Paul A. Roth on The Fiction of Narrative: Essays on History, Literature, and Theory 1957–2007. By Hayden White. Edited with an introduction by Robert Doran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Pp. 382 [Book Review]

History and Theory 52 (1):130-143 (2013)


To claim that Hayden White has yet to be read seriously as a philosopher of history might seem false on the face of it. But do tropes and the rest provide any epistemic rationale for differing representations of historical events found in histories? As an explanation of White’s influence on philosophy of history, such a proffered emphasis only generates a puzzle with regard to taking White seriously, and not an answer to the question of why his efforts should be worthy of any philosophical attention at all. For what makes his emphasis on narrative structure and its associated tropes of philosophical relevance? What, it may well be asked, did any theory that draws its categories from a stock provided by literary criticism contribute to explicating problems with regard to the warranting of claims about knowledge, explanation, or causation that represent those concerns that philosophy typically brings to this field? Robert Doran’s anthologizing of previously uncollected pieces, ranging as they do over a literal half-century of White’s published work, offers an opportunity to identify explicitly those philosophical themes and arguments that regularly and prominently feature there. Moreover, White’s essays in this volume demonstrate a credible knowledge of and interest in mainstream analytic philosophers of his era and also reveal White as deeply influenced by or well acquainted with other important philosophers of history. White thus invites a reading of his work as philosophy, and this volume presents the opportunity for accepting it as such

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Paul A. Roth
University of California, Santa Cruz

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