Aura in Walter Benjamin's "Illuminations"

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Response to Prompt #3 In Walter Benjamin’s book Illuminations, two particular chapters are relevant to the corpus of works that make up film study. “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductions” and “The Storyteller” outline a progressive history from oral traditions to the modern traditions such as film that resulted and the bumps that have been encountered along the way. Central to these two chapters is the idea of aura. Aura, though difficult to define, is a concept that is easy to perceive because of its engaging qualities. From oral to written to visual representations including film, the story is the nucleus that produces entertainment and ideally educates the audience. To be entertained does not require much of the audience,…show more content…
Although exaggerations have been added for entertainment value and alterations have been made, the attempt was always to communicate an awesome experience. In Leskov’s “The Left Handed Craftsman,” the namesake is not by far the protagonist, but his involvement with the steel flea from Brittan resurrected the tale which was, among many other things, a tribute to ancient craftsmen. The relationship of the storyteller to his material is that of a craftsman to his medium. Benjamin asks “whether it is not his [the story teller or craftsman] very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way” (p. 108). If the writer is as acutely aware of his or her audience as an oral story teller would be, it is possible to craft a utilitarian product. The solitary production method of writing that removes the writer from his or her immediate context makes this very difficult to achieve. What is lost is the mystical aura that electrified and preserved oral storytelling for so many generations. Writing by hand inevitably led to the printing press and other forms of art, such as visual art, which soon became easily reproducible. The degradation continues as the mode of production evolves. With the advent of the lithograph, whose origins lie in etching and engraving, works of art were beginning to lose their aura. Just as a written novel is not the same as the oral story from which it may

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