Revolution: From the Fictitious to the Real -TOWNSEND CENTER SEMINAR WITH EELCO RUNIA

History 200X

Fall 2014
Alan Tansman
210 Stephens
Day & Time: 
W 5-8P
Victor Hugo remarked that “a revolution is a return from the fictitious to the real.” Hugo’s words not only fundamentally question what might be called the realist project but also contain a rudimentary yet thought-provoking theory about how sublime historical events come about.
Hugo’s remark leads to four suppositions that are each well worth examining: that the here-and-now may be less “real” than we like to think; that, conversely, the past may not be solely something of the past; that creating something as radically new as a revolution is an instance of moving forward by moving backward; and, finally, that the desire to reestablish contact with, or immersion in, “reality” (whatever that may be) is an important mainspring for groundbreaking human action. Exploring Hugo’s words is, in fact, a very timely exercise: it may – when the 19th century word “fictitious” is substituted by its 21st century equivalent “virtual” - shed light on how present-day homo Google relates to “the real.”  
Session I
* Eelco Runia, Moved by the past (NY 2014), Chapters 3 & 4 (pp 49-105)
* W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz (London 2001)
Session II
* Moved by the past, Chapter 5 & 6 (pp 106-143)
* Modris Eksteins, Rites of spring (NY 1989), Chapters I &II (pp 1-94)
Session III
* Moved by the past, Chapter 7 (pp 144-157)
* Karl Marx, The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (available at:
Session IV
* Moved by the past, Chapter 8 & 9 (pp 158-202)
* Slavoj Žižek, ‘Robespierre, or, the ‘divine violence’ of terror’’. In: Maximilien Robespierre, Virtue and terror (London & New York 2007), pp vii-xxxix.
Dr. Eelco H. Runia is a historian, psychologist and novelist. He studied at Leiden University, worked for some years as a psychologist at the Faculty of Medicine of the Erasmus University Rotterdam and was a visiting scholar at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies. Since 1999 he has had a private practice as coach/supervisor for medical doctors. In 2002, his research project Committing History was awarded with a 5-year grant by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research – and he became a full time historian at the Department of History of Groningen University and (since 2004) chair of the Centre for Metahistory. Among his books are: De pathologie van de veldslag (The Pathology of Battle. History and Historiography in Tolstoy’s War and Peace, 1995), Waterloo Verdun Auschwitz. De liquidatie van het verleden (The liquidation of the past, 1999), Moved by the Past (2014) and two novels, including  Inkomend vuur (Incoming Fire)

CCN will be published pending final approval of the course by the academic senate in May.