Questioning History: The Postmodern Turn to the Eighteenth Century
Questioning History examines the historiography of postmodern phenomena (the metafictions of Jeanette Winterson, Patrick Suskind, Susan Sontag, Allen Kurzweil, Wole Soyinka, and others, as well as the representation of modern film and photography, architecture, and race) in relation to the eighteenth-century texts that they ventriloquize, including those of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, John Bunyan, John Dryden, John Gay, William Hogarth, Horace Walpole, Denis Diderot, Pierre de Laclos, and Johann Herder. "History" occupies a central yet ambiguous position in both eighteenth-century studies and postmodernism. The impact of recent theory on eighteenth-century studies has expanded the concept of history, focusing attention on marginal and alternative discourses, genres, and subjectivities. Simultaneously, the traditional eighteenth-century paradigms of reason, truth, and nature have been identified as underlying the modern concepts of self, gender, sex, nation, race, representation, truth, and history that postmodern and postcolonial critiques challenge in the name of a more liberated and pluralistic problematics. Questioning History (together with its forthcoming companion volume, Making History: Textuality and the Forms of Eighteenth-Century Culture) is a collection of essays that identifies this postmodern challenge, but questions its version of eighteenth-century historiography by demonstrating that historiography is to be complicit with and implicit in the postmodern project itself. By identifying a dialogic rather than a monologic relation between postmodern and Enlightenment discourses, this work offers a theoretically and historically nuanced account of eighteenth-century liminality, and makes a timely and original contribution to the study of the eighteenth century and its appropriation by postmodernism.
Contributors: Julie C. Hayes, Allen Michie, Greg Clingham, Lee Morrissey, Philip E. Baruth, Nancy M. West, Clement Hawes, William C. Mottolese, and Bob Chase.
About the editor:
Greg Clingham is Professor of English and Director of the University Press at Bucknell University. He has published extensively on eighteenth-century literature and historiography, and is currently working on a project entitled "Narrative and the Ends of Law, 1650-1850."
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