From History to Theory

From History to Theory

From History to Theory

From History to Theory

Synopsis

From History to Theory describes major changes in the conceptual language of the humanities, particularly in the discourse of history. In seven beautifully written, closely related essays, Kerwin Lee Klein traces the development of academic vocabularies through the dynamically shifting cultural, political, and linguistic landscapes of the twentieth century. He considers the rise and fall of "philosophy of history" and discusses past attempts to imbue historical discourse with scientific precision. He explores the development of the "meta-narrative" and the post-Marxist view of history and shows how the present resurgence of old words--such as "memory"--in new contexts is providing a way to address marginalized peoples. In analyzing linguistic changes in the North American academy, From History to Theory innovatively ties semantic shifts in academic discourse to key trends in American society, culture, and politics.

Excerpt

It’s easier for a fat man to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.

I cannot recall when I first learned this particular version of Matthew 19:24, but I can say that it was in southern Illinois. My family lived in the foothills above the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, a tiny slice of the mid-South then peopled mostly by farmers and coal miners. Storytelling, jokes, and preaching were highly valued forms of art, and I watched masters of the craft almost every day. The Scots-Irish migrants of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries who had marched from the Appalachians to the Ozarks had left their mark. This was (and remains) Bible Belt country, with dry counties and Dr. Pepper devotees, where Southern Baptists and Methodists assemble regularly at places like Bear Point Church (where my grandmother spent her Sunday mornings). The culture was strong enough that even those folks who lived in the small towns—many of them, like my father’s side of the family . . .

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