Foucault and theoretical approaches to history

Toltec

Ad Honorem
Apr 2008
7,923
Hyperborea
I don't presonally view history as a science, I think it should firmly placed in the cantagory of the humanities. History is an act of narrative construction. It all depends on the selection of facts to create your narrative. I think Foucault is particularly effective at pointing this out, how narrative constructs reality, etc. I think it's an important distinction. Is history a science or is it merely an interpretive exercise. I also think Foucault is helpful in viewing science as a construction. The questions one chooses to ask predetermine answers. It's all about position in society etc.
To bring Nietzsche into it, one thing about history is it patently isn't true and for Niezsche nihilism is the belief in something that isn't true. So historians are nihilists. But something is lost in this equation, appreciation of the creativity needed to make up a successful narrative. Being a historian is about blinding oneself to about the narrative side of things and pretending it's all facts.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,154
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
Then maybe you may be kind enough for explaining me: should literary writing take precedence to or even displace the rigorous analysis of evidence for the work of any historian?
If you phrase it that way the answer is 'no'.
However the point she was making in that quote was not of an either/or choice but that one should eschew obfuscation.

I hope that answers the question.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
If you phrase it that way the answer is 'no'.
However the point she was making in that quote was not of an either/or choice but that one should eschew obfuscation.

I hope that answers the question.
If you mean that the historical work should be clear and unambiguous in its language and I state that it should be backed by the best available evidence, it would be hard to find any disagreement between us.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,154
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
If you mean that the historical work should be clear and unambiguous in its language and I state that it should be backed by the best available evidence, it would be hard to find any disagreement between us.
We are on the same page.
 
Mar 2010
297
New Orleans, LA (well in August anyway)
I do U.S. South history, and we tend to be a little slower on theory (not to say no one uses it). I have read some Laquer (sp?). There does seem to be higher reticence in history to let go of the idea of "facts," and embrace the philosophical and narrative aspects of historical inquiry. It seems more important how an observer perceived the event than the facts of the actual event, and what that can tell the historian about more general ideas of human behavior. Does that make any sense?
 
Mar 2010
297
New Orleans, LA (well in August anyway)
This interest is also why I think Sensory history may be the next "it" approach.
 
Aug 2009
208
In that case it might be worth looking at some of Carlo Ginzburg's work. Eminently readable and worthwhile too - The Cheese and the Worms and The Night Battles are both great fun.
 
Mar 2010
297
New Orleans, LA (well in August anyway)
I have been meaning to read the Cheese and the Worm. One of my undergrad profs described it as essential reading before grad school.