The memory of things: Walter Benjamin's modernity
Brannagan, Melanie M.
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In The Memory of Things, I begin by posing the question, what if memory were not merely a human characteristic but also a thingly one. I aproach this thought through the work of Walter Benjamin, for whom things and memories are often juxtaposed, and whose writing of modernity is concerned particularly with the intersection of material traces and memory. I access these questions by means of various theories, among which are psychoanalysis, object-oriented ontology, thing theory, and phenomenology, and, more briefly, through the history of geological science. At their cores, the questions of modernity, of things and people, of trauma and politics, of aura and its decay, of memory and forgetting, of weight are questions of ethics. I demonstrate in the dissertation to follow, objects bear the weight of human memory and ethics. Furthermore, I demonstrate that Benjamin's eclectic writings, most especially his writings on aura, provide the tools we need to re-think objects and our relations to them.