Summary: The Historical Text As Literary Artefact

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In "Historical Text as Literary Artifact," Hayden White compares historiography with literature. Historians must rely on a "historical imagination," such as filling in the blanks or making assumptions about events. History is a "constructive" enterprise, and historians are trained to perceive patterns that may or may not have actually existed. If historians rely on the "historical imagination," as they must to complete their task, then historiography and historical literature are qualitatively similar. White admits that the "conflation of mythic and historical consciousness will offend some historians and disturb"¦literary theorists," (1713). Yet these two seemingly distinct disciplines have more points of convergence than is often assumed. The sensitivity surrounding White's claim stems from a common presumption that historiography equals absolute fact, whereas literature equals absolute fiction. Historians use literary techniques and even poetic devices to craft historiographies that are compelling for readers. For example, a historian may construct a plot or narrative based on a series of events or on biographical data. A fiction author likewise relies on historical events and biographical data to construct plots: a process White calls "emplotment," (1714). Emplotment is basically the "encodation of facts," (White 1714). The storyteller is a historian, for no fiction is created out of thin air. Likewise, the historian is a storyteller, for readers of history require a

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