Historical Narration: Foundation, Types, Reason

History and Theory 26 (4):87-97 (1987)

Historical narration is a system of mental operations defining the field of historical consciousness. It is poetic in that it is the performance of creative activity by the human mind in the process of historical thinking. The purpose of historical narration is to make sense of the experience of time in order to orient practical life in the course of time. Three elements distinguish an historical narration from other forms of narration: an historical narration is tied to the medium of memory; it organizes the three dimensions of time in a concept of continuity; and it establishes the identity of its authors and listeners. In order to develop the concepts of continuity and the stability of identity, an historical narration must fulfill four functions: affirmation, regularity, negation, and transformation. Four types of historical narration correspond to these four functions: traditional, exemplary, critical, and genetical. There is a natural progression through these four types of narration, with critical narration serving as a catalyst. The four types are present in all historical texts, one dominating, the others secondary. Modern historical studies are unique in being informed by theoretically and methodologically organized empirical research. The articulation of theories in history means a progress in reasoning. This affects the role of the concept of continuity of time, which is no longer a given and has become a subject of discussion
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DOI 10.2307/2505047
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