Societies 2014, 4(1), 16-29; doi:10.3390/soc4010016

Eurydice at Euston?: Walter Benjamin and Marc Augé Go Underground

Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, B143 Bowland North, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
Received: 31 October 2013; in revised form: 24 December 2013 / Accepted: 24 December 2013 / Published: 3 January 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ghost-towns: Cityscapes, Memories and Critical Theory)
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Abstract: Taking as its point of departure Walter Benjamin’s repeatedly unsuccessful attempt to give spatial form to his past, this paper suggests that it is perhaps the contemporary French anthropologist, Marc Augé, who provides the most appropriate envisioning of a ‘map of memories’ in his brief writings on the Parisian métro system. For Augé, the labyrinthine subway network constitutes nothing less than a ‘memory machine’ in which lines and station names serve as mnemonics, recalling long-forgotten childhood encounters and experiences. Mirroring the cityscape above, places themselves unexplored, unknown, the serried toponyms of the métro become an incantation summoning forth the shades of the past. As Augé points out, those stations that provide opportunities to change lines are felicitously termed ‘correspondences’, a Baudelairean term that fascinated Benjamin and informed his key historiographical notion of the ‘dialectical image,’ the intersection and mutual illumination of past and present moments. For me, Augé’s highly suggestive reflections bring to mind my own memories of a London childhood around 1970. Looking at the London underground map today, I cannot but see the sites of many past meetings and partings, dots connected by lines forming complex figures, constellations of memory.
Keywords: Critical Theory; memory; Parisian metro; city

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MDPI and ACS Style

Gilloch, G. Eurydice at Euston?: Walter Benjamin and Marc Augé Go Underground. Societies 2014, 4, 16-29.

AMA Style

Gilloch G. Eurydice at Euston?: Walter Benjamin and Marc Augé Go Underground. Societies. 2014; 4(1):16-29.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gilloch, Graeme. 2014. "Eurydice at Euston?: Walter Benjamin and Marc Augé Go Underground." Societies 4, no. 1: 16-29.

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