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Reflection on Lessons Learned During Course Essay

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"The angel of history must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair, to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky high. That which we call progress is this storm" - quote by Walter Benjamin. This is certainly a very interesting and thought provoking quote – one related magnificently to the core tenet of this course: the idea of progress. In order to be able to effectively understand and interpret the quote above, one must be familiar with the term 'progress'. Well then, what exactly is progress? According to the dictionary, progress is, "A movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage"1.However, this definition brings us only to another question: what qualifies as progress, and why does it qualify as progress? Are these limits of progress constant over the course of history, or are they ever-changing? In Walter Benjamin's quote above, 'the angel of history' can be seen as a representation of the present day. Simply stated, he is attempting to illustrate that we, as the people in the present, see much of history as one catastrophe after another, even though we should be looking at it as one gigantic, catastrophe of events. Although we may want to take the time to examine these events of history, we are so intrigued by the events unfolding, tha...


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...icated term. Where I would normally have been more trusting of historical writings, I have learned that it must be examined with more of a critical eye - that there is so much more to history than what someone may have deemed important enough to record. Upon looking back at the course, I found that E.R Dodds "On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex" was probably the most interesting reading for me. Although I had heard the story before, I never realized that I had been reading it with my own biases - without noticing that I was not the intended audience for the story. This really opened up my eyes as to how easily I was judging the story with my own stereotypical views. All in all, this course has taught me the importance of critically analyzing material, not approaching it with my own values, and most importantly, not believing what I read just because it is 'history'!


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