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This talk will analyze the ethical and political thrust of Walter Benjamin’s selection of private letters from the archives of the nineteenth-century. Beginning in 1930, Benjamin first published these letters together with brief commentaries in a daily newspaper, then, while in exile in France, as a collection in book format under the title German Men and Women (1936).
Dorothea von Mücke, through her talk, will demonstrate how Benjamin’s publication strategies present us with alternatives to the construction of a national character and discuss the book as an intervention in the political philosophy of history in view of the question of how we look for, model and document humaneness in behavior and character.
The talk will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.
Dorothea von Mücke
Dorothea von Mücke is the Gebhard Professor of German Language and Literature at Columbia University. She is a coeditor of the New History of German Literature. Her most recent book, The Practices of the Enlightenment, published in 2015 by Columbia University Press, focuses on 18 th -century aesthetics, concepts of the public and authorship. Currently she is working on the novelistic imagination of the role of literature in the nineteenth century, with a special focus on German- and Anglophone writers, entitled: Altars and Art. The Stakes of Literature in the Nineteenth Century.
Prashant Keshavmurthy is Associate Professor of Persian-Iranian Studies in the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University. He is the author of Persian Authorship and Canonicity in Late Mughal Delhi: Building an Ark (Routledge, 2016) and co-translator of Sohrab Sepehri, The Eight Books: A Complete English Translation (Brill, 2022). He has completed a full translation into English blank verse of Amir Khusraw’s mixed genre poem from 1318, The Nine Skies, and is writing a monograph on craving and craft in the quintet of the great twelfth century poet Niẓāmī of Ganja.