Research Seminar description:
Does history have an end? What does it look like? And how does it feel to live through it? What role do endings play in our capacity to elicit meaning out of historical timeframes? What is the relationship between historical narrative and story‐telling? The theme of the “end of history” encapsulates a number of different ideas that we will seek to explicate and differentiate. We will think about the relationship between time, history, hope, and despair, in order to try and make sense of the current cultural moment. We will read widely, across history, philosophy, anthropology, literary theory, and narrative nonfiction.
The syllabus is designed to accommodate participatory input: in week 4, we will collectively decide the contents of sessions 8 and 9. These can be either drawn from the “further reading” sections, or completely unrelated, as long as they are relevant to the discussion
Session 1: Introduction
- Matthew Karp, “History as End: 1619, 1776, and the Politics of the Past,” Harper’s, June 2021.
Session 2: The End of the Story
- Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) Further Reading: Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979); Jean‐François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1979); Daniel Mendelsohn, Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020); Robert Newman, ed. Centuries’ Ends, Narrative Means (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996) ; Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” History and Theory 23, no. 1 (1984): 1–33.
Session 3: The End of History
- Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer 1989, No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3‐18.
- Karl Löwith, Meaning in History (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1949), introduction and conclusion.
Further Reading: Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of the Spirit (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969); 12th conference, 1938‐1939 lectures, notes 1 and 2; Jacob Taubes, Occidental Eschatology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009); Jeanne Morefield, “More Things in Heaven and Earth: Liberal Imperialism and The End of History,” Polity 54, n. 4, 2022; Joan W. Scott, On the Judgment of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020).
Session 4: Living through the End of History
- Lea Ypi, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History (London: Penguin, 2021), Part 1.
- Jonathan Lear, Imagining the End: Mourning and the Ethical Life (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press 2022), ch. 1 “We will not be missed!”
Further Reading: Slavoj Žižek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (London: Verso, 2009) pp. 9‐85; Günther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen. Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten industriellen Revolution, 2 vol. (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2002); Nicolas Guilhot, “The Lull: On our Age of Catastrophic Uneventfulness,” The Point, n. 28, October 2022; Movie: Good Bye, Lenin! directed by Wolfgang Becker (2003)
Session 5: The End of Ideology
- Michael Freeden, “Confronting the Chimera of a “Post‐Ideological” Age,’’Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 8 (2005): 247–62.
- Id. “Ideologies and Conceptual History,” Journal of Political Ideologies 2, no. 1 (1997): 3–11.
- Daniel Bell, “The End of Ideology in the West: an Epilogue” in The End of Ideology. On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
Further reading: Raymond Aron, L'Opium des intellectuels (Paris: Calmann‐Lévy, 1955); Chaim Waxman, The End of Ideology Debate (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968); Daniel Steinmetz‐Jenkins, “Raymond Aron, Friedrich Hayek, and "The Third World": An Alternative History of the End of Ideology Debate,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 12, no. 3, Winter 2021, pp. 241‐264; Michael Freeden, “Ideology and Political Theory,” Journal of Political Ideologies 11, no. 1 (2006): 3–22.
Session 6: Apocalypse Now
- Ernesto De Martino, The End of the World: Cultural Apocalypse and Transcendence (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2023), Overture 1 & 2
- Susan Sontag, “The Imagination of Disaster,” in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (London: Penguin, 1966), p. 209‐225. (Original also available from Commentary magazine).
Further reading: François Hartog, Chronos: The West confronts Time (New York: Columbia University Press, 2022); Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (London: Pimlico 2004 ); Ernesto de Martino, Furore Simbolo Valore (Milano: Il Saggiatore, 2013); Michaël Fœssel, Après la fin du monde. Critique de la raison apocalyptique (Paris: Seuil, 2012); Jonas Bendiksen, The Last Testament (New York: Aperture, 2017); Matthias Riedl, “Apocalyptic Violence and Revolutionary Action: Thomas Müntzer’s Sermon to the Princes” in A Companion to the Premodern Apocalypse, 260–96 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016).
Session 7: Collapse
- Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021), Chapters 1‐3 and 7‐8.
Further reading: Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008); Günther Anders, Endzeit und Zeitenende: Gedanken über die atomare Situation (München: Beck, 1972.).
Session 8: Participatory syllabus session
- To be decided collectively in Week 4.
Session 9: Participatory syllabus session
Session 10: The End of Truth
- Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (2004): 225‐248.
- Ethan Kleinberg, “A New Compass of History (for the End‐Time of Truth),” forthcoming (a draft copy of the text will be circulated to the participants).
Further reading: Michel Foucault, “Truth and Power,” in Colin Gordon (ed.), Power/Knowledge. Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972‐1977 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 109‐133.