L’attention et la distraction : évolution d’un motif dans la théorie de la critique esthétique de Walter Benjamin

  • Léa Barbisan
Keywords: Attention, Benjamin


Attention is not a central issue in Benjaminian thought; yet this discreet theme can be found in his early work right up to his last texts. Defining the place of attention in Benjamin's thought allows us to trace the evolution of his conception of aesthetic criticism. First, we will point out the role played for the young Benjamin by the Romantic conception of aesthetic criticism, based on a theory of knowledge in which the notion of attention plays a central role. It will then be necessary to show that the redefinition of attention as admiration is part of the elaboration, from the 1920s onwards, of a new definition of criticism, which abandons the Romantic heritage. Finally we will underline the role of vigilance - a form of embodied and practical attention that Benjamin calls “corporeal presence of mind” - in the later theory of “reception in distraction”.