Experience Missed or Lost?: Cavell’s Concept of the Ordinary and Walter Benjamin on the “Loss of Aura”

  • Bernhard Stricker Humboldt University of Berlin


The notion of the ordinary or everyday is of seminal importance in Cavell’s readings of literature. The transcendental and anthropological dimensions of skepticism and the ordinary, however, may sometimes appear to be treated by him in an essentially ahistorical manner. But the discovery of the ordinary, which is always a re-discovery, can also be shown to be deeply embedded in Cavell’s treatment of modernism in the arts. The present essay therefore proposes that we can deepen our understanding of the ordinary by relating it to Walter Benjamin’s ideas about the “loss of aura,” which he develops with regard to Baudelaire, Proust and film, most famously in his essays about “The Artwork in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproducibility” and on “Some Motifs in Baudelaire.”