When reading An Alternative to Fun, I noticed that the author has mentioned Benjamin’s uncompleted work The Arcades Project, by describing it as “a massive montage of quotes, observations, and aphorisms.” Later critic Buck-Morss also presented her argument about this work:
Because of the deliberate unconnectedness of these constructions, Benjamin’s insights ar not — and never would have been — lodged in a rigid narrational or discursive structure. Instead, they are easily moved about in changing arrangements and trail combinations, in response to the altered demands of the changing “present.”
I have no idea about what does The Arcades Project look like, but by reading these description about the work, it is interesting to see how Benjamin presents all the units as a “text version” of montage. Originally, montage means the displaying of different images, but Benjamin extends this idea into text. Since the original image version of montage often generates a holistic feeling in viewer’s mind by presenting a lot of images together, I wonder whether the text version of montage can also achieve the same effect — what is important is not the each unit of the text montage, but the entire unity that each unit works together to form. I guess this is how I feel when I was reading a novel. I get a whole sense and feeling of the novel since it creates an environment with an atmosphere in it. This again reminds me of Dewey’s “an experience”. An experience, in his point of view, has a smooth trajectory inside with each factor works continuously towards the end as a fulfillment. There’s a united quality within an experience that provides an aesthetic quality of an experience. Of course, it is exactly this aesthetic quality that makes an experience distinguishable from mundane experiences.
Think back to the idea of text montage, stream of consciousness jumps into my mind. From my understanding, the way that stream of consciousness presents is to offer every single detail that happens in mind. It is not about the narration that describes an outside natural world, but about the inner subjective world in people’s mind. Probably that’s why people find works of stream of consciousness so difficult to read, since it is also hard to understanding people and read people’s mind. But, by taking a deeper looking into the works of stream of consciousness, aren’t they just perfect exemplars of text montage? Stream of consciousness picks units in people mind and displays them together. Try to understand stream of consciousness from this perspective, it can be easier for readers to read if they can capture the whole unity that the work is presenting. Also, connecting stream of consciousness to Dewey’s an experience, we can clearly see that there’s an emotional quality in the work. Each unit in the work can have a certain emotional quality, but all the units work together to form a complete view of aesthetic quality. There’s nothing called “emotion” in an experience, according to Dewey, but emotional qualities can always be included.