Monday, October 24, 2011

Teofilo F. Ruiz's "The Terror of History"

Teofilo F. Ruiz is Distinguished Professor of History and of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA. His many books include Spain's Centuries of Crisis and From Heaven to Earth. In 2007, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and selected as one of UCLA's Distinguished Teachers.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization, and reported the following:
Page 99 explores the relationship between pleasure and culture. How we react to, and deal with, catastrophes is deeply imbedded in class distinctions, economic well being, and education. Nonetheless, we live in permanent tension between rational individualism (the Nietzschean Apollonian ideal and the source of culture in Classical Greece) and our yearnings for community and the transcendental obliteration of the self through pleasure.

On the book: The Terror of History reflects on Western humanity's efforts to escape from history and its terrors. I explore the embracing of religious experiences, the pursuit of worldly success and pleasure, and the quest for beauty and knowledge as the three primary individual and collective responses to the nightmares of history and the oppression of time. The book is a reflection, a meditation, on how men and women in Western society sought (and still seek) to make meaning of the world and its disturbing history. Chapter one attempts to explain what I mean by the Terror of History, while chapter two examines orthodox and heterodox forms of spirituality, apocalyptic movements, and other supernatural beliefs as the means to deal with the burdens of history and the passing of time. Chapter three looks at the pleasures of the flesh or of material possessions as a way to escape history and time, while chapter four explores the manner in which cultural production, writing itself, is a form of exorcizing or coping with our frightening history.
Learn more about The Terror of History at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue