Cohen

Since we must keep in play the interface between the burned out remnants of a romantic tradition of travel—actively emptied—and a more technical, more semiotic problem which attends a rewiring of memory "today," a theoretical point of reference may be of use. Walter Benjamin makes reference to a concept of history that breaks with the familiar notions of the term. As we know, he was given to taking familiar terms (allegory, cinema, dialectics, translation) and submitting them to a process of disinvestment. He called this "translation": a site where the word passes through its own formal properties, emptied of "meaning" or interiority, and is then returned (unmarked) to usage in a sabotaging form void of subjectivity. Allegory becomes the other of the literary historical term; "materialistic historiography" dispells any echt marxian hue; dialectics is unprogressive and anti-narrative, and so on. Typically, "history" survives this procedure—which aims to empty out all interiorist traces—only to re-emerge within a different referential model. Rather than implying historicist echoes, Benjamin invokes a non-human "history" that will be gestured to under the misleading rubric of natural history—a history, we may add, with different, proactive folds of time. It is misleading, because it has no overt connection to nature as physis, or nature as the antinomy of language.

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