History and Theory 29 (2):190-204 (1990)

Ranke's work marks a turning point in the development of historiography: it changed from literature to science. Ranke's introduction of reason into historiography gave it a certain aesthetic quality, which modern historical studies have forgotten. Traditional rhetoric, or the use of language for strategic purposes, was discarded for its fictitious nature. In its place, Ranke advocated a synthesis of the scientific principles of research and the more artistic principles of writing history. This synthesis initiated the aesthetics of historiography, and yielded a hidden rhetoric in the form of linguistic patterns of significance, or topoi, which give the facts of the past their sense and meaning for present-day life. Historiography, by its aesthetics, addresses its audience in a way that makes visible the mental forces which constitute the identity of the addressed people in the temporal course of their life. The postmodern recognition of rhetoric in historiography should not lead us back to premodern rhetoric but forward to a rhetoric of historiography which preserves the necessity of liberating reason in historiography and which reflects this reason not simply as a technique of research, but 'With a much wider and deeper approach to historical studies as a question of the aesthetics of historiography
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DOI 10.2307/2505225
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