Friday, September 26, 2014

Another stab at post modernism

In an ongoing attempt to appreciate the valid points of post modernism, prompted by an attempt to find the nuggets of insight in the somewhat vitriolic and long-winded expositions of Alan Goff in The Inevitability of Epistemology in Historiography, in: Interpretation (A Journal Of Mormon Thought), Vol 9 (2014), pp.111-207, an attack on Dan Vogel and similar "empiricist" historians along the lines of Goff's 2005 FARMS Review Dan Vogel's Family Romance and the Book of Mormon as Smith Family Allegory, both with well over 150 footnotes, I stumbled upon several interesting comments on the discussion between historiography and postmodernism.

The first was Patrick Karl O'Brien's review of Keith Jenkins (ed.), The Postmodern History Reader (Routledge, London, 1997), and Joyce Appleby et al. (eds.), Knowledge and Postmodernism in Historical Perspective (Routledge, London, 1996) from 1999. In it, O'Brien comments on the necessity of taking the warnings of the literary theorists seriously about the roles that emplotment, discourse and narrative play in historiographical work, while explaining the lack of acceptance of the postmodernist stance by the historical community with the accusatory stance, the straw man positions (mostly drawn from 19th century historians, if at all), and the dubious meta-narrative of the Enlightenment project, among others.

It then occurred to me to start looking for positive examples of postmodern historiography, but found no papers by Alun Munslow, whose work I had read in the past, and who O'Brien considers a "serious historian" (ibid). A bit of broadening of the search terms brought me to Xin Liu Gale's Historical Studies and Postmodernism: Rereading Aspasia of Miletus, in: College English, Vol. 62, No. 3, (Jan., 2000), pp. 361-386, which reviews three then-recent approaches to Aspasia of Miletus, all by feminist historians, two of which she faults on feminist terms (the problem of communities of research; the contradictions of source interpretation; the way in which re-imagining can be subverted for non-feminist uses), while the third is praised for providing a Wirkungsgeschichte of Aspasia in the absence of the historical material to pull off a female biography.

This in turn led to Richard Rorty's 1990 Tanner lecture, Feminism and Pragmatism, published in 1992, and The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres, published in 1984 in Rorty et al (ed), Philosophy in History, Cambridge, as Chapter 3. Both papers are now accessible in Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Cambridge 1998. I discuss Feminism and Pragmatism here and Historiography of Philosophy here.

Gale had also referenced an interview between Jacques Derrida and Gary A. Olson on rhetoric and composition in her paper, which I discuss here.

So that was all very interesting and focus changing, but still leaves me short of practicing Postmodern historians.

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