Friday, January 22, 2010

Welcome to Recovered Aura

George Grosz. The City. 1916/17. Oil on canvas. 100 x 102cm Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

This blog is intended to be a companion site and informational suppliment to the History 348 course taught by Prof. Ben Martin. It will consist both of visual and musical examples of European cultural productions from the French Revolution to the present. It will also include short explanatory entries and links to online information sources pertinent to the topics under discussion.

As a history student myself, I find that my own understanding of the past is deepened and enriched by accessing source materials such as music, film and other kinds of non-textual cultural productions. In my experience these things bring history to life by stimulating the senses and inviting one to consider historical subjects in a fresh way.

Our blog takes its name from philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). Benjamin believed that the modern processes of endlessly reproducing images and artifacts had destroyed the special, almost magical quality contained in older forms of art which were unique, original and, as we would say now "one-offs". He called this ineffable quality of specialness "the aura". According to this theory modern people feel a sense of loss because they live inside a culture of mass production and endless replication. This specialness, this "aura" is no longer a part of the daily experiences of modern people.

Many historians and philosophers have argued that the modern world is one in which the individual is cut off from his or her roots and at the same time flooded with an endless variety of choices. It is of course much more complicated than this, but the image of countless conflicting elements floating on a sea of change does seem to be one good description of the modern condition.

I hope that "Recovered Aura" will be a place where we can discover new things about history and the processes and experiences of this strange thing we call "modernity". It's important to realize that there is always more to learn, always new angles from which to approach these topics and great value in asking questions- no matter how big or how small.

This is a place where we should feel safe about asking questions and offering insights.
I want to keep this blog an open forum so that we can learn from and inspire one another as we explore the topics offered up for contemplation and discussion by Prof. Martin in the course.

Feel free to post your observatons, questions, and the interesting links that you find online in the comments section. Let's strive to keep our online conversations respectful and, even when we have differences of opinion, engaged in a spirit of community- of learning from one another.

I look forward to learning along with you,
Jason Lahman, Teaching Assistant and fellow student, History 348

1 comment:

  1. I have never been in a course that has an accompanying blog, this should be interesting! I'm very excited.