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2 - The Dynamics of the Classic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 February 2024

Jaume Aurell
Affiliation:
University of Navarra
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Summary

This chapter focuses on some specific features of the historical classic, offering a series of reflections to expand a debate on this complex topic. Based on some examples of the Western historiographical tradition, I discuss to what extent historians should engage the concept of the classic, as has been done for literary and artworks. I will argue that it is possible to identify a category of the classic text in historical writing. Because of their narrative condition, historical texts share some of the features assigned to literary texts such as durability, timelessness, universal meaningfulness, resistance to historical criticism, susceptibility to multiple interpretations, and ability to function as models. Yet, since historical texts do not construct imaginary worlds but try to achieve some realities external to the text, they also have to attain some specific features according to this referential content, such as the surplus of meaning, historical use of metaphors, effect of contemporaneity, and a certain appropriation of ‘literariness’.

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Chapter
Information
What Is a Classic in History?
The Making of a Historical Canon
, pp. 87 - 137
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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