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Narrating the Nation

Narrating the Nation: Representations in History, Media and the Arts

Stefan Berger
Linas Eriksonas
Andrew Mycock
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Narrating the Nation
    Book Description:

    A sustained and systematic study of the construction, erosion and reconstruction of national histories across a wide variety of states is highly topical and extremely relevant in the context of the accelerating processes of Europeanization and globalization. However, as demonstrated in this volume, histories have not, of course, only been written by professional historians. Drawing on studies from a number of different European nation states, the contributors to this volume present a systematic exploration, of the representation of the national paradigm. In doing so, they contextualize the European experience in a more global framework by providing comparative perspectives on the national histories in the Far East and North America. As such, they expose the complex variables and diverse actors that lie behind the narration of a nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-865-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Stefan Berger
  5. Introduction: Narrating the Nation: Historiography and Other Genres
    (pp. 1-16)
    Stefan Berger

    Nation is narration.¹ The stories we tell each other about our national belonging and being constitute the nation. These stories change over time and place and are always contested, often violently so. Few paradigms in the realm of cultural sense-production have been as powerful as the national one, and the prominence of nationalism as an ideology and social movement in the world of today testifies to its continued and global appeal. The need for a better understanding of national narratives and how they have functioned from the early nineteenth century to the present day led the European Science Foundation to...

  6. Part I. Scientific Approaches to National Narratives

    • Chapter 1 Historical Representation, Identity, Allegiance
      (pp. 19-34)
      Allan Megill

      There is a tension in the ‘National Histories in Europe’ project that became clear at the first session of the Glamorgan conference from which this volume is derived. The tension – and it is a legitimate tension – is between, on the one hand, history as offering a disinterested, ‘scientific’ account of historical reality that makes a claim, however attenuated, to objectivity and, on the other, particular human solidarities as objects not just of study but of commitment.¹

      The disinterested, scientific side of the project is manifested throughout the detailed research proposal that the ‘National Histories in Europe’ research network submitted to...

    • Chapter 2 Drawing the Line: ‘Scientific’ History between Myth-making and Myth-breaking
      (pp. 35-55)
      Chris Lorenz

      In December 1985 William McNeill presented a paper to the American Historical Association’s annual meeting. At the time McNeill, who had earned his fame with widely acknowledged books such asThe Rise of the WestandPlagues and People,was president of the AHA and one of the pioneers of a kind of history which has since become known as ‘global history’ or ‘world history’. The title of his paper was as original as it was enigmatic: ‘Mythistory, or Truth, Myth, History, and Historians’. Published in the same year as a chapter in a volume entitledMythistory and Other Essays,...

    • Chapter 3 National Histories: Prospects for Critique and Narrative
      (pp. 56-76)
      Mark Bevir

      A classic national history narrates the formation and progress of a nation-state as a reflection of principles such as a national character, liberty, progress and statehood. Such histories present the state as both reflecting and moulding a national identity or consciousness. What are the prospects for national history today?

      Several recent books carry an aura of nostalgia for national histories. Stefan Collini, Peter Mandler, and Julia Stapleton have all written wistfully about classic national histories, their role in national life, and even the nation itself. Of course, their nostalgia has different tones. Stapleton adopts a belligerent tone; she seeks to...

  7. Part II. Narrating the Nation as Literature

    • Chapter 4 Fiction as a Mediator in National Remembrance
      (pp. 79-96)
      Ann Rigney

      Recent years have seen considerable advances in our understanding of the ways in which societies recollect their past. Where earlier discussions were often derived from psychological models, there has been a growing realisation in various fields that collective memory should be studied in the first instance as a cultural phenomenon: as the product of the historically variable cultural practices that bring images of the past into circulation. After all, communication in some form or other, even if this is only between parent and child, is a prerequisite for transferring recollections and making them social. The past can only be invested...

    • Chapter 5 The Institutionalisation and Nationalisation of Literature in Nineteenth-century Europe
      (pp. 97-116)
      John Neubauer

      Textual criticism is very old, but modern philology, including literary scholarship was born in the decades either side of 1800. I shall argue that the institutionalisation of literary scholarship in the nineteenth century was deeply implicated in the formation and development of modern nationalism. How this Europe-wide process developed, how ideas about national literature crossed borders and assumed new meanings has not yet been explained in an overarching manner, though valuable contributions on individual national literatures have been made.

      Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) first conceived of literary history as an evolving system of individual works and authors, a subsystem of...

    • Chapter 6 Towards the Genre of Popular National History: Walter Scott after Waterloo
      (pp. 117-132)
      Linas Eriksonas

      This chapter opens with an invitation to consider two phenomena: history and genre. Most of the contributions to this volume take genre as a static element in the universe of historical enquiry. They see genre mostly as a prescriptive form that through its narrativity lends meaning and engenders common traits to a corpus of texts – textual or visual – claimed to be of the samegenre.

      In 1986 Ralph Cohen, the founding editor-in-chief ofNew Literary History, the flagship journal of postmodern literary criticism, opened a discussion on the issue with the article ‘History and Genre’.¹ In his essay Cohen rebuked...

    • Chapter 7 Families, Phantoms and the Discourse of ‘Generations’ as a Politics of the Past: Problems of Provenance – Rejecting and Longing for Origins
      (pp. 133-150)
      Sigrid Weigel

      The discourse of ‘generations’ has for some time dominated the GermanZeitgeist.Recently, however, the inception of a new era within this discourse has entered the culture pages of the newspapers, this most sensitive of seismographic instruments when it comes to registering even the tiniest shifts in collective states of mind. In the political sphere, the contract between the generations is becoming the object of negotiations that could possibly end up blowing apart the structures of the social welfare state altogether. At the same time, however, a whole series of films and literary publications are revealing the awakening amongst the...

  8. Part III: Narrating the Nation as Film

    • Chapter 8 Sold Globally – Remembered Locally: Holocaust Cinema and the Construction of Collective Identities in Europe and the US
      (pp. 153-180)
      Wulf Kansteiner

      Nations might exist in many forms but they certainly, perhaps even primarily, exist as narrative constructs. Nations share that characteristic with other identities with which they coexist, for instance, gender, regional or transnational identities.¹ All these forms of social identity can be further understood, according to the classic definition of Henri Tajfel, ‘as that part of the individual’s self-concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership’.²

      Obviously, social identities are subject to considerable contestation about the composition of a group, its particular...

    • Chapter 9 Cannes 1956/1979: Riviera Reflections on Nationalism and Cinema
      (pp. 181-204)
      Hugo Frey

      The French creators of the Cannes International Film Festival had always envisioned the event functioning as a subtle assertion of patriotism. From the outset Cannes was conceived as a national-Republican response to Fascist Italy’s Venice festival (originating in 1932). However, as is often recounted, the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 brought a sudden halt to the first Cannes festival fortnight.¹ War in Europe meant that a competitive celebration of cinema was no longer a priority. Re-launched in 1946, a series of successful mountings of the festival eventually did bolster the myth of French cultural superiority. In Paris...

  9. Part IV: Narrating the Nation as Art and Music

    • Chapter 10 From Discourse to Representation: ‘Austrian Memory’ in Public Space
      (pp. 207-221)
      Heidemarie Uhl

      In the field of memory studies one can distinguish, within ideal-typical contexts, two dominant concepts that Aleida Assmann has vividly characterised as a relationship of tension between ‘solid’ and ‘liquid’:

      We constantly encounter the ‘liquid’ forms of memory in the discursive and visual surroundings of communication society: narrations about the past of the collective – the nation – in various formats: from the fictional plot of TV crime thrillers (for instance, the episode of the ‘Tatort’ (Scene of a Crime) series produced by ÖRF (Austrian Radio and Television) about the restitution of the ‘Aryanized’ paintings of Egon Schiele to historical writings; from...

    • Chapter 11 Personifying the Past: National and European History in the Fine and Applied Arts in the Age of Nationalism
      (pp. 222-245)
      Michael Wintle

      National narratives have been expressed in a variety of different ways, most commonly and perhaps most importantly in print. However, identities and narratives can also be expressed visually, with an often immediate effect that rivals other media in the representation of complex human messages and emotions. This chapter will pay particular attention to ‘the visual’ in the process of narrating the nation. Chronologically the highpoint of national self-assertion among European nations was reached around the time of New Imperialism in the decades before the First World War, a period of intense nationalism. This was also a peak period in the...

    • Chapter 12 The Nation in Song
      (pp. 246-266)
      Philip V. Bohlman

      Two bards sing this chapter into being, resonant with the narratives they intoned to sing in the Ukrainian nation in the seventeenth and nineteenth century (Figures 12. 1 and 12.2).¹ The two bards, a Cossack nobleman, domesticated through the elevation of folk art in the seventeenth century, and Wernyhora, memorialised through the monumental style of the Romantic Polish painter, Jan Matejko (1838–1893), sing of the Ukrainian nation in styles and with national imaginaries that are as strikingly similar as they are different.²

      The Cossack bard turns to music during a moment of rest, the emblems of his power – horse...

  10. Part V: Non-European Perspectives on Nation and Narration

    • Chapter 13 ‘People’s History’ in North America: Agency, Ideology, Epistemology
      (pp. 269-289)
      Peter Seixas

      The protean notion of ‘people’s history’ has multiple meanings in North American culture. It can refer to a narrative whose subject is ‘the people’, i.e. the masses – in contrast to political, economic and social elites – and thus carry a relatively explicit oppositional ideological orientation. It carries this message in Howard Zinn’sA People’s History of the United States as well as in the Radical History Review(1981) section entitled ‘Towards a People’s History’ in an issue on ‘Presenting the Past: History and the Public’.¹ The Review also used ‘people’s history’ as that which could appeal to a broad audience (as...

    • Chapter 14 The Configuration of Orient and Occident in the Global Chain of National Histories: Writing National Histories in Northeast Asia
      (pp. 290-308)
      Jie-Hyun Lim

      Modern historiography has often been a tool to legitimate the nation-state ‘objectively and scientifically’. Despite its proclamation of objectivity and scientific inquiry, modern historiography has promoted the political project of constructing national history. Its underlying logic was to find the course of historical development that led to the nation-state. Thus, national history has made the nation-state both the subject and the object of its own discipline. The ‘Prussian school’ provides a typical example. Not only was Ranke the official historiographer of the Prussian state, Droysen’s distinction between ‘History’ (die Geschichte) and ‘private transactions’ (Geschäfte) also reveals the hidden politics that...

  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 309-314)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-332)
  13. Index
    (pp. 333-348)