Rosalia Peluso

Poetic Thinking, Goethism and Philosophical Laconism. A Reading of Walter Benjamin’s Deutsche Menschen

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The article develops a suggestion of Hannah Arendt, who reads Benjamin’s philosophy as one of the highest expressions of «poetic thinking»: a thought that confronts poetry and is nourished by poetry. In this poetic constellation Goethe plays a central role. Walter Benjamin devoted several writings to Goethe: from The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism (1919) to the essay on Elective Affinities (1924), from the entry for the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1928) to the writings for Goethe’s first centenary (1932). Not to be overlooked are the references to the «original phenomenon» – according to Benjamin among Goethe’s main naturalistic and poetic concepts – that link The Origins of the German Tragic Drama to the Arcades Project. Starting from what he calls «the jubilee year» of the Poet, Benjamin begins to devise a project that he first anticipates in the pages of the «Frankfurter Zeitung» and then perfects and publishes in 1936, under the pseudonym Detlef Holz, with the title Deutsche Menschen, German Men and Women. The article is divided into three parts: poetic thinking, history of a book against time, and Goethism and laconic philosophy. It documents how the conceptual and chronological architecture of the project is designed around the biological event of Goethe’s death, symbolically transfigured into the beginning of the flood that looms over Germany


  • Walter Benjamin
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe
  • Deutsche Menschen
  • Poetic thinking
  • Goethism


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