Ideology and Art: Theories of Mass Culture from Walter Benjamin to Umberto Eco

By Robin Ridless | Go to book overview

Chapter I
WALTER BENJAMIN: THE CHANGING OF THE SUPERSTRUCTURE

Two essays form the subject of this chapter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" was written in 1936 for the Institute for Social Research, who published it in New York in the organization's journal, the Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung. The second, "The Author as Producer," was an address delivered in 1934 to the Paris Institute for the Study of Fascism. Together, they lay the foundation for the remainder of this work by analyzing the physical structure of popular art and linking it to political advocacy.

I have taken the liberty of reversing their chronological order in my exposition, since Benjamin's analysis of how the intellectual/artist can best promote socialism is premised on the primacy of technological considerations. The more focused analysis of mechanical reproduction, which was published later, provides a context for the first, programmatic argument. In addition, there is something in the nature of Benjamin's text that seems to invite such liberties. Benjamin once said that the true writer is never

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