- Between Erlebnis and Erfahrung: cinema experience with Benjamin
- Volume | Issue number
- 32 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
The ‘turn’ to emotion and affect in film and media studies may take its distance from earlier ways of understanding spectatorial involvement (modelled on psychoanalytic notions of identification). But such approaches, whether cognitivist in intent, or inspired by phenomenology, also return to an earlier interest in bodily sensations and somatic responses when exposed to sudden motion and moving images (associated with ideas such as innervation, shock and over-stimulation). The essay proposes to bring Walter Benjamin into the debate, with a term central to his idea of modernity, namely ‘experience’, and to revive his distinction between Erfahrung and Erlebnis. Noting certain features of excess and liminiality in contemporary cinema, and mapping them across the three distinct domains of body, time and agency, Benjamin's own attempt to locate the emotional core of the technical media is reappraised. Grounded in the peculiar variability but also interdependence of place, narration and perception, the cinema would then appear to provide Erlebnis without Erfahrung, a state formerly associated with trauma, but now the very definition of the media event.
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