What legitimate form can history take when faced by the severe challenges issued in recent years by literary, rhetorical, multiculturalist, and feminist theories? That is the question considered in this long-awaited and pathbreaking book. Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., addresses the essential practical concern of contemporary historians; he offers a way actually to go about reading and writing histories in light of the many contesting theories.
Berkhofer ranges through a vast archive of recent writings by a broad range of authors. He explicates the opposing paradigms and their corresponding dilemmas by presenting in dialogue form the positions of modernists and postmodernists, formalists and deconstructionists, textualists and contextualists. Poststructuralism, the New Historicism, the New Anthropology, the New Philosophy of History--these and many other approaches are illuminated in new ways in these comprehensive, interdisciplinary explorations.
From them, Berkhofer arrives at a clear vision of the forms historical discourse might take, advocates a new approach to historical criticism, and proposes new forms of historical representation that encompass multiculturalism, poetics, and reflexive (con)textualization. He elegantly blends traditional and new methodology; assesses what the "revival of the narrative" actually entails; considers the politics of disciplinary frameworks; and derives coherent new approaches to writing, teaching, reviewing, and reading histories.
A welcome and useful book to all serious students of history… Exactly how should history be presented, if indeed, in the face of poststructuralist and postmodernist theories, it can be written at all? Berkhofer seeks an answer by constructing ‘a dialogue among changing intellectual influences’ and in so doing has produced a work of great importance and instruction.
Beyond the Great Story is an attempt to suggest how the practice and institutional discipline of history can survive the challenges of literary, rhetorical, feminist and multicultural theories. Its spirit is both enthusiastically evangelical and pioneering—appropriate adjectives for a text which itself considers several histories of American colonization… Beyond the Great Story is most interesting in drawing upon such examples—Columbus, the Holocaust, the U.S. Constitution, ‘facts’ about George Washington, Lockridge and Cronon’s histories of American colonialism—from historical practice, which continue to be written within ‘normal’ historical parameters.
This is an intelligent and well-researched book. Berkhofer poses many thoughtful questions and presents an excellent guide to theoretical and historiographical debates.
This book provides an excellent introduction to and survey of recent debates among American historians about history and theory, and its message is that historians should be more self-conscious and self-critical, in a word more reflexive in their writing and reviewing.
A thoughtful book, balanced in its judgments on the subject of postmodernism’s challenge to conventional historical practice… [It] touches down on countless issues…raising many challenges for historians. Its call to innovate and transgress established boundaries is scaffolded on a wide reading and impressive synthesizing of difficult and often oppositional literatures—the evidence of all historiographic comment.
Beyond the Great Story proposes to assist historians in catching up with the important discussions so lively in our sister disciplines about knowledge in the postmodern condition… Berkhofer’s great achievement in this volume is to translate the difficult theoretical discourses of the past two decades into questions for historians and to pose them in a manner that directly and clearly addresses their disciplinary concerns. He does this with skill, comprehensiveness, intelligence, and fairness to all sides of what is often a rancorous debate.
- 400 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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