Haunted Reflections

Walter Benjamin in San Francisco


Day One

Session One: Angel of History at the Gates of the West

Date & Time: Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 7:00 P.M.

Location: City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Admission: Free

A skeleton key to the life and work of Walter Benjamin via the editing of the Benjamin Project.

With Lindsay Waters, Howard Eiland, Michael Jennings, moderated by Paul Yamazaki

Day Two

Session Two: The Arcades: From Haussman's Paris to Occupy Wall Street 

Roundtable Discussion & Film Screening of The Passages of Walter Benjamin

Date & Time: Thursday, November 6, 2014, 6:00 P.M.

Location: Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104

Admission: General Public $15.00, Members Free

An evening of discussion centering upon the Arcades Project. Walter Benjamin's magnum opus becomes the glass through which we view current social and economic upheavals in urban culture. From Hausmann's gentrification of Paris to the current rezoning of San Francisco, Benjamin's prescient ideas are explored in a roundtable discussion.

With Howard Eiland, Catherine Flynn, Uwe Steiner, Judith Wechsler, moderated by Lindsay Waters.

Roundtable will be followed with the world premier screening of Judith Wechsler's new film The Passages of Walter Benjamin on the Arcades Project and the life of Walter Benjamin. Judith Wechsler will discuss her work with Howard Eiland following the screening.

Day Three

Session Three: "The Task of the Philologist" - On Walter Benjamin's Life and Afterlife in Postumous Editions of His Work

Date and Time: Friday, November 7, 2014, 6:00 P.M.

Location: Goethe Institute, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

Admission: Free

Although his articles and essays appeared in leading journals and newspapers of the Weimar Republic, such as the Literarische Welt and the Frankfurter Zeitung, Benjamin was not really known as an author during his lifetime. In his posthumous ascendancy to the position of a leading figure in Western academia, the publications of his writings played no small role. In the early stages of the reception the editor’s choice of what to publish soon became the focus of heated political debates. Nowadays, the predominant academic philological-reception is no longer concerned with politics; but editorial decisions still remain controversial and, as the lecture will discuss with regards to the new German edition of Benjamin’s dissertation, still have a considerable impact on our reading.

Uwe Steiner in conversation with Karen Feldman.


Day Four

Day four's sessions will run from 12:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M. All will be located in the lecture hall of the San Francisco Art Institute, with the exception of the Radio Benjamin Reception located in the courtyard on the west side of campus. 

Session Four: RADIO FREE BENJAMIN Reception

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 12:00 P.M.-12:50 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, in the courtyard below the Walter & McBean Gallery, west side of the campus, San Francisco, CA 93133

Admission: Free

A party celebrating RADIO FREE BENJAMIN: An interactive Installation/Radio Show. Celebrating the release of the new book Radio Benjamin, edited by Lecia Rosenthal, published by Verso. with appearances by Lecia Rosenthal and installation builders Linus Lancaster and Frederick Young.

RADIO FREE BENJAMIN will run from Wednesday, November 5 through Sunday, November 9. It will be open everyday from 11 A.M. until 6 P.M.


Session Five: Shattered Illuminations: Revisiting The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, Lecture Hall, San Francisco, CA 94133

Admission: Free

An exploration of one of Benjamin's seminal works that foreshadowed the conditions that drive contemporary culture.  From Google glasses to google buses, killer apps to killer drones, AI to nanotechnology, Benjamin's work intuited the hyper-acceleration of capital and its consequences.

Roundtable discussion with Finn Brunton, Mary Ann Doane, Michael Jennings, and Martin Jay, moderated by Lindsay Waters.


Break - Saturday, November 8, 2014, 2:00 P.M. to 2:15 P.M.


Session Six:  Walter Benjamin's Last Snapshot/ From Ethnographic Surrealism to Cyber-Somatism

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 2:15 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, Lecture Hall, San Francisco, CA 94133

Admission: Free

A discussion that revisits Walter Benjamin's essay "The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia".

A roundtable discussion with Michael Saler and Mark Van Proyen, moderated by Frederick Young.


Break - Saturday, November 8, 2014, 3:00 P.M. to 3:10 P.M.


Session Seven: Walter Benjamin and the Two Angels

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 3:10 P.M. to 3:50 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, Lecture Hall, San Francisco, CA 94133

Admission: Free

The state of mind called melancholy played a major role in Walter Benjamin’s life as well as his writings. In separate studies of two key art works depicting angels—Albrecht Dürer’s 1514 engraving Melencolia I and Paul Klee’s 1920 watercolor Angelus Novus, which he owned— Benjamin connects melancholy with the act of contemplation and the formal device of allegory, creating his own allegories in the process.

Presented by Victoria Nelson


Break - Saturday, November 8, 2014, 3:50 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.


Session Eight: Walter Benjamin & Experimental Psychopathology In The Weimar Republic

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 4:00 P.M. to 4:50 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, Lecture Hall, San Francisco, CA 94133

Admission: Free

Stimulated by his reading of Baudelaire's paradis artificiels, and just having published ONE WAY STREET, Benjamin accepted an invitation in 1927 to be a test subject in loosely monitored hashish sessions supervised by Drs. Fritz Fraenkel & Ernst Joel. The notes to the ten collected sessions and the writings they inspired not only give us extremely intimate glimpses into Walter Benjamin's personal life, but they also offer insight into the origin of some Benjamin's fundamental concepts, such as 'aura'. Gorge Steiner and Gershom Scholem considered Benjamin's experiments in consciousness expansion as a pre-requisite to any serious study of his work.

Presented by Scott Thompson


Break - Saturday, November 8, 2014, 4:50 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.


Session Nine: The Politics of Memory at the End of Time/The Legacy of Walter Benjamin

Date and Time: Saturday, November 8, 2014, 5:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.

Location: San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut Street, Lecture Hall, San Francisco, CA 94133

Admission: Free

Using Benjamin's "On The Concept Of History" as a starting point, the panel examines his legacy. Had he survived his passage through Portbou, where would his work have taken him? How does his work speak to us in the age of hyper-technology?

Roundtable discussion with Wlad Godzich, Finn Brunton, and Uwe Steiner. Moderated by Frederick Young.

Day Five

Session Ten/Final Session: Walter Benjamin & Judaism /Two Lectures

Date and Time: Sunday, November 9, 2014, 12:30 P.M.

Location: Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 94103

Admission: Free after museum admission charge - Adults $12.00, Students & Seniors $10.00, Under 18 Free

An exploration of Walter Benjamin's relationship to Judaism. 

Martin Jay presents "Walter Benjamin and Isaiah Berlin: Modes of Jewish Intellectual Life in the 20th Century"

David Meltzer presents "Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, and Walter Benjamin's Messianic Judiasm"       Lectures to be followed by a discussion.

Participants: Martin Jay, David Meltzer, moderated by Robert Kaufman.


Presented by City Lights Booksellers & Publishers 
in conjunction with The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Goethe Institut San Francisco, Harvard University Press, Mechanics' Institute Library, San Francisco Art Institute, Program in Critical Theory at the University of California at Berkeley
with additional funding from Sher Family Hotel Healdsburg Fund, the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, and the Healdsburg Education Foundation

Contact : staff@citylights.com