Memory, History & the Past
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Division: The New School for Social Research
Course Number: GPHI 6657
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: Yes
In this course, we will be concerned with the ‘presence of the past’, that is, with the role of the past in social, political and personal life. The course will fall into two (roughly equal) parts: (A) After a brief survey of what has been called to the ‘memory boom’ in the social sciences, we will look in some detail at the most important and influential work in this area. This will include: Walter Benjamin’s later work on history, memory, and time; Freud’s historical ‘fiction’ about Moses (this will involve a discussion of psychoanalytic theory, and Freud’s early work on pre-history), and the recent work it has inspired (by Yerushalmi, Jan Assmann, R.J. Bernstein, Jacques Derrida). (II) In this part of the course, we will explore the relationship between history, memory, and politics through a sustained discussion of the Holocaust (‘Shoah’). We will look at the different ways in which the Holocaust has been remembered (and forgotten) over the past fifty or so years, and the relationship between the near sacred aura that it has acquired and the political roles it has played. We will look at the tension between recent claims that the holocaust functions as a 'moral universal' and its special place in the self-understanding of Israel, Germany, and the United States. We will also discuss the relationship between individual ('survivor') memory and public commemoration, the concept of trauma. One important aspect of the cultural presence of the Holocaust is its representation in films, so we will put aside time to look at some of the more central of these.
Not open to Undergraduate students.