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Reception in Distraction

Reception in Distraction nently exemplified in his writings on Bertolt Brecht and the other in the work of art essay—are both reflected in The Arcades Project. I shall refer, provisionally, to the first of these attitudes as ‘‘negative,’’ and to the second as ‘‘positive,’’ but it should be kept in mind that, especially in the case of the artwork essay and The Arcades, the notion of distraction operates in a peculiarly slippery manner, such as very likely makes this one of the more elusive of Benjaminian topoi. It is at its slipperiest where it bears on the theory of montage. The ‘‘negative’’ view of distraction is enunciated in Benjamin’s discussion of Brecht’s epic theater in two pieces from the early thirties: the magazine article ‘‘Theater and Radio,’’ from 1932, and the famous (possibly undelivered) lecture from 1934, ‘‘The Author as Producer.’’ In both texts Benjamin distinguishes epic theater from the big-city ‘‘theater of convention,’’ which, in its complementary functions of cultivation and distraction, Bildung and Zerstreuung (the latter might also be translated here as ‘‘entertainment’’), caters to a ‘‘sated class,’’ as he says, ‘‘for which everything it touches becomes a stimulant.’’ 2 In the epic theater, on the other hand, a http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture Duke University Press

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2003 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0190-3659
eISSN
1527-2141
DOI
10.1215/01903659-30-1-51
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

nently exemplified in his writings on Bertolt Brecht and the other in the work of art essay—are both reflected in The Arcades Project. I shall refer, provisionally, to the first of these attitudes as ‘‘negative,’’ and to the second as ‘‘positive,’’ but it should be kept in mind that, especially in the case of the artwork essay and The Arcades, the notion of distraction operates in a peculiarly slippery manner, such as very likely makes this one of the more elusive of Benjaminian topoi. It is at its slipperiest where it bears on the theory of montage. The ‘‘negative’’ view of distraction is enunciated in Benjamin’s discussion of Brecht’s epic theater in two pieces from the early thirties: the magazine article ‘‘Theater and Radio,’’ from 1932, and the famous (possibly undelivered) lecture from 1934, ‘‘The Author as Producer.’’ In both texts Benjamin distinguishes epic theater from the big-city ‘‘theater of convention,’’ which, in its complementary functions of cultivation and distraction, Bildung and Zerstreuung (the latter might also be translated here as ‘‘entertainment’’), caters to a ‘‘sated class,’’ as he says, ‘‘for which everything it touches becomes a stimulant.’’ 2 In the epic theater, on the other hand, a

Journal

boundary 2: an international journal of literature and cultureDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2003

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