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Eddies and Abstract Machines: Comparing Benjamin and Deleuze

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Organizer: John Vanderheide

Co-Organizer: M. Curtis Allen

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The origin stands as eddy in the stream of becoming and vigorously draws the emerging material into its rhythm. In the naked, manifest existence of the factual, the original never allows itself to be recognized...

–Walter Benjamin, Origin of the German Trauerspiel


Both Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze exert an almost unparalleled influence in North America among European thinkers of the 20th century, but continue to present persisting enigmas to their readers that stand scarcely little chance of being exhausted anytime soon. Benjamin has been the wellspring of some of most original ideas of the last decades in literary studies, historiography, continental philosophy, theology, Jewish studies, political theory, media theory, and theories of the work of art. On the other hand, beside his pervasive place at the table of contemporary philosophy—and his appraisal by many (not only his devotees)[1] as one of the greatest philosophers of all time—Deleuze has also had a prevalent effect on the fields of art and art history, cinema studies, architecture and urbanism, military tactics, anthropology, decolonial and critical race theory, gender theory, political theory and activism, as well as on literature and the study of language, among other things.

            Yet, despite significant overlap in many of their most formative and perduring intuitions and concepts, and their importance for contemporary thought at large, surprisingly little work has been done putting these two thinkers or their ideas into contact with one another. Such points of connection between Benjamin and Deleuze for presentations may include but aren’t limited to:
  • Proust, Kafka, literary modernism, and minor literatures;

  • The philosophy of Leibniz;

  • Rethinking Kant and the transcendental;

  • Bergsonian intersections;

  • Reconceptualizations of Marxism, theories of revolution, the concept of violence;

  • Reconceptualizations of materialism

  • The reappraisal of the Baroque, pointing to a counter-movement in history;

  • The heterodox resuscitation of the theory of Ideas;

  • Non-linear and non-circular forms of temporality, history, and becoming;

  • Singularity and repetition;

  • Similarity, sameness, and difference;

  • The Original and the New;

  • Theories of language;

  • Theories of perception and affect;

  • Theories of intoxication;

  • Appraisals of the cinema as industrial art;

  • Capitalism as religion, capitalism as machine.

Those interested in submitting to the seminar are encouraged to get in touch with the organizers John Vanderheide ( and M. Curtis Allen (


[1] Cf. Analytic Oxford philosopher, A.W. Moore’s estimation of Deleuze in his book, The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, p. 543: “Deleuze is certainly a great philosopher, indeed one of the greatest.”

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