The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957-2007

The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957-2007


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Hayden White is celebrated as one of the great minds in the humanities. Since the publication of his groundbreaking monograph, Metahistory, in 1973, White’s work has been crucial to disciplines where narrative is of primary concern, including history, literary studies, anthropology, philosophy, art history, and film and media studies.

This volume, deftly introduced by Robert Doran, gathers in one place White’s important—and often hard-to-find—essays exploring his revolutionary theories of historical writing and narrative. These texts find White at his most essayistic, engaging a wide range of topics and thinkers with characteristic insight and elegance.

The Fiction of Narrative traces the arc and evolution of White’s field-defining thought and will become standard reading for students and scholars of historiography, the theory of history, and literary studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801894800
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Pages: 424
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Hayden White is a professor of comparative literature at Stanford University and a professor emeritus of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His books include Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, 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, all published by Johns Hopkins. Robert Doran is an assistant professor of French and comparative literature at the University of Rochester and editor of a collection of essays by René Girard, Mimesis and Theory: Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953–2005.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note
Editor's Introduction
1. Collingwood and Toynbee: Transitions in English Historical Thought
2. Religion, Culture, and Western Civilization in Christopher Dawson's Idea of History
3. The Abiding Relevance of Croce's Idea of History
4. Romanticism, Historicism, and Realism: Toward a Period Concept for Early Nineteenth-Century Intellectual History
5. The Tasks of Intellectual History
6. The Culture of Criticism: Gombrich, Auerbach, Popper
7. The Structure of Historical Narrative
8. What Is a Historical System?
9. The Politics of Contemporary Philosophy of History
10. The Problem of Change in Literary History
11. The Problem of Style in Realistic Representation: Marx and Flaubert
12. The Discourse of History
13. Vico and Structuralist/Poststructuralist Thought
14. The Interpretation of Texts
15. Historical Pluralism and Pantextualism
16. The "Nineteenth Century" as Chronotope
17. Ideology and Counterideology in Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism
18. Writing in the Middle Voice
19. Northrop Frye's Place in Contemporary Cultural Studies
20. Storytelling: Historical and Ideological
21. The Suppression of Rhetoric in the Nineteenth Century
22. Postmodernism and Textual Anxieties
23. Guilty of History? The longue durée of Paul Ricoeur

What People are Saying About This

Judith Butler

This quite extraordinary volume covers fifty years of thoughtful and provocative analysis by the world’s most formidable scholar of historical practice. These essays offer up Hayden White as a superb stylist, capacious, earnest, iconoclastic, dedicated to lucid pedagogy, time and again showing how history and literature are inextricably related and bringing into the open the rhetorical underpinnings of narrative and nonnarrative history. Reflecting key moments in the intellectual development of a thinker whose insights have now become indelible features of the intellectual landscape, this volume confirms White’s reputation as the ironic Vico for our times: trenchant, surprising, brilliant, indefatigable.

Fredric Jameson

Hayden White’s theoretical prominence in the areas of historiography, tropology, and narratology is well known and deservedly influential. We know him less well as a lively and astute analyst of specific texts. This collection—which ranges from historians to philosophers, from literary history to cultural analysis—is a splendid resource and a pleasure to read.

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The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory, 1957-2007 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
BlackSheepDances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Fiction of Narrative, Hayden White, essays Essays on History, Literature, and Theory 1957-2007This book was hard. Really. That¿s the first thing to say. Some of the concepts were so over my head I didn¿t even know where to begin. So I put it down, and did some research on Hayden White, the author of this collection of essays. Turns out he¿s a rock star in the world of narrative theory and literature. Born in 1928, he produced these essays independently, before Robert Doran, the editor, compiled them as one unit for Johns Hopkins Press.I needed to learn a few things first. ¿Tropes¿, for one. These are figures of speech that allow for metaphors, irony, and allegory to fit in with a narrative. For example, saying that a policeman is ¿the long arm of the law¿ is a trope. Get it? When a news outlet says, ¿The White House reports that¿¿ we know that they mean a representative of the White House stated something, not that the building itself spoke. White discusses these tropes at length, and it appears that he asserts that you can identify a period in history by the tropes used to describe the time. I¿m way too dumb to analyze that.However, I did continue with the book and I have what I hope is a basic grasp of White¿s theories on literature and history. He takes to task those who say a history book is a neutral text, and that history can be described without any political leanings or personal slant. And the use of tropes is just one way to reveal the subtle motives an author may have within his text.In terms of history, the editor Robert Doran noted, after discussing the literary technique of foreshadowing, that ¿and so with history: to confer meaning retrospectively, to see one event in light of another as narrativistically connected (if not constructed), is precisely what history does. Obviously, the French Revolution would have a very different significance if the Axis powers had prevailed during World War II¿And how could the election of the first black president of a nation founded by slave owners not be regarded as the figural and ultimately ironic fulfillment of the national ideals as set forth in this nation¿s constitution.¿ So in viewing a past via present knowledge surely changes how that past is interpreted, and how it is explained.Of the essays included, my favorite was ¿The Structure of Historical Narrative¿ that White wrote in 1972. Partly because of recent research on de Tocqueville and partly because of how he explains literary conventions in a historical setting, I found this essay fascinating. He takes two iconic works of history and contrasts their styles. One is de Tocqueville¿s Democracy in America (remember Parrot & Olivier?) and the other is Leopold von Ranke¿s History of Germany during the Age of the Reformation (other works are mentioned as well). White states that Ranke¿s work ¿tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and end¿.its subject is an entity that is undergoing a process of change from one condition to another while remaining identifiably what it was all along¿it ¿explains¿ what happened during the process of change.¿Contrasting this is Democracy in America, which has an indeterminate style that lacks the framework of Ranke¿s book. Instead ¿it can be said to have a kind of beginning, consisting of a background sketch of how democracy was born in Europe¿ and then goes on to give ¿an account of the institutions and forces in play in American democracy at the time of the writing of the book.¿ So it doesn¿t fit the story model that Ranke uses, and instead leaves the conclusion to be drawn from what the reader knows. This of course, changes by who the reader is, as well as the fact that future readers in succeeding generations will be able to apply to it what they¿ve seen occur in history since. What I took from this, both as a reader and a wannabe author, is that structuring a narrative is far more than throwing in a few twists, some clues, some memorable characters, and a stunning denouement.