"Schmerz war ein Staudamm" : Benjamin on pain

  • To explicate what distinguishes pain, Benjamin elaborates: "Of all corporeal feelings, pain alone is like a navigable river which never dries up and which leads man down to the sea. [...] Pain [...] is a link between worlds. This is why organic pleasure is intermittent, whereas pain can be permanent. This comparison of pleasure and pain explains why the cause of pain is irrelevant for the understanding of man's nature, whereas the source of his greatest pleasure is extremely important. For every pain, even the most trivial one, can lead upward to the highest religious suffering, whereas pleasure is not capable of any enhancement, and owes any nobility it possesses to the grace of its birth - that is to say, its source. (SW I, 397)" In these important lines, pain's unique strength is linked not to its origin (this is reserved for pleasure), but rather to the way that its strenuous flow throughout the suffering body has the power to lead it to infinite heights. In contrast to pleasure, which is forever seeking out its sources, pain manifests itself most consummately when it is intensified; it fulfills itself most deeply by gradually reenforcing its own fortitude. To make sense of pain, therefore, we must understand the nature of its 'movement': and in Benjamin's metaphor of the "navigable river" - its flow. In what follows, I develop Benjamin's idea of the nature of pain as manifested in the internal law of its ,ow in two other of Benjamin's texts: 'Berlin Childhood Around 1900' (1934) and 'Thought Figures' (1933).

Download full text files

Export metadata

Additional Services

Share in Twitter Search Google Scholar
Author:Ilit Ferber
Parent Title (German):Benjamin-Studien
Publisher:Wilhelm Fink
Place of publication:Paderborn
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2017/06/22
Year of first Publication:2014
Publishing Institution:Universit├Ątsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2017/06/22
GND Keyword:Benjamin, Walter; Schmerz <Motiv>; Berliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert
Page Number:17
First Page:165
Last Page:177
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 80 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft / 800 Literatur und Rhetorik
Sammlungen:CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft
CompaRe | Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft / Leibniz-Zentrum f├╝r Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin
BDSL-Klassifikation:01.00.00 Allgemeine deutsche Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft / BDSL-Klassifikation: 01.00.00 Allgemeine deutsche Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > 01.08.00 Zu einzelnen Germanisten, Literaturtheoretikern und Essayisten
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht