Category Archives: History and Culture

Formerly known as Cultural Periods and Styles

The Angel of History or, Progress (AMST310/HUM485)

From “Theses on History” by Walter Benjamin:

A Klee painting named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. (Benjamin 1941, 257–8)

Definition (303)

For “History” in the HUM303 questionnaire.

  1. Any events that happened in the past.

2. History is trying to understand the ideas, behaviors and beliefs from people and events from the past.

3. History is a relational flow that can only be studied by witnessing movement. All human history can be found in the cyclical rising and falling, waking and sleeping, birth and death and resurrection, of the most minute individual. As Joyce once remarked, “in the particular is contained the universal”. History in and of itself is a fall of flow into static ink on paper, but is reanimated by the ever-changing material conditions it is comprehended within. These cycles of rising and falling do seem to be determined by negation: capitalism was once the negation of feudalism, communism, for now, lives only in the slightest gesture of that which negates alienation.

4. History is subjective, cyclical, revealing, and necessary for the progression of humanity

5. History is a giant game of telephone. It is a translated account of events that have happened in the past.

6. History is relics and stories of the past that create where we are today. History is a timeline of events that shows us the evolutionary concepts of art and culture and humanity.

7. it is narrative of the victor who shape the world in there image. it also the bit and pieces of multiple event put together to form a coherent story

8. History is the representation of everything that happened before the present. It’s the location of our cultural myths, half-truths, larger-than-life characters, and voids of information that generate our understanding of the present moment.

9. History, to me, is the events of the past that help us make better choices for the future. We cannot grow or change, unless we learn for our mistakes, wins, trials, and tribulations. History may not always be facts but it is the personal narrative of whoever may be telling the story.

10. History somethings that happen in the past for people to remembering forever. If you read a history book you will find something that is true and fact because they never lie in the past. Back in my high school year I always wonder if History is always true. I feel like people have a lot of history in the past they don’t really tell us everything. This is why I joining the class to know more.

11. History is like a review of past events that happened and marked a change in which nowadays we experience it.

12. I would define history as an unstructured timeline of events where no one point in time has only one event happening at the moment. The timeline itself is constantly being reorganized and rewritten based on new discoveries and new interpretations of old discoveries.

13. History can be many things. History can be written records, language and traditions passed down and events.

14. History is human’s narration of the past. It involves both change and continuity. The past is not history because history is the popular notion of the past.

15. History is our past and it enables us to analyze the mistakes of our ancestors. Through History we can avoid making the same mistakes our ancestors did.

The Terror of History (303/415)

The Terror of History:
Riddley Walker

by David Cowart

Excerpt (pages 83-105, 220-21) from David Cowart, History and the Contemporary Novel (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989). Copyright 1989 by the Board of Trustees, Southern Illinois University. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Winston Churchill, commenting on the atomic bomb, remarked that “the stone age may return on the gleaming wings of science.” In Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban imagines Churchill’s prophecy as fulfilled and looks to the moment in the postholocaust future when humanity, well into its second Iron Age, begins once again to pursue knowledge that will destroy it. Hoban conceives of history as something tragically lost in this blighted future, and in part his story concerns a culturewide yearning to know the more splendid past. He imagines a primitive society surrounded by evidence of its more civilized origins. Thus two antithetical conceptions of past time—primitive and civilized—coexist within the novel and constitute a dialectic in terms of which Hoban examines “the terror of history”—Mircea Eliade’s phrase for the suspicion or conviction that history answers to no transcendent rationale.1

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The Shape of History [1] (303/415)

What is the shape of History? We’re taught to think of Time as an arrow, with the Past unspooling behind us and the Future twinkling in the distance as we ride the Present like a crowded bus down a straight road. Aristotle once argued that humanity experiences the world as a series of Nows. It’s easy enough tag this split second of existence but as soon as we’ve done so the moment has passed into Then.

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Connecting Dots (303/415)

“The rich are only defeated when running for their lives.”

Can anyone really imagine any American politician saying this out loud? Even as a metaphor– one of the ways James intended this statement– it’s impossible to envision the most “radical” political figures in national politics– an Ilhan Omar or a Rashida Tlaib– using such language. 

One of the secrets of American politics is that both Democrats and Republicans share a common philosophy: they are Liberal in the broadest sense of that term, which is to say they are devoted to the notion of a Free Market as the foundation of political rights, the social order, and economic prosperity. Unified by this commitment, in the absence of any substantial disagreement on the basic principle, Dems and Reps have had to find other ways to distinguish themselves from one another. The easiest, most inflammatory and engaging means of doing so is to fight Culture Wars that focus on issues of identity and morality rather than on the structural violence of the inequality that is an unavoidable outcome of the capitalist system. Though they may quibble about specific policies, on the issue of political economy, as Barack Obama affirms, the two parties are fundamentally in agreement.

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