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10 - The Frontiers of Memory: What the Marathas Remembered of Vijayanagara

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2014

Sumit Guha
Affiliation:
Rutgers University
Richard M. Eaton
Affiliation:
University of Arizona
Munis D. Faruqui
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
David Gilmartin
Affiliation:
North Carolina State University
Sunil Kumar
Affiliation:
University of Delhi
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Historians have long struggled with the task of interpreting narratives that although written in the past tense are yet hard, if not impossible to reconcile with each other or indeed, the modern historical sense of there having been a singular past. The usual response has been to ‘mine’ them for historical knowledge as ‘such consciousness is not always visible and has to be prised from sources which tend to conceal it’. Alternatively, we can treat historical texts as literary ones and allow them all to benefit from the suspension of disbelief available to the literary understanding. Thus, Hayden White proposed in 1966 to treat historical explanation as something that ‘can be judged solely in terms of the richness of the metaphors which govern its sequence of articulation’ because, after all, ‘there is no such thing as a single correct view of any object’.

Gabrielle Spiegel, an important scholar of pre-modern narrative has sought a middle ground between these opposed positions arguing that the ‘alternative between seeing language as either perfectly transparent or completely opaque is simply too rigidly framed’. She then pointed out a vital difference between the way that historians and literary scholars needed to approach texts.

But historical contexts do not exist in themselves; they must be defined, and in that sense constructed, by the historian before the interpretive work of producing meaning, of interpreting the past, can begin..…

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Expanding Frontiers in South Asian and World History
Essays in Honour of John F. Richards
, pp. 255 - 274
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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