Means of Communication: Means of Production, Means of Consumption.

Before I ask: how does a literary work stand in relation to the relationships of production of a period, I would like to ask: how does it stand in them? 

From Walter Benjamin, The Author as Producer

Benjamin points us towards the relation to resources of text & writing that we refuse to see.


‘dead without ever having lived’

“If everything were alive, nothing around us would last. It would all wilt like flowers, would decay, going the way of all flesh. There would be no stones to build strong, lasting building; no bronze for sculptures, no books could be printed on paper, to be carried through the centuries. One could object that even wood, this beautiful and so very durable material, nonetheless once belonged to a tree and was therefore alive before it was felled. The same holds for sheep, of which good and particularly durable parchment, especially such colourful and lastingly pleasing woven rugs, are produced, which would not exist without a previous life beneath the pelt. Yet these materials also seem permanent only after the deaths of their bearers and no longer have any of that earlier life. Anyway, what mostly surrounds us is still so-called dead matter, usually without ever having lived, and grandfather’s staff remains longer than he does, to say nothing of the mountain he climbed. What is really in the stone remains to be seen, will certainly not come forth on its day if we ourselves do not go behind it. There is much gold that glitters and has never been dug up. Bloch, ‘Dead and Usable’, Traces, p171-172

The role of time & the pastness of life in things is crucial for what they are (or might be) and how we know them. Time makes them just as it makes us but it does so in different ways. ——————

‘echo of allegorical meaning’

“Existence is full of figures, but not organized figures, with each and everyone in its fixed place. Instead an echo of allegorical meaning will resound everywhere, instructivly relaying back and forth, ambiguously reflective, before a form will stand there: as good women who is a good women; as our day, when (in both senses, a past as well as an entourage) it has the ambiguous, meaningful twilight behind it.”

From Bloch, Traces, ‘Montages of a February Evening’, p130

This echo of allegory is the result of the temporal location of culture in the past. All culture (all physical and conceptual products of social interaction) is the wake left behind the ever moving wave front of society. Allegory is just the most obviously ‘past’ element of culture because (qua Benjamin) it is already in ruins.