Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

I read this text earlier in the semester for another class, so it was interesting for me to go back and read it a second time having read a lot of literary criticism in between. ¬†I found Benjamin’s text to be much more philosophical than most of the other pieces we’ve read this semester. He talks a lot about the “essence” of an original piece of art (including a piece of literature) and how that unique aura is not ¬†reproducible, especially in the age of mechanical reproduction. Without the original, he seems to be arguing that some amount of tradition gets lost and the text’s actual essence is lost; the translation becomes nothing more than a superficial copy of the words on the page without a reproduction of the text’s core meaning. We’ve talked a lot about beginnings and endings in this class and how the beginning/ending of any given text is irrelevant (according to certain theories), and it seems like Benjamin’s arguments fall in a similar area. Once a text is “emancipated…from its parasitical dependence on ritual” (however negative that phrase sounds), it seems to me that Benjamin believes the translation loses some necessary element. Making art available for the masses (the clear purpose of mechanical reproduction), to him, destroys some of the originality that art could once potentially maintain but is now unobtainable.

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