The conclusion returns to the distinctions between historiographic discourse and fictional discourse. It then surveys the cases where French historians play with the conventions of writing described in the previous chapters. It examines how they modify the standard chronological order in the genre “national history” (Burguière and Revel, eds., Histoire de la France, 2000); how they assemble a study entirely made up of quotations (Artières and Kalifa, Vidal le tueur de femmes, 2001); and how they seek to reconstruct either the life of an unknown (Corbin’s Le monde retrouvé de Louis-François Pinagot, 1998) or one day in the life of a famous person (Buisine’s Proust: Samedi 27 novembre 1909, 1991). It also takes up works in which historians discuss a document found by accident at a flea market (Artières et al., Le dossier Bertrand), or depict the environment in which an encounter between two famous individuals must have taken place, even though it has left no trace in the archives (Boucheron’s Léonard et Machiavel). Though timid and infrequent, these experimental texts show that French historians are capable of innovations, which the scholarly community will welcome as long as they do not imply crossing over to the domains of fiction.
Keywords: fictional discourse, historiographic discourse, experimental history, chronological order, innovation, archive, scholarly community, conventions of writing, Alain Corbin, Patrick Boucheron