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Slought Foundation Seminar in Contemporary Culture: Post-History

ENGL 294.401
crosslisted as: VLST 294
W 5-8
Benn 140

Please note that this is a year-long course!

This unique 2008-2009 undergraduate seminar will provide students with an opportunity to participate in a curatorial project at Slought Foundation, a non-profit cultural organization affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania.  This year-long course will combine critical theory and practice by providing students with classroom instruction as well as hands-on experience in realizing a major publication about contemporary culture.  

In the first semester, students will explore the concept of “post-history” in the work of Braco Dimitrijevic, a renowned conceptual artist whose writings and visual practices (recently displayed on the façade of Fisher-Bennett Hall) question the whims of history, the vagaries of chance, and the fickleness of celebrity. What catapults certain people into the historical limelight, for instance, while others remain a mere "casual passerby"?  The class will explore the concept of "post-history" as well as the related concept of the “post-human” through the work of authors, filmmakers, and theorists such as Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, Mary Shelley, Werner Herzog, Achille Mbembe, and Francis Fukayama. The second semester will culminate in a contribution to the publication about Braco Dimitrijevic as well as participation in the editorial process.  The publication will consist of newly commissioned essays as well as “Tractatus Post Historicus,” a seminal work by the artist from 1976.

Course requirements include a two-semester commitment, the completion of assigned readings, and a final paper.  Familiarity with contemporary culture is encouraged, but not required. Please note that students will be expected to occasionally meet outside of class to assist with the publication process and participate in museum visits.  Enrollment in this seminar is limited to 8 students maximum, and permission from the instructor is required.  To apply, please submit a brief letter outlining your experience and interest in this course, including contact information, school affiliation, and grade level, to Aaron Levy, c/o Department of English/FBH 311, as well as by email to


"[In my 1976 book Tractatus Post Historicus], I made reference to a discourse that first appeared in my work in 1969, when I made the following statement: 'There are no mistakes in history, the whole of history is a mistake.' This marked a revolt against history which I have always considered as being a false science and which I would call the only impressionistic science. The true power of history does not lie in the physical facts. It manifests itself through the psychological effects brought about by the event. What we call History is nothing more than one subjectivity which is imposed on the whole world as objective opinion. This is the reasoning behind my critique of history and my formulation of the notion of Post History which, for me, means the time of a multitude of co-existing truths rather than any one ultimate truth." --- Braco Dimitrijevi_, Interview with Jean-Hubert Martin (2005)