More Walter Benjamin! Theses on the Philosophy of History

Theses on the Philosophy of History

Monday January 6, 2020 6-8 pm

Harold Washington Library

6th Floor North Study Room


We’ll open the new year for CTC with Benjamin’s short essay “On the Concept of History”, aka “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940)

The text is available in many places, including online here:

Angelus Novus


“I am ready for flight and would gladly turn back
but to stop living time — I would have little luck.”
— Gerhard Scholem, Gruß vom Angelus

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel
looking as though he is about to move
away from something he is fixedly contemplating.
His eyes are staring, his mouth hangs open,
his wings are spread.
This is how the angel of history must look.
His face is turned toward the past.
Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe,
which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage
hurling it before his feet.
The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead,
and make whole what has been smashed.
But a storm is blowing from Paradise;
it has got caught in his wings with such violence
the angel can no longer close them.
This storm irresistibly propels him
into the future to which his back is turned,
while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.
This storm is what we call progress.

— Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940).