Advertisement

Book Review: ‘Walter Benjamin Reimagined’ by Frances Cannon

  • 44
    Shares

Walter Benjamin Reimagined: A Graphic Translation of Poetry, Prose, Aphorisms, and Dreams

Frances Cannon — MIT Press

Artist, former Iowa Citian and sometime-Little Village contributor Frances Cannon has delivered a delightful, insightful nugget of wonder with Walter Benjamin Reimagined. This book is everything a fan of the German Jewish cultural critic and philosopher could ever hope for, and it offers an accessible window into his brilliance that even the most casual of readers can appreciate.

In this book, which comments and folds in on itself trippingly, taking the reader along for the ride, Cannon has curated a seemingly haphazard but deliciously fraught selection from Benjamin’s oeuvre and placed herself in conversation with it through her art. It is, perhaps, a new genre of its own: deeper than mere illustration, broader in scope than most graphic novels or memoirs, more personal than the typical philosophical treatise.

Benjamin’s writings on literary theory, translation and cultural criticism make him a ripe target for treatment such as is offered here. Cannon takes Benjamin’s writings and not only responds to and illuminates them but translates them, creating what she calls in her preface “a visual echo of his work.” There is layer upon layer upon layer of meaning in this volume, every choice a joy to sit with.

Cannon’s work is at its best when it is inviting the reader to lay down additional layers upon it, to contribute to its creation. “A Child’s View of Color,” for example, winds in and around Benjamin’s words (including, “Color is something spiritual … The rainbow is a pure childlike image”) with images that take on a nonexistent, entirely imagined color. Helped along by her expert shading, Cannon’s black-and-white drawings — a peacock, a soap bubble, children’s masks — jump off the page with a vibrancy that the reader’s mind can’t help but assign colors to. It’s a kind of magic.

The endearing, hand-written style of text, the choppy whirlwind of quote choices and the obvious deep love for the source material combine to make Walter Benjamin Reimagined a gem.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 268.


  • 44
    Shares
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

The Iowa City Human Rights Commission needs you!

Apply Today

@ICHumanRights »

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.

Coralville Public Library Online Summer Reading Programs

For ages 0-99+