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Breton notes: 'Quietly. I want to pass where no one yet has passed, quietly! ' After you, dearest language.' Language takes precedence. Not only before meaning. Also before the self... the writings of this circle are not literature but something else 'demonstrations, watchwords, documents, bluffs, forgeries if you will... what is the programme of the bourgeois parties? A bad poem on springtime, filled to bursting with metaphors. The socialist sees that 'finer future of our children and grandchildren' in a condition in which all act 'as if they were angels', and everyone has as much 'as if he were rich', and everyone lives 'as if he were free'. Of angels, wealth, freedom, not a trace. These are mere images... Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto.

Emphasis mine. I find the essay too impenetrable to quickly read, especially its reference to physis and technology.

Are surrealism's "mere images" here said by Bajamin to be in some sense meaningless? They are opposed to "metaphor", presumably then lacking a tenor, are not being compared to anything, and surely Benjamin also means they don't exist. That to me seems to imply they lack any concrete reference.

So, is Banjamin saying, when he says that the image must combine with the body, that international socialism would revolutionise our "bodies" as if that had no referent?

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    hmm in fact i suppose that there is no trace of them yet: we need these images to become real. amusing language reading tho, i guess – user6917 Feb 7 '17 at 15:51
  • @JohnAm what do you mean, ofc i know the elements of a metaphor, and have a rough understanding of the term. – user6917 Feb 7 '17 at 17:01
  • @JohnAm sorry i have no idea what you are saying. all the quotes are from a walter benjamin article that i linked to in the question. are you claiming that as well as not knowing what a metaphor is i don't know what "these" refers to in the phrase "these are mere images". that would be absurd – user6917 Feb 7 '17 at 17:06
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    @JohnAm that's what i was trying to imply in the 1st comment here – user6917 Feb 7 '17 at 17:08
  • @JohnAm i know, will you stop pointing out the obvious please :) – user6917 Feb 7 '17 at 17:16
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Only when in technology body and image so interpenetrate that all revolutionary tension becomes bodily collective innervation, and all the bodily innervations of the collective become revolutionary discharge, has reality transcended itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto. For the moment, only the Surrealists have understood its present commands. They exchange, to a man, the play of human features for the face of an alarm clock that in each minute rings for sixty seconds.

Benjamin's essay praises surrealism as the only bourgeoisie
ideology that follows the "present commands" of the Communist Manifesto (the article is written in 1929), and tries to "awake" the mind by becoming an alarm clock (check surrealism's use of scandal and similar means to achieve awareness of the importance of politicization), that alarms 60 times per minute (all the time). Benjamin obviously was concerned about the world situation and the upcoming second world war. I think Benjamin in this essay does not say anywhere that a communist revolution is meaningless. He just critics surrealism under the ideas of Marxism.

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Even though it is not exactly clear what is the question here, it is more or less certain that the answer is "No". Bemjamin claims a role for Surrealism in revolution and explains at some length how he sees it.

The question given in the title line asks "is revolution a corporeal meaninglessness?" and the last line apparently rephrases it as "would socialism revolutionise our "bodies" as if that had no referent?"

The penultimate line of Benjamin's texts says "For the moment, only the Surrealists have understood its present commands". The 'its' coming from the preceding "reality transcend[ing] itself to the extent demanded by the Communist Manifesto." The point made by the whole essay is that Surrealism has discovered a new way of transcending reality. Early in the text Benjamin explains that such modern poets live "where sound and image, image and sound interpenetrated with automatic precision and such felicity that no chink was left for the penny-in-the-slot called 'meaning', but language only seemed [to be] itself there.

Also a quote from Aragon is included, saying that 'the old fables have for the most part been realized, now it is the turn of poets to create new ones that the inventors on their side can then make real' So in his conclusion Benjamin elaborates the idea, writing "the physis... of the collective body... can be produced only in that image sphere to which profane illumination initiates us" and explains how this body and these images would produce the revolutionary discharge.

  • if you're not clear on the question, consider explaining what you don't understand in a comment. thanks – user29299 Nov 5 '17 at 19:11

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