FREE Surrealism Essay - Example Essays
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There is a certain tension between Benjamin's hashish writings and those, like the 1929 Surrealism essay, in terms of the evaluation of euphoric states. In the drug protocols, engagement with the exterior world is no more invasive than a passive wonderment at its details, as acute perceptions uncover alternative associations between things. For there to be any impact beyond the duration of the trance, Benjamin's reading of Surrealism requires intoxication to induce a catalytic change in our relationship to the world. Yet why should this ultimately have beneficent results? In what lies the assurance that either the drugged flânerie or the explosive release of potentiality will take us to the left rather than the right? There will be some indication from looking at what the trance is directed against. Away from what is it taking the exhilarated person? There is a sense that the trance acts in politically prescribed ways, that you have the hallucinations demanded by your ideology. In this case there are no inherent qualities to an intoxicated state but only to the context which it intensifies. In Benjamin's trance, where he is enamoured with Marseilles, we have an outline for engagement with a world whose intricacies of object/person relations are of primary value. Benjamin suggests that without respect for the interconnectedness of this skein of lives you cannot have a peaceful world.
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"Surrealism" is written between the more sinister 1928 "spider's web" protocol ("Main Features of My Second Impression of Hashish") and the relatively benign trances of 1930 ("Hashish, Beginning of March 1930" and "On the Session of 7/8 June, 1930" [Thompson, 1997]). It postdates the composed and redemptive "Hashish in Marseilles" of 1928, although this was only published (and perhaps revised) long after, in 1932. The inadequacies Benjamin impugned to hashish in the Surrealism essay did not discourage him from further drug experiments (including opium in 1932 and mescaline in 1934). Yet in 1928 in Marseilles there occurs the closest Benjamin gets to an irrefutably revolutionary experience under the sway of hashish.