The Conduct of Contemplation and the Gestural Ethics of Interpretation in Walter Benjamin’s "Epistemo-Critical Prologue"


  • Mark Franko Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University



Benjamin, Agamben, gesture


This essay is a close reading of the “Epistemo-Critical Prologue” of Walter Benjamin’s The Origin of German Tragic Drama as a methodological proposal. A comparative reading of the English translation with the German original reveals a sustained reflection on the gestural rhythm of interpretation that the translation obscures. The question of interpretation is an ethical question for Benjamin and for this reason the essay argues against Giorgio Agamben’s idea of gesture as “the communication of communicability,” an idea derived from a reading of Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence.” Hence, the larger issue at stake is how the interpretive gesture is to be defined with respect to violence and what role spatialization and choreography play in the Trauerspiel book’s chapters as extensions of the halting or intermittent gesture of the Prologue in a secularized vision of history.

Author Biography

Mark Franko, Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University

Mark Franko is Laura H. Carnell Professor of Dance at Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University (Philadelphia). He is founding editor of the Oxford Studies in Dance Theory book series and has edited The Handbook of Dance and Reenactment (Oxford 2017). Franko is recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Scholarly Research in Dance Award from the Congress in Research in Dance.


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How to Cite

Franko, M. (2017). The Conduct of Contemplation and the Gestural Ethics of Interpretation in Walter Benjamin’s "Epistemo-Critical Prologue". Performance Philosophy, 3(1), 92–107.



Special Section: Towards an Ethics of Gesture