Hayden White

(b. 1928)

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Americanhistorian best known for his post-structuralist approach and his emphasis on the importance of tropes in historiography. Educated at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, graduating from the latter with a PhD in 1956, White worked at the University of Rochester, UCLA(University of California Los Angeles), and for the bulk of his career at the University of California Santa Cruz. White became internationally renowned with the publication of Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973), a magisterial work that changed the shape of historiography in the latter part of the 20th century. Discussing the work of the great historians of the 19th century, Jacob Burkhardt, Benedetto Croce, G. W. F Hegel, Jules Michelet, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Leopold von Ranke, White argues that the writing of history is influenced by the choice of narrative type (e.g. comedy, farce, romance, tragedy, etc.) and that this choice reflects ideological conviction. White developed this line of thinking further in the Tropics of Discourse (1978), coining the term ‘tropology’ to delineate his topic.

Further Reading:

F. Ankersmit, E. Domanska, and H. Kellner Re-figuring Hayden White (2009).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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