Event Date: 20, 21 and 23 February 2012
Clore Management Centre
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1E 7HX
Hayden White – Masterclass
Theme of the Masterclass:
The question is this: what’s wrong with mixing fiction and history? A number of post-World War II novels (Beloved, Austerlitz, Disgrace, The Plot against America, The Journey, The Crying of Lot 49, The Untouchable, Shroud, The Report, Underground, etc., etc.) not only mix fiction with history (after the manner of the traditional historical novel of Scott, Manzoni, Tolstoy, etc.), but actually–so it is held–confuse historical fact with literary fiction in such a way as to “aestheticize” history, “fictionalize” real historical events, and deprive crucial historical events such as the Holocaust of their moral and cognitive significance.
Such a view of the (postmodernist) situation depends primarily on a conception of fiction or the fictive that has been long since transcended in practice by modernist literary writing and in theory by conceptualizations of fiction as a supplement of (rather than as an alternative to) historical (and any other idea of) reality.
To be examined: the epistemic status of fiction or the fictive in the light of modernist notions of imagination, the imaginary, dream, fantasy, and delusion and the relation of these to the novelesque; analysis of the difference between the concept and the figure in meaning-production; the possibility of figurative referentiality, differences between “the historical past” and “the practical past” (Oakeshott), aestheticist ideology (Eagleton), and the like.
Reading in the work of Primo Levi, Benjamin Wilkomirski, H.G. Adler, Sebald, Morrison, J. Ranciere, Isser, Barthes, Castoriadis, Lacan, Althusser, Friedländer, and who knows? Proust, James, Kafka? I provide handouts of the passages of texts to be discussed.
Day one: Truth and Disbelief I [AUDIO HERE]
Day two: Truth and Disbelief II [AUDIO HERE]
Day three: Truth and Disbelief III [AUDIO HERE]