History and Theory 52 (2):149-170 (2013)

Addressing the recent call to rethink history as a form of presence, the essay works toward a recovery of a space in which such presence of history is encoded. I argue that history as a form of active perception is akin to virtual witnessing of the past in the moment of our encounter with historical artifacts, be they texts, photographs, or buildings.To this end, I engage with the conceptual and material aspects of historical perception, deriving a model of history as “inhabited ruins,” the way it emerges together with historical consciousness and finds an especially dynamic expression in Georg Simmel's philosophy of culture. Throughout, I work with the notion of distance and trans-dimensional presence as the forces that shape and reshape historical awareness.Ruins, intimately connected to the modern historical imagination, are approached not as sites of commemoration or nostalgia, but as spaces of active exchange between presence and disappearance. As such, they are taken to be the models for the transitive character of history itself, blurring the division between perception and thought. In other words, ruins are taken as structures that evoke and summon the past to an encounter with contemporary reality—a type of co-appearance that opens the possibility of virtually witnessing the past. I conclude that the logic of “inhabited ruins” constitutes the event-horizon of modern identity, always placing history right at the threshold of fragmentation.
Keywords Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  architecture  Georg Simmel  historiography  aesthetics  ruins in modernity  presence of history
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/hith.10662
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,512
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Love of Ruins.Cornelia Vismann - 2001 - Perspectives on Science 9 (2):196-209.
The Aesthetics of Ruins.Virgil Nemoianu - 2006 - Review of Metaphysics 59 (3):639-641.
The Conflict in Modern Culture.Georg Simmel - 1968 - New York: Teachers College Press.
Ruins. An Aesthetic Hybrid.Paul Zucker - 1961 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 (2):119-130.


Added to PP index

Total views
14 ( #735,623 of 2,520,967 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #405,457 of 2,520,967 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes