Experiments in Rethinking History

Experiments in Rethinking History

Experiments in Rethinking History

Experiments in Rethinking History


From two of the world¿¿"s leading postmodern historians, this thoroughly original collection of articles allows students and researchers to understand and learn important new ways of thinking and writing about the past.This book includes a thorough two-part introduction on theory and practice as well as introductory material in each section that allows the reader to fully engage with the theoretical aspects of the book. It provides a deeper understanding of how to engage with the past today.Fourteen thought-provoking experimental pieces of historical writing tackle subjects as diverse as lynching in South Carolina, the life of an eighteenth-century Marquise, and a journey to a string of Pacific islands, and demonstrates how little-considered factors such as the impact of emotions, authorial subjectivity, the confining character of boundaries, and even a sense of boredom with conventional historical writing practices, can intrude on historical practiceThis text works as a Reader companion alongside the Routledge best-seller Rethinking History and provides students with an innovative, engaging and easy-to-read research tool to enhance all history-related course studies.


Robert A. Rosenstone

Mr. Godard. Surely you agree that a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

(newspaper reporter)

Yes, of course. But not necessarily in that order.

( Jean-Luc Godard)

Experiments in writing history? An oxymoron, surely? No writers have clung more firmly (desperately, even) to traditional forms than those academic historians whose professed aim is to accurately reconstruct the past. While the discipline has in the past century undergone an enormous expansion in methodologies of research and areas of focus, opening up fields and topics little dreamed of by earlier generations (e.g. quantitative, social, gender, ethnic, cultural, subaltern, postcolonial, feminist, queer, and leisure histories, to name but a few), the means of presenting the findings of historical research has altered little. the monographs and synthetic works that historians produce continue, for the most part, to tell the past as stories narrated in the third person, linear stories with a clear sense of cause and effect, and a beginning, a middle, and an end. Stories based, as Hayden White pointed out some four decades ago, on the model of the nineteenth-century novel.

But the world has changed greatly since the nineteenth century, as, presumably, historians should know. When we attempt to describe the world and tell stories about it these days, either in language, or in photos, or on the motion picture or television screen, we as a culture are no longer so firmly wedded to the notions of literal reality that pervaded the nineteenth century. the impact of the visual media themselves, certainly the chief carriers of messages in our twenty-first-century world, alone assure a certain alteration in our sensibilities. Equally important, the continual revolutions in artistic visions over the past century-the movements or tendencies we label cubism, constructivism, expressionism, surrealism, abstraction, the New Wave, modernism, post-modernism-have helped to alter our ways of seeing, telling, and understanding

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