[Humanist] 23.570 why history

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Jan 15 09:45:01 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 570.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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  [1]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (21)
        Subject: Re: why history

  [2]   From:    "Brian A. Bremen" <bremen at uts.cc.utexas.edu>             (105)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.567 why history

        Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 09:00:09 -0500 (EST)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Re: why history
        In-Reply-To: <20100114061442.2F00346780 at woodward.joyent.us>


History writing teaches us the gentle art of sorting. Or so one gathers
from the concluding words from an interview with American poet Edward
Sanders in New Letters, Volume 76, Number 1

I've learned, is that historians are not a violent group, but they're
contentious. Each point in history can be debated. There's a fact
blizzard, an unbelievable amount of facts in the timelines of history.
There's an unbelievable number, trillions of factional units one can
choose. Then your own taste and your own abilities, your own historical
outlook, your own politics, your own ethics, your own set of what's right
and wrong, your own beliefs about the goodness or badness of something,
your upbringing, your belief in spirituality and the afterlife, your
non-belief in spirituality and the afterlife, your education, and
everything comes into play as you choose to pluck the heart of your verse
with all those possible notes. So in writing my history, I reject a lot of
stuff. I agonize about this stuff. You have to say no. Like when you're
selecting poems for a book. You're always breaking the hearts of your
poems, if they were alive, when you don't put them in a book. It's the
same way with history.

        Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 10:45:09 -0600
        From: "Brian A. Bremen" <bremen at uts.cc.utexas.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.567 why history
        In-Reply-To: <20100114061442.2F00346780 at woodward.joyent.us>

I can't believe I almost forgot my very favorite-  Kenneth Burke's,  
"The Conversation of History":

Imagine that you enter a parlor.  You come late.  When you arrive,  
others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated  
discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you  
exactly what it is about.  In fact, the discussion had already begun  
long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified  
to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before.  You listen for  
a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the  
argument;  then you put in your oar.  Someone answers;  you answer  
him;  another comes to your defense;  another aligns himself against  
you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent,  
depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance.  However, the  
discussion is interminable.  The hour grows late, you must depart.   
And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

             Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form (1941)



Brian A. Bremen
Associate Professor
English Department
1 University Station, B5000
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX   78712-0195

Office:  Parlin 127                       email:  bremen at uts.cc.utexas.edu
Phone:  512-471-7842                                      Fax:   

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