Chapter

Literature, Criticism, and Historical Imagination: The Literary Challenge of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra

Lynn Hunt

in The New Cultural History

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 1989 | ISBN: 9780520064287
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520908925 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520064287.003.0005
Literature, Criticism, and Historical Imagination: The Literary Challenge of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra

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This chapter reviews the work of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra, which is most closely linked with literary theory. It also shows clearly how literary approaches have enabled White and LaCapra to expand the boundaries of cultural history, yet it remains sensitive to the reasons for the continued marginalization of such work. It then illustrates the great variety of literary influences at work. LaCapra stresses (like White) that historians inevitably use narrative structures to define historical knowledge and to separate history from other forms of writing, but he also argues (like White) that these categories must not be taken for the thing itself. Both White and LaCapra indicate that historians might play a greater role in contemporary cultural debates if they opened the discipline to alternative narrative forms. LaCapra wants to connect the historiographical conception of reality with those areas of meaning that literature explores in its greatest works.

Keywords: literary theory; Hayden White; Dominick LaCapra; cultural history; narrative structures; criticism

Chapter.  11160 words. 

Subjects: Theory and Practice of Anthropology

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