Hidden Refusal

Ursprache and Sprachmagie in Benjamin’s Theory of Language


In The Task of the Translator (1921) Benjamin draws on many contradictory sources and proceeds with a double step. His concept of Ursprache (original language/pure language) derives from both the Romantic and Jewish traditions. Biblical reference switches the mythical context to a religious one, and this change assumes the value of hidden refusal. One of Benjamin’s sources is Böhme’s Mysterium Magnum, whose “pure language” and “Adamite language” are quoted by Benjamin almost literally; another one is Scholem’s kabbalistic mystics, using mythical language to claim theological truths. The “language magic” consists in the immediacy of the correspondence between name and named on the one hand and between name and the act of naming on the other. It is also the “evocative sorcery” of which Baudelaire speaks.


Philosophical Discourse Original Language Mental Entity Poetic Language Human Word 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RomeItaly

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