Walter Benjamin used several pictorial terms to describe the form of his philosophical prose (including mosaic, picture puzzle, constellation, dialectical image and literary montage). All these terms refer to visual images constructed from distinct pieces: Benjamin is primarily interested in the work of assembling tiny fragments into a bigger picture.
Each fragment is a fresh start, a new attempt to gain purchase on the problem represented by the text as a whole. ‘This continual pausing for breath is the mode most proper to the process of contemplation,’ he explains in the ‘Epistemo-Critical Prologue’ to Origin of German Tragic Drama. By assembling fragments, Benjamin seeks to secure a mimetic correspondence between the rhythms of writing and of thinking.
In this workshop, we will explore the rhythmics of citation by creating our own montage. I have been inspired by Benjamin in my own thinking and writing, but I am very interested to learn about the critics, poets, theorists who inspire you. Please send in (to email@example.com) one or more quotations about criticism that are significant for your own work in advance of the workshop. We will piece them together into a provisional statement of method.
Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi is a Research Associate in the Literary and Artistic Archive at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. She is the author of Shelley with Benjamin: A Critical Mosaic (2023), based on the first PhD in Creative Critical Writing to be awarded from UCL. Her current book project is a memoir called The Trembling Hand: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive that uncovers the connections between British Romanticism and the Black Atlantic while at the same time investigating the period’s legacy in our own time. It is due to be published by Hamish Hamilton (UK) and Alfred A. Knopf (US) in 2024.