Theory course
Shocks and Phantasmagoria: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Goethe-Institut New York

Walter Benjamin once wrote that The Arcades Project was “the theater of all my struggles and all my ideas.” Never completed and well over a decade in the making, The Arcades Project takes on the presentation and history of an entire era and place: the Parisian Arcades of the early 19th century. Via quotations, observations, commentaries, philosophical fragments, and “literary montage,” Benjamin attempts a better understanding of the conditions that fashioned not only that era, but also his own. This extraordinary text focuses on some of the most key questions a philosopher can ask: How should we understand the world around us? How should we interpret this world? How should we understand its time? What are social phenomena, history, philosophy, and criticism? What are they for? We will examine selections from The Arcades Project alongside other related writings by Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Theodor Adorno, and later commentators in an attempt to understand Benjamin’s philosophy of historical materialism, as well as the shocks and phantasmagoria of our own time.

Instructor: Ajay Singh Chaudhary

Ajay Singh Chaudhary is the founding director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and a lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He holds a PhD from Columbia University’s Institute for Comparative Literature and Society through the MESAAS Department specializing in comparative philosophy.


Goethe-Institut New York

30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

Language: English
Price: $315