"Schmerz war ein Staudamm". Benjamin sur la douleur

Translated title of the contribution: Schmerz war ein Staudamm. Benjamin on pain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper focuses on Walter Benjamin’s conception of physical pain and its important relationship to language, especially to storytelling. The paper also discusses one of the central images Benjamin uses to describe storytelling: that of water (rivers, sea, waves, and so on) and his metaphor for pain as the staudamm, a dam blocking the flow of language. Benjamin’s understanding of pain is always coupled with a consideration of the question of expression. This indicates that even though the relationship between pain and linguistic expression seems at first to be contradictory, for Benjamin pain’s self-definition is inherently dependent upon the establishment of its relationship to expression. In Benjamin’s conceptualization of pain, relief or healing is achieved when language has the upper hand, when its flow is powerful enough to tear down the opaque, blocked inexpressibility of pain.
Translated title of the contributionSchmerz war ein Staudamm. Benjamin on pain
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Language
  • Metaphor
  • Pain
  • Storytelling


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