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From History to Theory

From History to Theory

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    From History to Theory
    Book Description:

    From History to Theorydescribes 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 Theoryinnovatively ties semantic shifts in academic discourse to key trends in American society, culture, and politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94829-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    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)...

  5. ONE The Rise and Fall of Historiography
    (pp. 17-34)

    One way to get at a big question like “What is history?” is to pose smaller, related questions. How do historians survey the property lines of the profession? How do we train our students? How do we trace our own genealogy? According to Hans Kellner, history, like other disciplines, works largely by imprinting students with particular sets of anxieties.¹ If so, these questions are roundabout ways of asking, What makes us anxious? Kellner’s argument has special resonance for those members of the guild with the greatest cause for anxiety: graduate students, junior faculty, and the growing numbers of nontenured temporary...

  6. TWO From Philosophy to Theory
    (pp. 35-58)

    In the 1990s, pundits announced that, after decades spent wandering in the formalist wilderness, the human sciences had taken a historical turn. After nearly a century of functionalism, behaviorism, structural linguistics, and other hopeless expeditions in search of timeless axioms of cultural order, humanists and social scientists had finally come to their historical senses. One might reasonably expect philosophy of history to figure prominently in academia’s return to historical consciousness, and the titles of at least two important books in history and theory—Frank Ankersmit and Hans Kellner’s anthology,A New Philosophy of History(1995), and Ewa Domenska’s collection of...

    (pp. 59-83)

    Near the end of his 1989 book,Soundings in Critical Theory, intellectual historian Dominick LaCapra complained about a historiographic movement commonly identified as New Historicism or New Cultural History. LaCapra, who had been closely identified with the American reception of deconstruction and its emphasis upon close readings of canonical texts, found in the New Cultural History a “tendency to turn away from patient, subtle, and painstaking analysis of texts or particular artifacts” and even “to dismiss textual analysis as an anachronistic residue of bourgeois liberalism.” In place of close reading, New Cultural History substituted a “weak montage” that used undertheorized...

  8. FOUR Postmodernism and the People without History
    (pp. 84-111)

    When G. W. F. Hegel spun his epochal story of universal history, he left little doubt that “History” belonged to some people but not to others. It was not just that Europeans had taken up the torch of historical destiny. As he saw it, indigenous Americans and Africans lacked history altogether. Without writing, the concrete manifestation of collective consciousness, they remained “peoples without history,” and in the greater tale of Spirit’s evolution they would either disappear or assimilate to the rising West. Today, decolonization has made this bit of Hegel’s tale both implausible and unappealing. Peoples “without history” have been...

  9. FIVE On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse
    (pp. 112-137)

    Welcome to the memory industry.¹ In the grand scheme of things, the memory industry ranges from the museum trade, to the legal battles over repressed memory, and to the market for academic books and articles that invokememoryas a keyword. Our scholarly fascination with things memorable is quite new. As Jeffrey K. Olick and Joyce Robbins have noted, “collective memory” emerged as an object of scholarly inquiry only in the early twentieth century, contemporaneous with the so-called crisis of historicism. Hugo von Hofsmannsthal used the phrase “collective memory” in 1902, and in 1925 Maurice Halbwachs, inThe Social Frameworks...

  10. SIX Remembrance and the Christian Right
    (pp. 138-160)

    “I was here last summer, the day the monument was pulled away. . . . I came and I saw the empty space, and it broke my heart.” Betty Watts had come to Montgomery, Alabama, to watch as workers removed a two-and-a-half-ton granite replica of the Ten Commandments from the State Judicial Building. Roy Moore, chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, had installed the piece in the courthouse shortly after his election in 2000. Ordered to remove the monument, Moore refused. Instead, he filed suit, claiming that the Decalogue represented the foundation of moral law and the U.S. Constitution. A...

    (pp. 161-170)

    In 1959, after Hans Meyerhoff had assembled the collection of authors for his teaching anthology,The Philosophy of History in Our Time, he—or perhaps some clever designer at the publisher’s office, Doubleday Anchor—chose the appropriate image for the cover: a reproduction of Pablo Picasso’sGuernica(1937), on loan to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Picasso’s work did reference a genuine historical event, the bombing of a small Basque village by the Luftwaffe. “Art for Our Time,” after all, was the museum’s notorious tagline. And Picasso himself was as much a North American celebrity as any other...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 171-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-216)