More Than Life

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3579-6

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3578-9

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3577-2
Publication Date
September 2017
Page Count
240 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

More Than Life

Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin on Art
Stéphane Symons

More Than Life: Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin on Art is the first book to trace the philosophical relation between Georg Simmel and his one-time student Walter Benjamin, two of the most influential German thinkers of the twentieth century.

Reading Simmel’s work, particularly his essays on Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rodin, alongside Benjamin’s concept of Unscheinbarkeit (inconspicuousness) and his writings on Charlie Chaplin, More Than Life demonstrates that both Simmel and Benjamin conceive of art as the creation of something entirely new rather than as a mimetic reproduction of a given. The two thinkers diverge in that Simmel emphasizes the presence of a continuous movement of life, whereas Benjamin highlights the priority of discontinuous, interruptive moments.

With the aim of further elucidating Simmel and Benjamin’s ideas on art, Stéphane Symons presents a number of in-depth analyses of specific artworks that were not discussed by these authors. Through an insightful examination of both the conceptual affinities and the philosophical differences between Simmel and Benjamin , Symons reconstructs a crucial episode in twentieth-century debates on art and aesthetics.  
About the Author

STÉPHANE SYMONS is an associate professor at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, in Leuven, Belgium.

"More Than Life makes a valuable contribution to the fields of Simmel and Benjamin studies, more specifically, and to the intellectual and philosophical history of German thought, more broadly. No other study situates these two thinkers side by side as, first and foremost, aestheticians. This felicitous juxtaposition yields remarkable insight into these theorists’ revolutionary approaches to art, as well as into the various artworks (ranging from sculpture and painting to film and literature) that occasion their readings.” —Samuel Frederick, author of Narratives Unsettled: Digression in Robert Walser, Thomas Bernhard, and Adalbert Stifter

“Boldly conceived and masterfully executed, More Than Life stages an imaginary dialogue between two of the twentieth century’s most brilliant cultural critics, Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, whose work overlapped in certain respects but diverged in many others. In so doing, Symons not only illuminates previously ignored or misunderstood dimensions of their legacies but also demonstrates the abiding value of their trenchant analyses of artists from Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rodin to Charlie Chaplin.” —Martin Jay, author of Reason after Its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory

"Designed as a comparative study of Simmel’s and Benjamin’s conceptions of art... these comparative observations provide the necessary background for the appreciation of the close-reading chapters, which are the most praiseworthy and revelatory parts of the book. It is the Simmel chapters that are supplied with the most creative passages of the study, called 'codas,' in which Symons... offers his own such interpretations, basing them on Simmel’s aesthetics. In this way, a few famous works of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rodin receive a Simmel-like explication by the author who has an intimate knowledge of his philosophical subject and a deep understanding of art." —H-SHERA