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Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht

Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: Story of a Friendship?

A one-day conference

6 November 2009
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London wc1e 7hx
Rooms b36/b02 & b03

The English translation of Erdmut Wizisla’s formidable study Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: The Story of a Friendship was published this Autumn by Libris. No one has a better view of the much disputed relationship between these two figures than Erdmut Wizisla, director of Berlin’s Benjamin and Brecht Archives. Greeting the German edition, Momme Brodersen, Benjamin’s biographer, spoke for many when he wrote: ‘If this book had appeared decades ago, it would have terminated an unproductive debate in one fell swoop: that of the influence – be it fruitful, be it disastrous – of probably the most significant German playwright and poet of the 20th century, Bertolt Brecht, on probably the most significant critic of his day, Walter Benjamin’. Our conference celebrates the book’s publication and explores the ways in which Wizisla’s study augments, challenges or re-constellates previous analyses (most notably the one emanating from that other Story of a Friendship, published in English in 1982, by Gershom Scholem).

The conference is free, but please register beforehand by email to Julia Eisner,

Any queries may be directed to Esther Leslie,

Conference Programme
Room b36, basement, Birkbeck, main building
Papers are c. 20 minutes long and are followed by discussion

10.00am Registration
10.20 Opening words

10.30 Peter Thompson (Sheffeld)
Brecht, Benjamin and the Crisis of Modernity

11.10 Chryssoula Kambas (Osnabrck)
From West to East: An External Examiner Remembers

11.50 Break

12.10pm Barbara Engh (Leeds)
Friendship and Clang Figures

1.00 Lunch break

2.30 Erdmut Wizisla (Berlin) – The Benjamin Archive and the New German Benjamin Edition

3.10 Tony Phelan (Oxford) Brecht on Benjamin – ‘On the Philosophy of History’

3.50 Break

4.10 Summing up – Esther Leslie
Constellations and Comradeship

5.00 Conference closes

5.30–c. 8pm
Rooms B02 & B03
Erdmut Wizisla, Walter Benjamin
and Bertolt Brecht – the Story of a Friendship, Libris, London 2009

‘Wizisla’s brilliant study of the complex and controversial intellectual relationship between Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht will be the standard work on this subject for years to come. It blows away the dusty cliches that
have so far passed for scholarship in this area, thanks to Wizisla’s unsurpassed knowledge of previously unpublished documents and archive materials, which enables him to reconstruct and reconsider every dimension of Brecht and
Benjamin’s relationship from 1929 to 1940. Lucidly and accessibly written, this book is essential reading not only for Brecht and Benjamin specialists, but for all those interested in this crucial phase of twentieth century cultural history.’
– Steve Giles, Emeritus Professor of German Studies and Critical Theory, University of Nottingham.

5.30pm Welcome and wine
5.40 Words of memory and thanks – Nick Jacobs
5.45 Introduction – Tom Kuhn
6.00 Erdmut Wizisla – ‘My First Acquaintance with Brecht and Benjamin’
Thereafter wine and snacks

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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