• The Faded Silvery Imprints of the Bare Feet of Angels: Notes Toward an Historical Poethics

    Eileen Joy (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Historical theory and the philosophy of history, Historiography, Philosophy
    Collective memory, Painting, Historiography, World War (1939-1945)
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    “Touching the Past”: Inaugural Symposium of the George Washington University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute
    Conf. Org.:
    GWU Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute
    Conf. Loc.:
    Washington, DC
    Conf. Date:
    November 7, 2008
    Stanley Spencer, Michel de Certeau, Potential Literature, Cultural memory, Temporality, World War II, OuLiPo
    Permanent URL:
    By way of the autobiographical writings of Bruno Schulz and the "resurrection" paintings of Stanley Spencer, this talk sketches out some of the ways in which literature and the fine arts situate themselves within the division, or series of breaks, that Michel de Certeau argued Western historiography inscribes between past and present, between the mute dead and the rationalist historical discourses that consign them to what Certeau called “scriptural tombs,” and to also see if what Heidegger says is true, that, "the truth that opens itself up in the artwork can never be substantiated or derived from what came before. What came before is, in its exclusive reality, contradicted by the work. That which art founds can therefore never be fully offset by what is present and available. Its founding is an excess, a giving." It is the idea of art’s founding as excess, as a giving, in particular, that interests me, and how, in Gerhard Richter’s formulation, writing on the artwork of Anselm Kiefer, the “historical specificity of an artwork [only] emerges in the moments when it can no longer be fully contained by history,” and what this means is that the artwork always “presents itself in the strange figure of a singularity that meets in unforeseeable ways with the generality of its historical and philosophical structure.” This talk attempts to show how, in the disjunctive materiality of a poem, or a painting,as Richter has written, “the haunting image of history . . . is always in retreat, even as it ceaselessly calls upon us to revisit questions concerning the space within which memory, politics, and figuration intersect.”
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago


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