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The Book

Link to physical text resources.

Printable version of The Arcades Project Project.

“Why revise for a notebook? The fact that Benjamin also transferred masses of quotations from actual notebooks to the manuscript of the convolutes, and the elaborate organization of these cited materials in the manuscript (including the use of numerous epigraphs), might likewise bespeak a compositional principle at work in the project, and not just an advanced stage of research. In fact, the montage form with its philosophic play of distances, transitions, and intersections, its perpetually shifting contexts and ironic juxtapositions had become a favorite device of Benjamin’s later investigations; among his major works, we have examples of this in Einbahnstrasse (One-Way Street), Berliner Kindheit um Neunzehnhundert (A Berlin Childhood and 1900) “Uber den Begriff der Geschichte” (On the Concept of History), and “Zentralpark” (Central Park). What is distinctive about The Arcades Project in Benjamin’s mind, it always dwelt apart is the working of quotations into the framework of montage, so much so that they eventually far outnumber the commentaries. If we now were to regard this ostensible patchwork as, de facto, a determinate literary form, one that has effectively constructed itself (that is, fragmented itself), like the Journaux intimes of Baudelaire, then surely there would be significant repercussions for the direction and tempo of its reading, to say the least. The transcendence of the conventional book form would go together, in this case, with the blasting apart of pragmatic historicism grounded, as this always is, on the premise of a continuous and homogeneous temporality. Citation and commentary might then be perceived as intersecting at a thousand different angles, setting up vibrations across the epochs of recent history, to as to effect ‘the cracking open of natural teleology.’ And all this would unfold through the medium of hints or ‘blinks’ a discontinuous presentation deliberately opposed to traditional modes of argument. At any rate, it seems undeniable that despite the informal, epistolary announcements of a ‘book’ in the works, an eigentlichen Buch, the research project had become an end in itself.” (AP xi)


Because books are self-contained, they create the illusion of being somehow autonomous, complete, one believes one can "finish" a book, reach its end, by following the narrative thread through to the last page (which oftentimes connects to the first). This type of writing sustains the dream of the closed system--the knowable universe--in the mind of the reader and is attractive to those whose philosophy champions the notion of philosophers as subjects who have experiences that unravel over time: the flâneurs. of philosophy, if you will.

The Arcades Project proscribes no clear navigational strategy for those who encounter it; it exists as a mechanically reproduced collection available for perusal by any random passerby. However, the fact that it has been disseminated in book form implies a certain approach. When a similar project is taken to a new medium, a medium without a cover to enclose and demarcate beginnings and endings, without a spine to seal the text so that there can be no addition or subtraction without a trace, without paper of any particular kind, color, quality, size, thickness, texture, or durability, without a table of contents, without an introduction, without page numbers, chapters, indexes, bibliographies, when it is a text without margins to write on and the project is taken on in a medium that only exists through a machine made graphic interface, the life or death of which is controlled by the electric companies, when the information is always already multiplied on however many millions of machines that may or may not choose to access it, different things happen.

The Arcades Project Project is part of Heather Marcelle Crickenberger's doctoral dissertation entitled "The Structure of Awakening": Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media which was defended and passed on June 27, 2007 at the University of South Carolina. The committe members are as follows: John Muckelbauer, Ph.D, Judith James, Ph.D., Dan Smith, Ph.D, Brad Collins, Ph. D., and Anthony Jarrells, Ph.D. Copyright 2007 by Heather Marcelle Crickenberger. All rights reserved. lems concerning what you find here, feel free to contact me at marcelle@thelemming.com. You are also invited to leave a message for me and other visitors HERE. The Arcades Project Project or The Rhetoric of Hypertext