End of the Semester

Zugaro: You think, then, there’s no hope at all?

Lowenthal: Here I would agree with Walter Benjamin, whose words at the end of his analysis of Goethe’s Elective Affinities have been quoted a thousand times, namely, that we’re given hope solely for the sake of those who are without hope. This is the source of my irritation, not to say my obstinancy, regarding these postmodernist movements. You simply cannot abandon the critical thoughtfulness of a nay-sayer if you want to remain a yea-sayer. As a human being, you don’t have the right to teach almost systematically that the end of humanity in history has already occurred and that human energies capable of changing what Georg Luk�cs calls the “infamy of the status quo” can no longer be developed. As Ernst Bloch would say, you must remain true to this “utopian spark”; the situation may well call for sorrow, melancholy, and doubt, but never despair.

An Unmastered Past: The Autobiographical Reflections of Leo Lowenthal