Seminar Frans-Willem Korsten

Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (NL)

Seminar 'The enigma of history: potential of the political'.

'The enigma of history: potential of the political'

One of the questions that has haunted philosophy from its beginning has been: What is time? A less troubling, but perhaps equally vexing question is (and has been): What is history? It is relatively easy to say that men are ‘making’ history. Still, the question remains what it is that they are making. Question is also whether this is a matter of ‘people’ making history or of heroic political figures making history. The more principal question, however, is whether human beings can really make history or that history happens to them, which would imply that they are as much made by history as that history is made by them. To put this differently, there is a pivotal political issue at stake, since politics is the instrument with which human beings organize the world, which they then call ‘theirs’, by means of opening up distinct possibilities and blocking others. With respect to this issue art has an intrinsic political potential, in terms of opening up or blocking distinct worlds.

Reading list:

Louis Althusser, ‘The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter’. In: Philosophy of the Encounter - Later Writings, 1978-87. London: Verso, 2006, pp. 163-207.

Stephan Kampowski, chapter 4 from Arendt, Augustine, and the New Beginning: The Action Theory and Moral Thought of Hannah Arendt in the Light of Her Dissertation on St. Augustine, Eerdmans, 2008, pp. 75-172.


Frans-Willem Korsten (NL, 1959) is professor in Literature and Society at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in addition to working at the department of Film- and Literary Studies of Leiden University.

Since 2010, Korsten has been Director of Education of the Leiden Insitute for Cultural Disciplines in 2010. He is a member of the editorial board for Boom-The Hague Publishers, Amsterdam University Press, and the open access Journal of Dutch Literature (AUP.) In the past he has also worked for the Dutch Council for Culture as chairman for the Letters section, and is now a member of the Rotterdam Council for Culture.