Writing in History: Narrating the Subject of Time

Published on Jan 1, 1995in Journal of Biological Rhythms2.47
· DOI :10.1177/0741088395012001003
Sharon Stockton2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Dickinson College)
Student writing in history courses, graded evaluation of that writing, and faculty interviews all reveal a contradiction between the stated and implicit aims of historical discourse. The explicit definition of writing in history is “argumentation”; the implicit expectation, however, is for narrative. This apparent contradiction highlights what the author argues is the central function of academic historical discourse: the establishment of an autonomous subject of meaning who is always speaking from outside history about a distant and objectified past. Students are rarely aware of the importance of this voice, even at an unconscious level, because faculty themselves fail to articulate for students the distinctive nature of their genre or the function of historical discourse generally. This project thus builds on previous studies in rhetoric by using the work of theorists of history to identify more precisely what it is in historical discourse that is hidden from student view—the autonomous, transhistorical...
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