Hayden White on Narrative

I was looking back through The Houses of History the other day and I was struck (once again) by Hayden White’s article “The Fictions of Factual Representation.”

Here are two excerpts:

“Most nineteenth-century historians did not realize that, when it is a matter of trying to deal with past facts, the crucial consideration for him who would represent them faithfully are the notions he brings to his representation of the ways parts relate to the whole which they comprise.
 
They did not realize that the facts do not speak for themselves, but that the historian speaks for them, speaks on their behalf, and fashions the fragments of the past into a whole whose integrity is—in its representation—a purely discursive one.
 
Novelists might be dealing only with imaginary events whereas historians are dealing with real ones, but the process of fusing events, whether imaginary or real, into a comprehensible totality capable of serving as the object of representation, is a poetic process.”
 
“These fragments have to be put together to make a whole of a particular, not a general kind.”
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