History and Literature: Reading List

Texts in bold should be read by all participants before the relevant class.

This bibliography and other material relating to the paper are available on the Web at:


Introductory reading

Keith Thomas, History and Literature, Ernest Hughes Memorial Lecture (Swansea, 1988)

Asa Briggs, History and Literature, The Bowra Memorial Lecture, 5 (Cheltenham, 1978)

Lionel Gossman, 'History and Literature: Reproduction or Signification', in The Writing of History, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison, Wisc., 1978), pp. 3-39, or Gossman, Between History and Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1990)

Dominick La Capra, 'Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading Texts', in La Capra, Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language (Ithaca, 1983)


Modern Literary Theory, ed. Ann Jefferson and David Robey (London, 1986)

Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin, Critical Terms for Literary Study (Chicago, 1990)

Companion to Historiography, ed. Michael Bentley (London, 1997)


A. The Writing of History

1a. Narrative in historiography

'Explain Hayden White's concept of "emplotment" with reference to one or more historical texts.'

Historiographical examples

Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople (Cambridge, 1965) (available in paperback)
Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England, ch. X (on the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688)

The best place to start thinking about narrative (before getting on to White) is W.B. Gallie, Philosophy and the Historical Understanding (London, 1964), ch. 2-3

See also:

Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg, The Nature of Narrative (New York, 1966), esp. ch. 6, 'Plot in Narrative'
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics, New Accents (London, 1983), ch. 2-3

Hayden White

Metahistory (Baltimore, 1973), esp. 'Introduction: The Poetics of History', pp. 1-42
'The Historical Text as Literary Artifact', in The Writing of History, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison, Wisc., 1978), pp. 41-62
'The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality', Critical Inquiry, 7 (1980); also in White, The Content of the Form (Baltimore, 1987), pp. 1-25

You will understand White much better if you have previously read: Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, 1957), pp. 162-239 ('Theory of Mythos')

White's greater predecessor in the field of 'metahistory' is Nietzsche:
Friedrich Nietzsche, Vom Nutzen und Nachteil derHistorie für das Leben (1874), the second of the Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen. (On the Utility and Liability of History for Life, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. Ernst Behler, vol. 2: Unfashionable Observations, tr. Richard T. Gray (Stanford, 1995), pp. 83-167.) White discusses Nietzsche in Metahistory, pp. 331-374.

Further reading

Leo Braudy, Narrative Form in History and Fiction: Hume, Fielding, and Gibbon (Princeton, 1970)
J.H. Miller, 'Narrative and History', Journal of English Literary History, 41 (1974), 455-473
Michel de Certeau, L'Ecriture de l'histoire (Paris, 1975); The Writing of History, tr. Tom Conley (New York, 1988)
Louis O. Mink, 'Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument', in The Writing of History: Literary Form and Historical Understanding, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison, Wisc., 1978), pp. 129-149, or Mink, Historical Understanding, ed. Brian Fay, Eugene O. Golob, Richard T. Vann (Ithaca, 1987), pp. 182-203
Dominick La Capra, 'A Poetics of Historiography: Hayden White's Tropics of Discourse', in La Capra, Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language (Ithaca, 1983)
Mark Cousins, 'The Practice of Historical Investigation', in Post-Structuralism and the Question of History, ed. Derek Attridge, Geoff Bennington, Robert Young (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 126-136
Paul Michael Lützeler, 'The Discussion of Narration in the Postmodern Context', in: Fact and Fiction: German History and Literature 1848-1924, ed. Gisela Brude-Firnau and Karin J. MacHardy, Edition Orpheus 2 (Bern, 1990), pp. 57-67
Klaus Weimar, 'Der Text, den (Literar-)Historiker schreiben', in Geschichte als Literatur: Formen und Grenzen der Repräsentation von Vergangenheit, ed. Hartmut Eggert, Ulrich Profitlich, Klaus R. Scherpe (Stuttgart, 1990), pp. 29-39
Peter Burke, 'History of Events and the Revival of Narrative', in New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 233-248
Jörn Rüsen, Studies in Metahistory, ed. Pieter Duvenage (Pretoria, 1993)
Ronald H. Carpenter, History as Rhetoric: Style, Narrative, and Persuasion, Studies in Rhetoric/Communication (Columbia, SC, 1995)
Keith Jenkins, On 'What is History?' from Carr and Elton to Rorty and White (London, 1995)
Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History (London, 1997)
Peter Munz, 'The Historical Narrative', in Companion to Historiography, ed. Michael Bentley (London, 1997), pp. 851-872

1b. Rhetoric in historiography

'What devices do historians use to convince readers of the force of their interpretation?'

Text for study

Jules Michelet, Joan of Arc, ed. Albert Guérard (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1957) (original: Michelet, Histoire de France, Livre X, chs 3-4, in Oeuvres complètes, ed. Paul Viallaneix (1978), VI, 60-122; or Michelet, Jeanne d'Arc, ed. G. Rudler (1925))

The Joan of Arc myth

Gerd Krumeich, 'Joan of Arc between Right and Left', in Nationhood and Nationalism in France from Boulangism to the Great War, 1889-1918, ed. Robert Tombs (London, 1991), pp. 63-73 (summarizing Krumeich, Jeanne d'Arc in der Geschichte: Historiographie, Politik, Kultur (Sigmaringen, 1989))
Robert Gildea, The Past in French History (London and New Haven, 1994), ch. 3

Literary analysis of historiographic texts

Roland Barthes, 'Le discours de l'histoire' (1967), in Barthes, Le Bruissement de la langue (Paris, 1984); English translation in Structuralism: A Reader, ed. Michael Lane (London, 1970), and in Comparative Criticism, 3 (1981). You will understand this essay better if you also read: Barthes, Introduction à l'analyse structurale du récit (1966), Collection Points, 129 (Paris, 1981); English translation in Barthes, Image-Music-Text, tr. Stephen Heath (London, 1977; repr. 1993) and in Barthes, Selected Writings, ed. Susan Sontag (London, 1982), pp. 251-295 (also publ. as A Barthes Reader).

Roland Barthes, Michelet par lui-même (Paris, 1954); English translation as Barthes, Michelet, tr. Richard Howard (New York, 1987)
Stephen Bann, 'Analysing the Discourse of History', Renaissance and Modern Studies (1983), repr. in Bann, The Inventions of History: Essays on the Representations of History (Manchester, 1990)
J. H. Hexter, 'The Rhetoric of History', in Hexter, Doing History (1971)
Ann Rigney, The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three Narrative Histories of the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1990)
H.R. Jauss, 'Der Gebrauch der Fiktion in Formen der Anschauung und Darstellung der Geschichte', in Formen der Geschichtsschreibung, ed. R. Koselleck, H. Lutz, J. Rüsen (München, 1982)
Ronald H. Carpenter, History as Rhetoric: Style, Narrative, and Persuasion (Columbia, SC, 1995)

2a. Periodisation

'What use, if any, is literary, historical, or linguistic periodisation?'

René Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature, ch. 19, 'Literary History' (from 'Exactly analogous problems …' to the end of the chapter) (many editions)

Periodisation and the structure of historical time

Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, Studies in contemporary German thought (Cambridge, Mass., 1985); orig. Koselleck, Vergangene Zukunft: Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten, Suhrkamp Theorie (Frankfurt a.M., 1979), esp. 'Neuzeit: Zur Semantik moderner Bewegungsbegriffe', pp. 211-259 (this essay also in: Studien zum Beginn der modernen Welt, ed. Reinhart Koselleck, Industrielle Welt, 20 (Stuttgart, 1977), pp. 264-299)
Epochenschwelle und Epochenbewußtsein, ed. Reinhart Herzog and Reinhart Koselleck, Poetik und Hermeneutik, 12 (München, 1987)
F. W. Bateson, 'Literary History: Non-Subject par excellence', New Literary History, 2 (1970-71), pp. 115-122
Wolfgang Klein, Epoche, LiLi Sonderheft, 100 (1995)
Périodes: La construction du temps historique. Actes du Ve colloque d'histoire au présent, ed. Olivier Dumoulin (Paris, 1991)
Peter Por, Epochenstil: Plädoyer für einen umstrittenen Begriff, Reihe Siegen, 37 (Heidelberg, 1982)
Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and the Avant-Garde (London, 1995)

2b. Historical agency

'How do literary and historical works portray the role of the masses in the historical process?'

Case study: The French Revolution

Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, Part I, Book v; Book vii, ch. 4 and Part III, Books iv-v
Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (London, 1989) (see the index under Sade, Marat, Corday, Roux; also pp. 602-607, 629-639)
Georg Büchner, Dantons Tod (1835) (many eds.), esp. Act I, ii; Act II, vi-vii; Act III, x; Act IV, iv-ix (English version: Georg Büchner, Danton's Death, in Büchner, Complete Plays, tr. John Reddick, Penguin Classics)
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, esp. Book II, ch. 15-16, 21-22; Book III, ch. 14-15
Peter Weiss, Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Hernn de Sade (1964/65), edition suhrkamp, 68 (Frankfurt a.M., 1965 and later eds.), esp. dramatis personae, scenes 4-8, 19-20, 27,30-33 (English version: Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, tr. by Geoffrey Skelton and Adrian Mitchell (London, 1965))

'Great men' and the people as historical agents

Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), Lecture VI, 'The Hero as King. Cromwell, Napoleon: Modern Revolutionism' (Thomas Carlyle's Works: Ashburton Edition, 17 vols, III/2, pp. 161-200, esp. pp. 161-167 and 195-200)
L.N. Tolstoy, War and Peace, Epilogue, I, ch. 1-4, and II, ch. 1-7
Elias Canetti, Masse und Macht (Frankfurt, 1996; first published 1960); English translation: Crowds and Power (Harmondsworth, 1973)

See Isaiah Berlin, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History (London, 1988; first published 1953)

Further reading on the French Revolution

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. Conor Cruise O'Brien, Pelican Classics (Harmondsworth, 1968), esp. pp.159-175
Jules Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution, V: La Convention, Book IX, chs. 2, 11; Book X, chs. 1, 5, 9
George Rudé, The Face of the Crowd: Studies in Revolution, Ideology and Popular Protest, ed. Harvey J. Kaye (New York and London, 1988)

The historiography of the French Revolution

Pieter Geyl, 'French Historians for and against the Revolution' (1957), in Geyl, Encounters in History (London, 1963), pp. 115-187
Linda Orr, Headless History: Nineteenth-Century French Historiography of the French Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990)
Ann Rigney, The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three Narrative Histories of the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1990)
Jacques Solé, 'The Historiography of the French Revolution', in Companion to Historiography, ed. Michael Bentley (London, 1997), pp. 509-525

Heroes, the people, revolution: other examples

Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks (1901), part IV, ch. 3
Heinrich Mann, Der Untertan (1916), ch. 1 (the last few pages)

A good discussion of how "the people" figure in drama is Hannelore Schlaffer, Dramenform und Klassenstruktur: Eine Analyse der dramatis persona "Volk", Stuttgart 1972

B. History in the literary text

General reading

For the problems of using literature as historical evidence, see:

James Smith Allen, 'History and the Novel: Mentalité in Modern Popular Fiction', History and Theory, 22 (1983), pp. 233-252 (with examples from 19th-century France)
The Writer as Witness: Literature as Historical Evidence, ed. Charles Doherty and Tom Dunne, Historical Studies, 16 (Cork, 1987)

Marxist criticism represents the most far-reaching attempt to historicise literature and the practice of reading. For a sophisticated statement of the Marxist approach, see:

Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (London, 1981), esp. ch. 1, pp. 17-36, 74-102

A more accessible account is given in:

Terry Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism, New Accents (London, 1992) (orig. 1976)

3a. Literature and/or propaganda

'Is Le Silence de la Mer by Vercors literature or propaganda?'

Vercors, Le silence de la mer (many eds.) (English version in Vercors, The Silence of the Sea/La silence de la mer, tr. Cyril Connolly, ed. James W. Brown and Lawrence D. Stokes (New York and Oxford, 1991); this edition also has a useful introduction and notes)

A.P. Foulkes, Literature and Propaganda, New Accents (London, 1983), esp. ch. 1-4

3b. The historical novel

'In what sense is Günter Grass's novella Katz und Maus a piece of historical fiction?'

Günter Grass, Katz und Maus (1961) (many eds.) (English version in Penguin)

See also Alexander Ritter, Erläuterungen und Dokumente: Günter Grass, Katz und Maus (Stuttgart, 1994)

The Historical Novel

The starting point for the discussion of the historical novel is still:

Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel, translated from the German by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell (Harmondsworth, 1962) (orig. publ. 1937)

See also:

Herbert Butterfield, The Historical Novel: An Essay (Cambridge, 1924)
M. Baumgarten, 'The Historical Novel: Some Postulates', Clio, 4 (1975), 173-182
Hans Vilmar Geppert, Der 'andere' historische Roman: Theorie und Strukturen einer diskontinuiertlichen Gattung (Tübingen, 1976)
Murray Krieger, 'Fiction, History, and Empirical Reality', Critical Inquiry, 1 (1974)
Paul Michael Lützeler, 'Geschichtsschreibung und Roman: Aspekte ihrer Interdependenzen', Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, 30/1 (1985), pp. 138-157
Joseph W. Turner, 'The Kinds of Historical Fiction: An Essay in Definition and Methodology', Genre, 12 (1979), 333-355
Elisabeth Wesseling, Writing History as a Prophet: Postmodernist Innovations of the Historical Novel (Amsterdam, 1991)
Patrick Brady, Memory and History as Fiction: An Archetypal Approach to the Historical Novel (Knoxville, 1993)

On the historical novel in national literatures:

Wieslaw Mateusz Malinowski, Le roman historique en France après le Romantisme: 1870-1914 (Poznan, 1989)
Richard Humphrey, The Historical Novel as Philosophy of History: Three German Contributions, Alexis, Fontane, Döblin (London, 1986)
The Modern German Historical Novel: Paradigms, Problems and Perspectives, ed. David Roberts and Philip Thomson (New York/Oxford, 1991)
Madeleine de Gogorza Fletcher, The Spanish Historical Novel, 1870-1970: A Study of Ten Spanish Novelists and their Treatment of the ‘Episodio Nacional’ (London, 1973)
The Historical Novel in Latin America: A Symposium, ed. Daniel Balderston (Gaithersburg, Maryland, 1986)
Seymour Menton, Latin America’s New Historical Novel (Austin, 1993)

Of historical interest:

Allessandro Manzoni, On the Historical Novel, tr. from the Italian by Sandra L. Bermann (Omaha, 1984)

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