Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

Colloquium in Honor of Hayden White Overview AprilThis colloquium honors the work of Hayden White, one of the most influential thinkers in the humanities for over thirty years. Since the publication of his groundbreaking monograph Metahistory inHayden White's theory of narrative and narrative representation has been crucial to disciplines in which the role of narrative and narratively produced discourse is of primary concern, principal among them: White's contention that narrative form conveys a certain content, and that the process of "emplotment" a term he coined necessarily involves a fundamental fictionalization, has proved provocative, particularly in the more positivistic disciplines, such as history, which are concerned with the recounting of real events. The rapprochement White effects between literary or fictional storytelling and the historical or real-life narrative has thus made him a controversial figure in the humanities.

Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

It compares his approach to Roland Barthes's study of narrative and historical discourse in order to illustrate the differences between White's structuralist methods and poststructuralist forms of textual analysis.

The author puts particular emphasis on the interdependence between the development of White's work and the criticism it has re- ceived during the last twenty years. Whereas historians have dismissed White's relativism, literary theorists and intellectual historians have criticized his formalist methods.

White's attempts to counter these critiques have gone mostly unnoticed and have been unsuc- cessful in that they destabilized his original position without proposing a coherent alter- native. The question about adequate representations of Nazism, which White has recently addressed, highlights the theoretical problems which have not received enough attention by White or his critics.

Recently, in the pages of this journal, F. Ankersmit has developed a postmod- ernist perspective on the writing of history. Despite the claim to one single truth, historical writing only arises from the competition between different versions of the past which are simultane- ously supported and called into question by "the other" within the same disci- pline.

Ankersmit also holds that the traditional dichotomy of language versus reality has become untenable. Language has acquired the same opacity as ob- jects in reality which themselves have become more and more language-like.

Because of this convergence, historiography assumes a fundamentally aesthetic character based on the interplay between different codes "which nowhere inter- sect the domain of the past.

Ankersmit, "Historiography and Postmodernism," Ankersmit concludes his essay with the conciliatory statement "I am not saying that historical truth and reliability are of no importance or are even obstacles on the road to a more meaningful historiography" This, however, is difficult to reconcile with the notion that the language of historiography never intersects with the past.

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He holds that because of his relativist position White is forced to sanction any historical representation as truthful which legitimizes favored political positions regard- less of its factual accuracy.

For Ginzburg, White's arguments echo the ruthless pragmatics of fascist politics; they deprive him of any recourse to the rules of evidence as safeguards against distortions of the past, fascist or otherwise. Against White's methodological skepticism Ginzburg insists that the referential dimension of historiographical discourse can be brought under control through diligent textual criticism.

Ginzburg's fails to differentiate between moral and epistemological relativism, and it simpli- fies the complex processes which take part in the production of narrative history.

At least in contemporary history there exists a considerable indeterminacy be- tween different types of historical knowledge, a widely agreed upon repertoire of factual knowledge on the one hand and different narrative accounts written from incompatible theoretical and political positions on the other.

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But Ginzburg and others have pointed to an important practical problem which White cannot solve: How can we write history successfully, for example, effectively displace unwanted emplotments of the past, without recourse to the concept of histor- ical truth?

Ankersmit, on the other hand, has mistakenly counted White among the postmodern critics. At least until recently White's has remained a structuralist project, the displacement of meaning from the level of referentiality to a level of secondary signification, in this case the underlying narrative structures of historical discourse.

As a comparison, and especially in order to illustrate this last point, I will first analyze Barthes's critique of historical discourse.Gramsei preceded Foucault in his stress upon the role of discourse in reinforcing cultural domination. For Gramsci, “Great importance is assumed by the general question of language, that is, the question of collectively attaining a single cultural climate,” (his emphasis), op.

cit., Of all published articles, the following were the most read within the past 12 months. Dec 07,  · In The Responsibility of Hermeneutics[i], Anthony C.

Thiselton, in considering the work of J. Arthur Baird on audience criticism in biblical studies, describes the audience as a “hermeneutical factor of first importance” (Thiselton, 91).

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Thiselton further explains that “meaning is always potential in terms of the text, but actual in relation to the reader. In Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Hayden White discusses the problems and promises of history. Human nature has made us curious, cerebral beings.

We thrive on questions perhaps even more than we thrive on answers, and it is namely the more problematic issues--culture, society, and history, among others--that intrigue and.

Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

He is the author of a number of books published by Johns Hopkins, including Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation, and Figural Realism: Studies in the Mimesis Effect.4/5().

The first will criticize the work of Wiebe or Greenstone using strategies outlined by Berkhofer, Cronon, Mah, or other critics of historical discourse. The second will focus on a particular theme in the work of an author or pair of authors we discuss (e.g., Dowd and Frey on the politics of multiculturalism; McGaw and Bensel on the role of.

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