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The Work of Giorgio AgambenLaw, Literature, Life$
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Justin Clemens and Nicholas Heron

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748634620

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634620.001.0001

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Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin

Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin

Chapter:
(p.82) Chapter 5 Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin
Source:
The Work of Giorgio Agamben
Author(s):

Arne De Boever

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634620.003.0006

This chapter explores the relation between violence and justice in Giorgio Agamben's work. It investigates the essential role that Walter Benjamin's classic essay ‘Critique of Violence’ plays for Agamben. This essay is a foundational text for Agamben's study of sovereign power. It shows links between Benjamin's obscure notion of ‘divine violence’ and his essay on ‘The Storyteller’. Carl Schmitt's sovereignty confirms the dialectic between violence and the law; Benjamin's divine violence breaks with it. Agamben's reading of Oedipus and the Sphinx turns into an implicit critique of Benjamin when he develops his preference of the enigmatic Sphinx over and against the transparency that Oedipus brings into a reflection on the story. The distinction between the violent political strike and the nonviolent proletarian strike makes perfect sense in the context of Agamben's reading of the Benjamin-Schmitt debate.

Keywords:   Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, divine violence, The Storyteller, Carl Schmitt, sovereignty, law, Oedipus, Sphinx

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