In academia, the traditional role of the humanities is being questioned by the “posts”—postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postfeminism—which means that the project of writing history only grows more complex. In History as a Kind of Writing, scholar of French literature and culture Philippe Carrard speaks to this complexity by focusing the lens on the current state of French historiography.
Carrard’s work here is expansive—examining the conventions historians draw on to produce their texts and casting light on views put forward by literary theorists, theorists of history, and historians themselves. Ranging from discussions of lengthy dissertations on 1960s social and economic history to a more contemporary focus on events, actors, memory, and culture, the book digs deep into the how of history. How do historians arrange their data into narratives? What strategies do they employ to justify the validity of their descriptions? Are actors given their own voice? Along the way, Carrard also readdresses questions fundamental to the field, including its necessary membership in the narrative genre, the presumed objectivity of historiographic writing, and the place of history as a science, distinct from the natural and theoretical sciences.