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Situations

Situations

Chapter:
(p.55) Chapter 2 Situations
Source:
History as a Kind of Writing
Author(s):
Philippe Carrard
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226428017.003.0003

This chapter treats issues of enunciation and point of view. Distinguishing between “voice” and “perspective,” it first asks who is speaking in contemporary French historiography, and in what ways historians may be present in their texts. To answer these questions, it focuses on studies with controversial subject matters that seem to require historians to take sides. Examples include Pétré-Grenouilleau’s work on the slave trade (Les traites négrières, 2004) and Bard’s anthology of essays on antifeminism (Un siècle d’antiféminisme, 1999). Proceeding to point of view, the chapter considers the temporal, spatial, and ideological perspectives “from” which French historians reconstruct the past. How, without resorting to anachronisms, do they account for their own temporal position? How do they describe “what things were like” for the underprivileged when the latter have hardly left any trace in the record? And for whom are they writing, at a time when the human and social sciences have supposedly seen their audience decrease dramatically? Drawing on sales figures provided by French publishers, the analysis distinguishes here between actual and inscribed readers, and asks to what extent their profiles coincide.

Keywords:   enunciation, voice, point of view, perspective, time, space, actual reader, inscribed reader, sales figures, temporal position

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