Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

Additional Information In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Essays on Literature, Mimesis, and Anthropology. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Hayden White, Tropics ofDiscourse:

Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

Narrativity and the Linguistic Turn: Situating the Texts In the latter half of the twentieth century, critiquing the Hempelian deductive-nomological model, historians and philosophers of history entered into a discussion on the narrative mode in history writing.

While the Annales School, for example, critiqued the conventional political and individual-oriented narratives and argued for the introduction of the methods of the social sciences into history, others such as Collingwood, Danto, Dray, Gaille etc. To support this view, they pointed to that something in historical writing that is beyond objective analysis, and to the idea that the past is constructed, not discovered or merely described by historians.

The investigation into the narrative form was rooted in the view that language was an important instrument of meaning-making, and that the rhetoric of historical writing rendered it irreducible to a mere chain of facts or causal explanations.

Viewing the writing of historical narratives as a semiotic or linguistic activity opens up the possibility of exploring this rhetorical construction, its latent and manifest assumptions and figurative modes.

It is in this context that we can situate the writings of Hayden White and Louis Mink, who have been seminal figures in the narrative and linguistic turn in the philosophy of history since the s and in emphasizing the relationship between history, narrative and rhetoric.

This review specifically deals with the essays by Hayden White in his collections Tropics of Discourse: After briefly highlighting their central propositions this Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism will raise certain questions and issues in the latter halves of the following sections, with respect to some of the assumptions and views held by White and Mink.

Essays in Cultural Criticism

Essays in Cultural Criticism, White deals with the nature of historical interpretation and narrative, by examining the latent assumptions, premises and figurations underlying historical writing as a literary endeavour.

White finds it appropriate to first discuss the place of history in the intellectual milieu of the late twentieth century. Instead, the elucidative strategies, nature and possibilities in the writing of history must be explored.

The fundamental proposition that White offers is that discourse constitutes the objects which it only pretends to describe realistically and analyze objectively, with the use of various tropes, styles and figures of speech.

The latter is given shape to by the former, and does not possess an independent reality. It is in this sense that literature and history operate in similar ways. Analyzing 19th century authors to understand how these two choices function in narrative history, White locates in Michelet, Ranke, Tocqueville and Burckhardt the linguistic prefigurations of metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony respectively.

Their genres, respectively, were romance, comedy, tragedy and satire. He also discusses the preferred modes of other philosophers such as Marx metonymy and synecdocheNietzsche metaphor and Croce irony.

Each genre or prefiguration also has its own respective explanative mode: Lastly, White maps the four modes of figuration, genres and explanations on to anarchist, conservative, radical and liberal ideological implications.

Tropics of discourse essays in cultural criticism

As a result of the combination of these styles which may not, as he qualifies, always falls neatly into the correspondence detailed above each prefigurative mode, which is present even before the narrative is composed, entails a different mode of emplotment. The conflicting conclusions of different historians who look at the same data is a consequence of this difference in figurative and emplotment modes.

The plot of the narrative, thus, is not embedded in the past but is imposed on it by the historian and the same literary resources are necessarily used by her in narrative history as by a writer of fiction.

Historical narratives are not signs of signified events, but rather they are symbolic structures that liken elements of history to forms we are already familiar with; history therefore does not reproduce, but calls to mind, just as a metaphor does, the images of things indicated.

This understanding is tropological and not logical in nature, for it renders the unfamiliar into the familiar through figurative troping. Thus truth in history and in fiction is a function of the culturally derived forms.

Further, assessing the truth value of all the statements in narrative is not tantamount to ascertaining the validity of a narrative interpretation. Though white shifts the focus from the ontological value of history, he does not claim that the literary nature of history precludes its epistemological value.

By WHITE Hayden

He sustains this position in the second collection of essays reviewed here titled The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation, where, the essay The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory discusses the various positions of theorists like Barthes, Derrida, Mandelbaum, Gay, Gallie, Dray, Braudel, Levi-Strauss, Jacobson, Danto, Lotman, Mink, and Ricoeur as well as the semiologist, hermeneuticist and analytic philosophic positions, to argue that the value of history cannot be reduced to its truth value.

As in Tropics, White points to our natural impulse to narrate as connected to our natural meaning-making disposition. Gall and the chronicle History of France by Richerus of Rheimsarguing that they are merely chronological and without explanations or elaborations or any kind of problematization of the social contexts of the events listed.

He writes that to look at life as narratively structured would endow history with a meaningfulness which could allow human beings to feel morally responsible for their lives. In other words, a given social and political order is maintained by being narrativized, he argues, since narratives make certain realities possible.

Thus, the form of the narrative shapes and adds to its content.Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism at Read honest and unbiased product reviews from our users.

White, Hayden, “The Burden of History,” in in Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, ), White, Richard ().


INTRODUCTION: TROPOLOGY, DISCOURSE, AND THE MODES essays, and that is why I have entitled them as I have done. The Writing of History: Theories and Practices History David Nasaw Fall, To explore the meaning of the “cultural” in cultural history and the “social” in Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism.

Johns Hopkins University Press, “The Burden of . This essay argues that the critical practice of New Historicism is a mode of “literary” history whose “literariness” lies in bringing imaginative operations closer to the surface of nonliterary texts and briefly describes some of the practice's leading literary features and strategies.

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