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"Freud and Benjamin on History and Redemption"



Gilad Sharvit, PhD


Tuesday, March 8, 2016 - 12:00pm


Pigott Hall (Bldg 260), Room 252



"Freud and Benjamin on History and Redemption"

The paper portrays the subversive, non-essentialist implications of Freud’s last theory of history. Aiming at a Benjaminian reading of Moses and Monotheism (1939) Sharvit claims that the notion of the return of the repressed dramatically inserted non-essentialistic elements into Freud’s theory of history; instead of ambivalence as the productive force of historical progression in Totem and Taboo, Moses and Monotheism introduces ambiguity as the result of history. Building on the figura of history and the task of the historical materialist in Benjamin’s Theses on the Concept of History and the Arcades project, Sharvit argues that the cyclic reversal of Judaism and Christianity in history crucially challenges the essential and eternal dichotomy of reason and sensuality that essentially informs psychoanalysis and western philosophy. However, while the suggested reading of Freud points to a possible analogy with Benjamin’s theory of history, it also addresses the issue of redemption as a fundamental rupture between Freud and Benjamin that highlights the mystical/theological foundations of Benjamin’s project. Lastly, Sharvit’s reading of Moses and Monotheism, points to another beginning, that of psychoanalysis, vis-à-vis the myth of Oedipus. Building on Pierre Vernant’s reading of the myth of Oedipus in Ambiguïte et Renversement, Sharvit argues that both the beginning and end of psychoanalysis illustrate the incoherence of the fundamental positions that informed psychoanalysis in between.
Gilad Sharvit is the Helen Diller Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies and the department of German at UC Berkeley. He holds an MA in psychology and a PhD in philosophy, both from the Hebrew University. His dissertation engages the pre-figuration of Freud's theory of Freedom in the middle-period of Schelling's philosophy. Sharvit's areas of specialization include Jewish philosophy, psychoanalysis, German idealism and the Frankfurt School. His current research focuses on theories of non essentialism in modern German literature and philosophy. Sharvit is currently co-editing the volume “Freud and Moses” (scheduled to be published next year with Fordham UP) and revising his dissertation to a book manuscript.