Translating Benjamin's "Critique of Violence"

Ng, Julia. 2022. 'Translating Benjamin's "Critique of Violence"'. In: Walter Benjamin's Toward the Critique of Violence: A Roundtable Discussion. Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada 17 May 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Marking the centenary of Walter Benjamin's immensely influential essay, Toward the Critique of Violence—edited by Peter Fenves and Julia Ng—presents readers with a new, fully annotated translation of a work that is widely recognized as a classic of modern political theory.

The volume also includes framing essays by the editors and twenty-one notes and fragments by Benjamin, along with passages from all of the contemporaneous texts to which Benjamin’s essay refers. Readers thus encounter for the first time in English provocative arguments about law and violence advanced by Hermann Cohen, Kurt Hiller, Erich Unger, and Emil Lederer, as well selections from Georges Sorel's Reflections on Violence. The translators’ prefaces discuss the contexts in which these scholars developed their arguments as well as the role that their work played in the composition of Benjamin’s essay.

With its challenging argument concerning violence, law, and justice—which addresses such topical matters as police violence, the death penalty, and the ambiguous force of religion—Benjamin's work is as important today as it was upon its publication in Weimar Germany a century ago.

This roundtable with the editors and translators will explore the timeliness of Benjamin’s arguments as they are illuminated by the work of editing and translation.


Peter Fenves, the Joan and Serapta Professor of Literature at Northwestern University, is a professor of German, Comparative Literary Studies, and Jewish Studies. He is the author of several books, including The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time (Stanford) and Late Kant: Toward another Law of the Earth (New York and London).

Julia Ng is Senior Lecturer in Critical Theory and co-director of Goldsmiths' Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, though on this occasion she is speaking in a personal capacity in solidarity with the ongoing campaign to boycott Goldsmiths and reject its management's efforts to push through redundancies and structuring across academic and professional staff.

Lisa Marie Anderson is Professor and Chair of German at Hunter College, City University of New York. She is the author of German Expressionism and the Messianism of a Generation (Rodopi 2011), as well as the translator/editor of two books on Johann Georg Hamann with Northwestern University Press. Her articles have appeared in The Wilson Quarterly, The Goethe Yearbook, German Life & Letters, and a number of other venues. Her translations have appeared with Lexington Books and The Journal of Nietzsche Studies.

Austin Harrington is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds, UK. His recent publications include German Cosmopolitan Social Thought and the Idea of the West: Voices from Weimar (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Georg Simmel: Essays on Art and Aesthetics (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Dana Hollander is Associate Professor at the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), where she is also an associate member of the Department of Philosophy and a member of the MA Program in Cultural Studies & Critical Theory. Her research areas are twentieth-century French and German philosophy, modern Jewish thought, and German-Jewish studies. She is the author of Ethics Out of Law: Hermann Cohen on the “Neighbor” (University of Toronto Press, 2021) and Exemplarity and Chosenness. Rosenzweig and Derrida on the Nation of Philosophy (Stanford University Press, 2008) and the translator of Jacob Taubes, The Political Theology of Paul (Stanford University Press, 2004).

Bruce Rosenstock is Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His most recent monograph is Transfinite Life: Oskar Goldberg and the Vitalist Imagination (IUP, 2017). He is currently working on a book exploring the themes of kinship and incest in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and the influence of these themes on the emergence of the African slave trade and anti-Black racism in the modern era.

Alberto Toscano is professor of critical theory and codirector of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London, and visiting faculty at the Digital Democracies Institute in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Cartographies of the Absolute (2015, with Jeff Kinkle) and Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (2nd ed., 2017) and the coeditor of The SAGE Handbook of Marxism (2021). He is a member of the editorial board of Historical Materialism and series editor of the Italian List for Seagull Books.

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Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature > Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought


17 May 2022Published

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Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

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17 May 2022

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Date Deposited:

18 Jul 2022 09:41

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2022 09:41


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