Redeeming Fashion: Between Benjamin and Agamben on Baudelaire

Doussan, Jenny. 2024. Redeeming Fashion: Between Benjamin and Agamben on Baudelaire. In: , ed. Baudelaire and Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. [Book Section] (Forthcoming)

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Abstract or Description

‘Fashion is the eternal recurrence of the new. – Yet, can motifs of redemption be found specifically in fashion?’ (“Central Park”) This reflection is among the most oft-cited of Walter Benjamin’s aphoristic statements on fashion. However, less frequent is commentary on the Nietzschean origins of this thesis, and even less still its foundation in the thought of Charles Baudelaire. In a fragment from the same period, Benjamin writes, ‘The idea of eternal recurrence conjures the speculative idea (or phantasmagoria) of happiness from the misery of the times. Nietzsche’s heroism has its counterpoint in the heroism of Baudelaire, who conjures the phantasmagoria of modernity from the misery of philistinism’ (ibid.). This Nietzsche-inflected reading of Baudelaire is arguably the most crucial moment in Benjamin’s thought on fashion. Baudelaire’s ‘conjuring’ here suggests a redemptive inversion; yet, fashion is elsewhere described by Benjamin as the quintessence of false consciousness (“Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century”). This chapter excavates the nexus between Baudelaire and Nietzsche in Benjamin’s thought, and recounts essential moments in Baudelaire’s work that support a notion of redemption in fashion. It further offers an example of such a redemptive inversion in the Baudelairean archetype of the dandy, curiously underdeveloped by Benjamin, who is ascribed by Giorgio Agamben with the capability of abolishing the commodity character and establishing a new relation to things: ‘the appropriation of unreality’ (Stanzas).

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Visual Cultures



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Date Deposited:

14 Feb 2024 14:50

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2024 15:35


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