Abstract

The love of ruins has generated various epistemes and disciplines: In the sixteenth century it informed philology, in the nineteenth century historiography and criminology. Its status has changed from an allegorical one in the Renaissance to a literal, positivistic one at the beginning of the twentieth century. Johann Gustav Droysen was among the first who reflected the positivistic treatment of ruins systematically. The Prussian historiographer formulated a theory of remains including both written documents and material objects. In the twentieth century the positivistic view lost its appeal for scholars. They began to question the supposed ability of ruins to access the past. The physicality of remains was no longer trusted to guide the process of memory. This disillusion in the power of remains led to a practice of mere tabulation where statistics instead of historical narrative were generated. The contemporary philosopher Giorgio Agamben proposes yet another way of dealing with remains. He liberates ruins from their materialistic shell altogether and takes them consequently in their discursive form as that which is and which is in language.

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