Book Section
Through various cases and instances, this essay opens with the question of biography and the demands of its form: that is, biography’s attempt to reduce historical totalities to the page in moments of sudden condensation. It then introduces the figure of Charlotte Wolff (1897–1986), a doctor and later hand reader and sexologist, who appears on a diagram, constructed by Walter Benjamin in 1932, to map his life through his ‘Urbekanntschaften’ (primal acquaintances). It then seeks to transpose Benjamin’s diagram into other linear forms, such as a family tree, a diagram of chemical affinity, and an astral chart, to add one: the diagram as a map of the hand. This opens up a number of temporal, historical, and epistemic reductions, or cases of reduction, in Wolff’s work and beyond. It concludes with a particular moment in Wolff’s biography — her arrest in 1933 and her escape to Paris — as a final instance of the line, as border.
Title
Lines that Reduce
Subtitle
Biography, Palms, Borders
Author(s)
Sam Dolbear
Identifier
Description
Through various cases and instances, this essay opens with the question of biography and the demands of its form: that is, biography’s attempt to reduce historical totalities to the page in moments of sudden condensation. It then introduces the figure of Charlotte Wolff (1897–1986), a doctor and later hand reader and sexologist, who appears on a diagram, constructed by Walter Benjamin in 1932, to map his life through his ‘Urbekanntschaften’ (primal acquaintances). It then seeks to transpose Benjamin’s diagram into other linear forms, such as a family tree, a diagram of chemical affinity, and an astral chart, to add one: the diagram as a map of the hand. This opens up a number of temporal, historical, and epistemic reductions, or cases of reduction, in Wolff’s work and beyond. It concludes with a particular moment in Wolff’s biography — her arrest in 1933 and her escape to Paris — as a final instance of the line, as border.
Is Part Of
Place
Berlin
Publisher
ICI Berlin Press
Date
October 11, 2022
Subject
Lines
Wolff, Charlotte
Benjamin, Walter
Palmistry
Borders
Boundaries
Reduction
Reductionism
Biography
Rights
© by the author(s)
Except for images or otherwise noted, this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Language
en-GB
short title
Lines that Reduce
page start
117
page end
133
Source
The Case for Reduction, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Jakob Schillinger, Cultural Inquiry, 25 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2022), pp. 117–33

Publication scheduled for 11 October 2022