Walter Benjamin and the Acoustics of Childhood

Ilit Ferber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract Many considerations of Walter Benjamin's oeuvre refer to the central role of the image (photographic, cinematic) and of the visual. Much has been written on terms such as the “optical unconscious,” “thought image,” and “dialectical image” in Benjamin, especially in his autobiographical text, Berlin Childhood Around 1900. The article seeks to draw attention to another sensory undercurrent in Berlin Childhood, namely, the sense of hearing and acoustics. Benjamin does not only think in images: he is also drawn to sounds, noises, and voices. I offer close readings of sections from Berlin Childhood (specifically, “Loggias,” “Imperial Panorama,” “Mummerehlen,” “Market-Hall,” “Blumeshof 12,” and “News of Death”) and show that there are two types of an acoustic presence in the text. The first pertains to the city sounds the child hears and the adult no longer pays attention to, and the second involves the sounds of language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-55
Number of pages19
JournalAngelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022


  • Berlin Childhood Around 1900
  • Walter Benjamin
  • hearing
  • listening
  • memory


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