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Drawing on the “Curtain of Futurity”: Hegel, Zambelios and Shelley on the meaning of the revolution



Drawing on the “Curtain of Futurity”: Hegel, Zambelios and Shelley on the meaning of the revolution


13 November 2021


This paper brings together Romantic discourses on the 1821 Revolution around the notion of a retrospective understanding of history (Nachträglichkeit). Although its main focus is the Greek War of Independence in 1821, it introduces the discussion via a reference to Hegel’s writings on the French Revolution. In his Introduction to the Philosophy of History, Hegel thinks of the Revolution as a missed opportunity, whose meaning is not clearly to be recovered at a future time. Discussion then turns to Spyridon Zambelios, the founder of Greek national historiography, who drew heavily on Hegel in his own philosophy of history (ιστοριονομία). 1821 is presented in Zambelios’ work as the revelatory moment, which retrospectively will give meaning to the past of the Greek nation, the moment that will uncover the unity (ολομέλεια) of the scattered fragments of time past. It is in this frame that he sets out to rehabilitate the Byzantium as an integral part of the Greek national identity. His Byzantine Studies begin with the image of the Byzantium as a corpse, whose scattered organs the philosopher-historian will try to bring together and endow with life, because they prefigured, unawares, the national Renaissance. However, the rhetoric of Byzantine Studies is one of delays, crooked paths, and obstacles, that render very problematic any unity of the “living” national organism. Zambelios seems to be missing the challenge to convey the intended meaning to the War of Independence: as in Hegel, Nachtraglichkeit remains in Zambelios coloured by its later Freudian connotation of trauma. My reference to Hegel aims at broadening the narrow ideological perspective in which Zambelios has been received. And so does the discussion that closes the paper, examining the same notion of Nachträglichkeit in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s philhellenic drama “Hellas” (1821): the Greek War of Independence is for Shelley doomed to failure and will have only existed in the images that the poet draws “on the curtain of futurity”, as he puts it in the Foreword to this work.

(Edited abstract from conference website)

The abstract of the presentation, as it was published on the organizer's website.

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