Sept 1 Introduction

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, (Thesis IX)

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, (Thesis IX)

As a way to get started we will spend some time reading about disasters from different perspectives, to get us thinking critically about the concept before turning our attention to historical disasters.

But even before that, we will begin this week with two short pieces on the nature and possible limits of historical knowledge itself. For our first class read Nietzsche’s “On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life” and Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (especially Thesis IX). While reading it, perhaps more than once, consider this big question: What is the status of the past? In other words, What is the value, if any, of studying a past that cannot be changed. As you can see, this is especially important when considering disasters and historical traumas.

Lastly, once you’ve got these two, incompatible perspectives on the past, read the short Prologue and Epilogue to our course book, Kai Erikson, A New Species of Trouble.

Readings:

  1. Nietzsche’s “On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life
  2. Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History
  3. Erikson, Prologue and Epilogue, A New Species of Trouble