The Past As Text

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Overview

Postmodernism has challenged historians to look at historical texts in a new way and to be skeptical of the claim that one can confidently retrieve "fact" from historical writings. In The Past as Text historian Gabrielle M. Spiegel sets out to read medieval histories and chronicles in light of the critical-theoretical problems raised by postmodernism. At the same time she urges a method of analysis that enables the reader to recognize these texts simultaneously as artifice and as works deeply embedded in a historically determinate, knowable social world. Beginning with a theoretical basis for the study of medieval historiography, Spiegel demonstrates her theory in practice, offering readings of medieval histories and chronicles as literary, social, and political constructions. The study insightfully concludes that historians should be equally aware of the discursive nature, literary modes, and ideological investments of such texts and the social circumstances to which they were applied and by which they were generated. Arguing for the "social logic of the text," Spiegel provides historians with a way to retrieve the social significance and conceptual claims produced by these medieval or any historical writings.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Virginia Quarterly Review
Spiegel, in elegant and thoughtful fashion, and with a deep understanding of the period, provides us with a skillful analysis of the sources, their inter-connections, and the motives of their authors, which makes this a very useful and worthwhile book.
Virginia Quarterly Review

Spiegel, in elegant and thoughtful fashion, and with a deep understanding of the period, provides us with a skillful analysis of the sources, their inter-connections, and the motives of their authors, which makes this a very useful and worthwhile book.

Booknews
Spiegal (history, Johns Hopkins U.) reads long familiar medieval histories and chronicles in light of the critical-theoretical problems raised by postmodernism. She advocates a method of analysis that recognizes the texts both as artifice and as works deeply embedded in a historically determinate and knowable world. Versions of all but two of the 11 chapters have been published previously. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Gabrielle M. Spiegel is a professor of history at the Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of The Chronicle Tradition of Saint-Denis: A Survey and Romancing the Past: The Rise of Vernacular Prose Historiography in Thirteenth-Century France.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Theory
1 History, Historicism, and the Social Logic of the Text 3
2 Orations of the Dead/Silences of the Living: The Sociology of the Linguistic Turn 29
3 Towards a Theory of the Middle Ground 44
4 In the Mirror's Eye: The Writing of Medieval History in North America 57
2 Practice
5 Political Utility in Medieval Historiography: A Sketch 83
6 Genealogy: Form and Function in Medieval Historiography 99
7 The Reditus Regni and Stirpem Karoli Magni: A New Look 111
8 The Cult of Saint Denis and Capetian Kingship 138
9 History as Enlightenment: Suger and the Mos Anagogicus 163
10 Social Change and Literary Language: The Textualization of the Past in Thirteenth-Century Old French Historiography 178
11 Medieval Canon Formation and the Rise of Royal Historiography in Old French Prose 195
Notes 213
Index 287
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