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At the end of a piece of historical writing it is usual for the writer to look back over the terrain covered, to draw together ideas and suggest conclusions, to point up significances and to identify connections. Most historical writing, like many other kinds of writing, is part of a wider metaphysical and psychological desire to seek order and coherence in the random and disparate events of not only the past, but our contemporary lives. In order to achieve such unity and coherence it always becomes necessary to reduce and suppress elements or ‘voices’ that threaten to disturb the ordered patterns desired by both writer and reader. As a result, as the work of Hayden White and Dominick La Capra has argued, historians inevitably find themselves using narrative structures and devices that are more commonly associated with the construction of literary fictions, and in particular the forms associated with the nineteenth century realist novel (White, 1987; La Capra, 1983). Historians frequently adopt the role of omniscient narrator, ordering the ‘voices’ in their narrative into a hierarchy in which the narrator’s ‘voice’ is the most fully coherent and most explanatory, interpreting and synthesising events, practices and their representations into patterns that satisfy our desire to know ‘how it really was’.
KeywordsPrivate Life Century Realist Historical Writing Literary Fiction Interior Decoration
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