Paris and Berlin: On City Streets and Loggias

Stéphane Symons


This review article probes a conceptual duality that can be recognized as central to two of Benjamin’s essays on cities: his essay ‘Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century (Exposé of 1935),’ and his autobiographical text Berlin Childhood around 1900. On the one hand, Benjamin renders numerous analyses and descriptions of buildings and experiences that present themselves as absolute and internally unified, giving the impression of being autonomous and immutable. On the other hand, Benjamin interrogates objects and perceptions that present themselves as transient and in flux and are therefore experienced as contingent and incomplete. These latter objects and perceptions derive their significance from something that is inevitably external.

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