“In its buildings, pictures, and stories, mankind is preparing to outlive culture, if need be. And the main thing is that it does so with a laugh. This laughter may occasionally sound barbaric. Well and good.”–Walter Benjamin, “Experience and Poverty” Walter Benjamin has become a central figure for innumerable theorists and philosophers. Following the diversity of Benjamin’s own interests – literature, philosophy, architecture, bibliophilia, photography, the city, the media, children’s toys, fashion, rubbish – students will read Benjamin’s essays and selections from his Arcades Project. We will consider his writings about material history and some of the materials that inspired him, especially the poetry of Charles Baudelaire and the culture of the Parisian Arcades. Benjamin’s works offer a unique investigation into the seldom seen everyday material reality that lurks behind, and unknowingly informs, contemporary thought and culture.