Philip J. Shecter

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20082009 Forum on Change

Philip J. Shecter


Member, UHF Steering Committee

College '09

The Angel of History: Rituals of Recovery in Post-9/11 Fiction

In his Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin writes of "the angel of history" that it "would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed." Carolyn Forché adopted the phrase, half a century later, as the title for her third collection of poems - a meditation on memory and survival in the context of twentieth-century atrocities. Now, more than two decades on, the angel of history has re-emerged. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, novelists have attempted to use fiction as a means of rehabilitating a world stuck in a state of post-trauma. This presentation evaluates various conventions contemporary writers have implemented as rituals of recovery.