The Moment of Rupture
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The Moment of Rupture
Historical Consciousness in Interwar German Thought

Humberto Beck

232 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 2019 | ISBN 9780812251593 | $59.95s | Outside the Americas £48.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Intellectual History of the Modern Age

"Connecting a trajectory of aesthetic thought that began in the eighteenth century with a vision of a radically different future, The Moment of Rupture shows how the complex and multifaceted conception of the 'instant' in Weimar culture was central to the political philosophy that sought to transcend Germany's first republic. Humberto Beck persuasively argues that Ernst Jünger, Ernst Bloch, and Walter Benjamin are, from very different angles, reflecting on a particular and peculiar sense of time and crisis in their works."—Carl Caldwell, Rice University
An instant is the shortest span in which time can be divided and experienced. In an instant, there is no duration: it is an interruption that happens in the blink of an eye. For the ancient Greeks, kairos, the time in which exceptional, unrepeatable events occurred, was opposed to chronos, measurable, quantitative, and uniform time. In The Moment of Rupture, Humberto Beck argues that during the years of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the rise of fascism in Germany, the notion of the instant migrated from philosophy and aesthetics into politics and became a conceptual framework for the interpretation of collective historical experience that, in turn, transformed the subjective perception of time.

According to Beck, a significant juncture occurred in Germany between 1914 and 1940, when a modern tradition of reflection on the instant—spanning the poetry of Goethe, the historical self-understanding of the French Revolution, the aesthetics of early Romanticism, the philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, and the artistic and literary practices of Charles Baudelaire and the avant gardes—interacted with a new experience of historical time based on rupture and abrupt discontinuity. Beck locates in this juncture three German thinkers—Ernst Jünger, Ernst Bloch, and Walter Benjamin—who fused the consciousness of war, crisis, catastrophe, and revolution with the literary and philosophical formulations of the instantaneous and the sudden in order to intellectually represent an era marked by the dissolution between the extraordinary and the everyday. The Moment of Rupture demonstrates how Jünger, Bloch, and Benjamin produced a constellation of figures of sudden temporality that contributed to the formation of what Beck calls a distinct "regime of historicity," a mode of experiencing time based on the notion of a discontinuous present.

Humberto Beck is Professor at the Center for International Studies at El Colegio de México in Mexico City.

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