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Extra info for Melancholy Dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning (Critical Perspectives on Modern Culture)
31 But if sadness was Benjamin's nature, and if, moreover, we wish to extend a claim that this sadness lies at the base of a talent for contradictory thinking essential for Benjamin's critical vision, the attempt to explore this melancholia must also confront a series of contradictions raised by the idea of melancholy writing. Benjamin, born under Saturn, attacks Kästner and his cohorts for melancholy writing. He demands a moment of recognition, in which contemporary melancholia would be forced to reveal its duplicity with the agents of oppression, and he proclaims a critique that, stripped of all its esoteric, contemplative ornament, would publicly demand a decisive commitment to political action.
Critique is a strategic act in a politics of intervention, directed toward the heart of the present, against a politics of melancholia. Whether Kästner himself would have understood the charge of Page 13 modern melancholia Benjamin made against him is not clear. It is evident, however, that Benjamin's own attitude toward melancholia is far more complex than his critique of Kästner alone would imply. Benjamin wrote the fragment "Agesilaus Santander" on Ibiza in 1933. Gershom Scholem has devoted a lengthy analysis to this two-page text.
In this sense, the cultural critic who writes through/about melancholic culture is, for all her perspectival achievements, perhaps even more savagely thrown back into the radical immanence of depression. In the curiously hermetically sealed paradox of melancholy writing, no aesthetic pleasure of the "wonderment of psychic life" could compensate for the incalculable pain that would have to be exacted to reach it. There is, of course, always a practical dimension to the subjection to writing. Like Burton, who "write[s] of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy,'' 7 Kristeva's melancholy writing has at least an anaesthetic effectit fills the ''whiteness of boredom," the blank page, with writing and thus avoids what for thousands of years has been regarded as the fatal chink in the psychic shield through which melancholy enters: idleness, acedia.