Category Archives: Historiography

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

from Aphorisms, Notebook J (1789-1793)
by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

We cannot remember too often that when we observe nature, and especially the ordering of nature, it is always ourselves alone we are observing.

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Castles in Communities

A quick update from Castles in Communities– read all about it here.

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Filed under Bagatelle, Historiography

Epicurus

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

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Kurt Vonnegut


Brilliant.

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Walt Whitman

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

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Filed under Ephemeron, Historiography, Poems

African Proverb

Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunters.

Editorial:
It may help to accept as axiomatic the notion that history is a worthwhile pursuit that produces a useful product. I can wrestle with the fairness of this statement later. For now I consider the idea that history is written by the victors. Other posts that dance around this topic include quotes from Orwell, Faulkner, and Kundera.
Do a nation and its writers create a history that justifies the rightness of its actions? Well, after smashing through Tunisia and creaming their enemies the Romans could (and did) portray the defeated Carthaginians as miserable barbarians. We don’t know how the poor (dead) historians in Carthage would have told the story. We see the same imbalance in the narratives about the colonization of the Americas, where European destruction and domination were repackaged as discovery. As we have been taught by Subaltern Studies this does not mean there are not alternative histories that undercut the dominant history, for example feminist history, class history, ethnic history, etc. The joy in looking at this closely is in being able to suss out the public and private mechanisms that serve the purpose of promoting the central history and burying the marginal histories: nationally standardized systems of education, production of state ceremonies and pastimes, state systems of accounting and archiving, and ginormous news agencies. Keep that in mind next time you look at a high school curriculum, watch a helicopter land at the White House, sit down for Thanksgiving, file your taxes, or read a newspaper. It is all quite deliberate!

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Filed under Editorial, Historiography, Quotes, Subjectivity

Milan Kundera

And you should not be astonished or incensed, for this is the most obvious thing in the world: man is separated from the past (even from the past only a few seconds old) by two forces that go instantly to work and cooperate: the force of forgetting (which erases) and the force of memory (which transforms).
It is the most obvious thing, but it is hard to accept, for when one thinks it all the way through, what becomes of all the testimonies that historiography relies on? What becomes of our certainties about the past, and what becomes of History itself, to which we refer every day in good faith, naively, spontaneously? Beyond the slender margin of the incontestable (there is no doubt that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo), stretches an infinite realm: the realm of the approximate, the invented, the deformed, the simplistic, the exaggerated, the misconstrued, an infinite realm of nontruths that copulate, multiply like rats, and become immortal.
The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts (2005), “The Novel, Memory, Forgetting”

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Filed under Historiography, Quotes