spaces in Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Portraits’, in Imagining Space: Negotiating Cross Discipline Terrains, ed. by Sabine Strümper-Krobb and Kathleen James-Chakraborty (New York: Peter Lang, forthcoming)
  • Pike, David L., Passage through Hell: Modernist Descents, Medieval Underworlds (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997) <https://doi.org/10.7591/9781501729478>
  • Schlegel, August Wilhelm, Observations sur la langue et la littérature provençale (Paris: Librairie Grecque-Latine-Allemande, 1818)
  • Scholem, Gershom, Tagebücher, nebst Aufsätzen und Entwürfen bis 1923, ed. by Karlfried Gründer et al., 2 vols (Frankfurt a.M.: Jüdischer Verlag, 2000)
  • Schweppenhäuser, Hermann, ‘Infernalische Aspekte der Moderne: Anthropo-theologische Elemente in Benjamin’s Geschichtsbegriff’, in Ein Physiognom der Dinge: Aspekte des Benjaminschen Denkens, ed. by Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Lüneburg: Zu Klampen, 1992), pp. 153–70.
  • Turner, Victor, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (New York: Aldine Publishing Company, 1969)
  • Turner, Victor, From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982)
  • Weigel, Sigrid, Walter Benjamin: Die Kreatur, das Heilige, die Bilder (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 2008)
  • Witte, Bernd, ed., Topographien der Erinnerung: Zu Walter Benjamins Passagen (Würzburg: Könighausen and Neumann, 2008)
  •  
     
Cite as: Angela Merte-Rankin, ‘Dante’s Inferno and Walter Benjamin’s Cities: Considerations of Place, Experience, and Media’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2011), pp. 77–87 <https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_05>
Angela Merte-Rankin, ‘Dante’s Inferno and Walter Benjamin’s Cities: Considerations of Place, Experience, and Media’, in Metamorphosing Dante: Appropriations, Manipulations, and Rewritings in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. by Manuele Gragnolati, Fabio Camilletti, and Fabian Lampart, Cultural Inquiry, 2 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2011), pp. 77-87 <https://doi.org/10.25620/ci-02_05>

Export