Lecture 11: History Writing in the 1960s and 1970s and the ‘linguistic turn’



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4 tropes: Trope: the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect.
¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Metaphor:¿Tæ†ÒË, serif"> one things is described as being another, carrying over its associations

¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Metonymy¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">: substitution of a thing by a symbol for it;

¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Synecdoche:¿Tæ†ÒË, serif"> a part of something is used to describe the whole , or possible vice versa

¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Irony:¿Tæ†ÒË, serif"> saying one thing while you mean or want to suggest the opposite


¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">He identifies 4 emplotments: Romance, tragedy, comedy and satire.
¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Historians understanding to the presence of these in a narrative depends on their familiarity with the signs, discourses and structure of language at a particular moment in time. In sum, White claims that every work of history has embedded within itself a metahistory insofar as the author has already chosen, well before the so-called writing stage, the tropological mode in which the book is to be composed.Choosen a mode of emplotment consciously or unconsciously commts an historian to a particular philosophy of history. He or she make a lot of commitments which constitute a metahistory.
¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">He also implied that this is not only for 19¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">th¿Tæ†ÒË, serif"> century historians the case – attacks also the Annales school. They too, he argues, uses narrative devices which make history appear ‘natural’.
¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">While makes it easy for critics really: particularly the early writings are semioticas and not easy to read – in fact boring. Historians attack it and it is an easy attach- he is denounced as ahistorical which I think misses the point. (historans do not like the move to language – because of loss of authority?) He became a symbol of ‘nihilistic relativism’. The French anale tradition and particular Roger French was also very critical – party that had to do with the language divide…different tradition of thinking about language…Americans not yet influenced by the French poststructural traditions.!
¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">I do think there a bit too much trope in his writings I raises important points which should make us read his work. I want to raise four points here


  • ¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">By focusing on the historians language, he does not demonstrate the impossibility of getting hold of the past reality, but the naivete of the kind of positivist intuition customarily cherished among historians.

  • ¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">This idea of a positivist intuition – the historian records reality – is an invention of the historical profession itself

  • ¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">There is a historical reality and White never refuted that but the historian have forgotten about this past and have mistaken the product of their tropological encoding of the past for the past itself.

  • ¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">One might want to argue that White is the realist here who reminds us of the difference between reality itself and what is mere intellectual construction?

  • ¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">White compels us to think about how narrative works conceal the contraditions and discords of society by framing a unifying story that emphasizes continuity

¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">See also F. W. Ankersmit, Hayden White’s Appeal to the Historians’, History and Theory 37 (1998)

¿Tæ†ÒË, serif">Now you might want to discuss this afternoon then what is the utlity of the historical narrative when it is identified as simply telling stories, and that these stories are ideologically suspect? What useful end might a ‘return to narrative’ have? – your remember that at exactly the same time when we have this language debate – maninly centered on France still (1970s early 1980s) with exceptions such as White-- we have this return to the narrative via anthropological influence. And we shall see this turn to narrative in the next two session when we talk about Ginzburg and Darnton. It is good to keep in mind that these two things happen at the same time and you might want to look at these new narrative texts with the linguist turn in mind?

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