Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller” is one of his most important—a profound meditation on the contrast between story-telling and mass communication and the immense significance of the apparent fact that “Less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly.” Join the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (BISR), The New York Review of Books (NYRB), and the American Folk Art Museum as we take the occasion of the NYRB’s publication of The Storyteller Essays to examine the meaning and enduring relevance of Benjamin’s essay—for modern politics, communication, literature, and sensibility. With BISR’s Christine Smallwood, Suzanne Schneider, Ajay Singh Chaudhary, translator Tess Lewis, and novelist Alexandra Kleeman, we will ask: What distinguishes a story from a novel? How do we acquire knowledge collectively? Why, in the age of mass communication, are we not richer, but poorer in communicable experience? Is political, cultural, and social fragmentation endemic to “modern” life, and if so, can it be overcome?
A light reception will follow the talk.
Walter Benjamin: The Storyteller is organized by the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and The New York Review of Books in partnership with the American Folk Art Museum.
Image: Lorenz Frølich, Death and Wanderer, 1848. Courtesy of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.