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Virtuality and the city : Benjamin against Baudrillard

by Zhang, Lei

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled Virtuality and the City: Benjamin against Baudrillard Submitted by Zhang Lei for the degree of Master of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in August 2003 This thesis examines two possible ways of thinking reality, represented by Jean Baudrillard and Walter Benjamin respectively. It does so through re-interpreting their thoughts around the concept of the ?irtual? For Baudrillard "the virtual" marks the moment when the world has been replaced by its reproduction. Although Baudrillard too easily makes the typical postmodern decision to give up the idea of reality totally, the thesis argues that his discussion on virtuality provides one of most important critiques of na?e realism. The thesis then argues that Benjamin? thinking on the ?irtual?is more complex and fruitful. For him, realization of the real is an infinite process which is never complete. This state of incompleteness and potentiality is what he calls the virtual. The virtual endlessly brings the unexpressed into expression by translating between different cultural contexts. On this basis, the thesis suggests that Benjamin? thinking on the virtual points to a promising direction for thinking a new concept of reality after the relentless postmodern critique of this concept. This thesis consists of four chapters. Chapter one clarifies the different meanings in Benjamin and Baudrillard? usages of the term virtual. It outlines their basic ideas about the concept of reality with reference to their understandings on translation in the case of Benjamin, and simulation in the case of Baudrillard. It further links these differences to their different underlying metaphysical assumptions concerning the subject-object relationship. This chapter establishes the theoretical basis of the whole thesis. The second and third chapters go on to examine the different time-space structures and working mechanisms of these two modes of reality and realization?eal time and the code in the case of the reality examined by Baudrillard; memory and storytelling in that suggested by Benjamin. This thesis argues that storytelling, which tirelessly weaves into and gathers the diversity of life from different cultural and historical contexts in the light of the unforgettable, is a concrete model for thinking a higher reality. Benjamin's suggestion about the rebirth of storytelling in film is also explored. Chapter four tests these two ways of understanding reality by applying them to the analyses of modern cities. After an analysis of Baudrillard? depictions of American cities as deserts, the chapter considers Benjamin's view of cities as storytelling in spatial form.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:baudrillard jean criticism and interpretation benjamin walter reality

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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