Escaping History

Alan Liu

in Local Transcendence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780226486956
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226486970 | DOI:
Escaping History

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This chapter speculates at once retrospectively and prospectively on the function of the New Historicism in the age of the database. In the New Historicism and other forms of postmodern cultural criticism, history both emerges from the buzzing, blooming swarm of events caught in the great matrix of detail and escapes in the noise of that detail. Similarly, history manifests and sublimes in databases, both emerges in the tables, records, fields, and joins that are the structure of the modern relational database (implemented in SQL, or Structured Query Language) and escapes all such holding structures. Whether in the form of the New Historicism or of a database, contemporary postmodern historicism is an escape structure. The chapter starts with a note recounted by Charles Babbage, goes on to consider the relational database, and concludes by reflecting, once again, on the New Historicism.

Keywords: New Historicism; database; cultural criticism; Structured Query Language; postmodern historicism; Charles Babbage

Chapter.  8952 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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