Benjamin’s Angel of History and the Work of Mourning in Ethical Remembrance: Understanding the Effect of W.G. Sebald’s Novels in the Classroom

The paper develops a conceptual framework for understanding the work of ethical remembrance in the classroom. Using David Hansen’s recent example of using Sebald’s novels in his classroom to do the work or remembrance, the paper argues that the effect of Sebald’s novels is best understood using Walter Benjamin’s figure of the angel of history. That figure indicates a view of history that goes beyond the progression of everyday time, to one called remembrance. The paper suggests that the work of mourning effects such remembrance, but simultaneously points to hope through the emergence of weak messianic power.