Monthly Archives: November 2018

What is Historical?

PhD Seminar organized by Marina Lathouri and Will Orr | Term 1


This PhD seminar series introduces four key problematics from the philosophy of history and the theory of historiography. A question not simply of the “past” but of the present and the future, by asking “what is historical?” we hope to open a discussion on the critical and eminently practical relevance of history for contemporary action—whether in the critical polemic, historical research, or design project.

Each session performs a close reading of paired texts, a specific body of historical writing, to establish a conceptual foundation for thinking about history, how history is being produced, what is written, what is said and how it can be taught.

The seminar also looks ahead to a series of debates and discussions with visiting speakers taking place in Term 2 on the related question: “What is Contemporary?”


Seminar I       History and Modernity

Nov 15 | 4pm – 6pm

Immanuel Kant: “An answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” (1784)

Michel Foucault: “What is Enlightenment?”

In: The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow, pp.32-50, 1984

Supplementary readings:

Peter Osborne, Chapter 1: “Modernity, a Different Time” in The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (1995), pp.1-29


Seminar II      History as Agency

Nov 22 | 4pm – 6pm

W. F. Hegel: Introduction to the Lectures of the Philosophy of History (1837)

Karl Marx: “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845)

Supplementary readings:

Theodore W. Adorno, Lectures 3 and 4 in An Introduction to Dialectics (1958), pp.15-36

Michael Löwy, “A Historical Materialism with Romantic Splinters: Walter Benjamin and Karl Marx” in Jernej Habjan and Jessica Whyte eds., (Mis)readings of Marx in Continental Philosophy (2014), pp.19-33


Seminar III    History as Theory

Nov 29 | 4pm – 6pm

Manfredo Tafuri: Introduction to Theories and History (1968)

Reinhardt Koselleck: “On the Need for Theory in the Discipline of History”

In: The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts, pp.1-19, 2002

Supplementary readings:

Judith Butler, “Critique, Dissent, Disciplinarity” in Katrin de Boer and Ruth Sonderegger eds., Conceptions of Critique in Modern and Contemporary Philosophy (2012), pp.10-29

Tomas Llorens, “On Making History” in Joan Ockamn, Deborah Berke, and Mary Mcleod eds., Architecture Criticism Ideology (1985), pp.24-8


Seminar IV    History and the Contemporary

Dec 6 | 4pm – 6pm

Giorgio Agamben: “What is the Contemporary?” (2008)

Friedrich Nietzsche: Untimely Meditations (1876)

Supplementary readings:

 Smith, “Introduction:

Jean-Luc Nancy, “Art Today,” lecture Academia di Brera, Milan, 2006. In: Journal of Visual Culture, vol.9, no.1 (April 2010), pp.91-9