Ruins or Stones: What are they really?

So, being the last week and all, I managed to forget about this blog post. And now, at 2:32am, lying in bed, I remembered!

So here we go!

This week we read two plays, both regarding the Haitian revolution. This follows the theme of the previous two books we read.

During the lecture today, I managed to get a little bit distracted with the twitter conversation I was having with some of the profs. Jon Beasley-Murray, who was running the lecture, talked a lot about ruins. And it has us (the tweeters) really wondering what ruins represented.

Jill Fellows stated the dilemma quite nicely in her tweet:

Jill Fellows ‏@FellowsJill13h

Do ruins suggest that nothing is permanent? They exist. They resist remodeling. I wonder if their impermanence is questionable. #artsone

On one side, ruins are proof that everything continues. Just like in our plays and novels, Sans Souci still stand. It may be crumbling, but it continues to live on.

On the other side, ruins show how nothing is permanent. Like Leonard de Mezy’s plantation in Kingdom of This World. When Ti Noel returns to the site in the third part, all that are left are stones. He himself says no one would recognize it for what it was: “Ti Noel sat down on one of the cornerstones of the old mansion, now a stone like any other stone for those who did not remember” (106).

So are ruins just a pause in the timeline of decay? Can we look at them as something on their own, or are they just a piece of something that will soon be gone?

Are they permanent?


The past is confusing

I am not a huge history buff. My father, on the other hand, adores history. Therefore I grew up knowing quite a bit about the past, but I never quite favoured it to the present.
I’m a strong believer in learning from our past, then moving forward. So I was kind of worried with this week’s book, knowing it was about history. Although I don’t find history boring in any way, depending on the author it can sometimes seem a bit dry.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Although I am not completely done (oops) I am definitely enjoying the change of pace from our previous books.

One quote that I have been trying to decipher is this:

“. . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past — or more accurately, pastness — is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past.” p. 15

At first read I literally thought… what?! Were those just words on a page? I feel like my mind just did a circle and realized I was right where I began.

After re-reading the page a few times (maybe more like 10 times), I think I am starting to understand it. Is it just a point about semantics, in the sense that we need to know present to know past? Or is it more than that?

Hopefully we’ll discuss this in our seminars. I definitely require some clarity here.