Eternal, Transcendent, and Divine: Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Youth

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Between 1910 and 1917, Walter Benjamin composed a range of philosophical works and fragmented texts all of which touch upon the concept of youth (Jugend) and its intersection with issues of modernity and theology, faith and political action, religion and secularization, God, and the world. Yet, while scholars have rather extensively discussed Benjamin’s early works on language, literature, and esthetics, less attention has been given to his work on youth. This paper focuses on Benjamin’s writings on youth from these early years. Its aim is to demonstrate how these writings were intended as contributions to the composition of a comprehensive theory of youth, which itself was to combine philosophical discussion with theological imagination. More concretely, by using the example of Meister Eckhart (1260–1328), who is rarely discussed in connection to Benjamin’s thought, the paper shows how Benjamin draws on Christian mystical notions of time, transcendence, and divinity, albeit in a secularized and therefore transformed guise, and how Benjamin’s intellectual endeavor can hence be labeled a modern-mystical theory of youth.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)175-195
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2019


  • Mysticism
  • Philosophy and theology
  • Secularization
  • Theory of youth
  • Walter Benjamin

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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