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