THE CULT OF CLIO: A RHETORICIAN’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE ARTS AND ANTICS OF HISTORIANS

Douglas Lawrie

Abstract


This article looks at the art of the historian from a rhetorical perspective. After
distinguishing between two senses history, it looks at the commonplace in the debate
on history and at four basic attitudes towards history. It goes on to suggest (using
examples from the work of Carl Becker and RG Collingwood) that, in spite of major
disagreements among historians, there has been, for about a century, a reasonably
stable common ground in the debate. It is, for instance, generally accepted that
historical accounts do not deal with stable facts, but are incomplete, imaginative
narratives. Nevertheless, it remains useful to distinguish between story and history.
The intertwining of fact and fiction is illustrated at the hand of an example from the
work of Nathalie Zemon Davis. Finally, the question of bias in historiography is
addressed and it is suggested that subjective factors need not stand in the way of a
type of objectivity if the latter is considered as a virtue related to a practice.

Keywords


Historiography, Rhetoric, Narrative, Collingwood, Objectivity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/100-0-662

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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