Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The shirt in Walter Benjamin’s Franz Kafka essay and the scarf in Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well"

In preparing to discuss objects in Taylor Swift's "All Too Well (Ten-Minute Version)", I remembered a story I learned from Walter Benjamin's 1934 Franz Kafka essay. In a Chassidic village, the men gather in an inn; in the corner sits a newly arrived beggar. When everyone says what they wish for, the villagers want a workbench or a son-in-law, but the beggar says he wishes he was a king who escaped a war in his nightshirt and eventually found himself in this village. "What good would that do you?" – "I'd have a shirt." – Objects (that imagined shirt; the scarf in "All Too Well") transport stories from kingdoms to villages and back. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 26 March 2024)

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