By Eric L. Santner

In his Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke means that animals get pleasure from direct entry to a realm of being—the open—concealed from people by means of the workings of recognition and self-consciousness. In his personal studying of Rilke, Martin Heidegger reclaims the open because the right area of human lifestyles yet means that human existence is still haunted by means of vestiges of an animal-like relation to its atmosphere. Walter Benjamin, in flip, was once to teach that such vestiges—what Eric Santner calls the creaturely—have a biopolitical point: they're associated with the strategies that inscribe lifestyles within the realm of energy and authority.

Santner lines this topic of creaturely lifestyles from its poetic and philosophical beginnings within the first half the 20th century to the writings of the enigmatic German novelist W. G. Sebald. Sebald’s whole oeuvre, Santner argues, will be visible as an archive of creaturely lifestyles. For Sebald, the paintings on such an archive was once inseparable from his knowing of what it skill to interact ethically with one other person’s background and ache, an engagement that transforms us from detached members into acquaintances.

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Additional info for On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald

Sample text

We know that it signifies, but not what it signifies. .

Having every apprehending [Vernehmen] of something as something withheld from it. And furthermore: in having this withheld from it, the animal is precisely taken by things [hingenommen durch . ]. Thus animal captivation characterizes the specific manner of being in which the animal relates itself to something else even while the possibility is withheld [ genommen] from it—or is taken away [benommen] from the animal, as we might also say—of comporting and relating itself to something else as such and such at all, as something present at hand, as a being.

S exclamation (“like a dog”) and provides the last words of the novel as we know it: “It was as if the 35. Agamben, Open, 65. ” 36 In a 1935 essay on shame recently published under the title On Escape, Emmanuel Levinas has suggested (in a still Heideggerian vein) that shame does not simply refer to one’s reduction to one’s animal nakedness but pertains to the dimension where one is, as Levinas puts it, riveted to oneself, placed in that (non)relation to an opacity that is one’s own being: “Nakedness is shameful when it is the sheer visibility of our being, of its ultimate intimacy.

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