can you answer this?

Answer the BOLD question at the end. Answer does not need to exceed a few paragraphs.

Please review the arguments made by Hayden White, Jr. in “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact” (which explores the ways that supposedly non-fictional historical writing uses many of the same techniques as literary fiction).

White famously argued that “histories gain part of their explanatory effect by their success in making stories out of mere chronicles; and stories in turn are made out of chronicles by an operation which I have elsewhere called ’emplotment.’ And by emplotment I mean simply the encodation of the facts contained in the chronicle as components of specific kinds of plot structures, in precisely the way that [Northrop] Frye has suggested is the case with ‘fictions’ in general” (83).

White is not saying that “anything goes,” that the historian can insert just any old thing into a historical narrative; the story has to be consistent with the facts insofar as they are known. The historian cannot plausibly write a history in which George Washington drives a Toyota Corolla on his way from Valley Forge to pick up Nikki Minaj for a movie date. But insofar as the historian is putting the known facts into some mythic pattern (such as one of Northrop Frye’s mythoi), the historian is in fact writing a story. A special kind of story, subject to a special set of restraints, but a story nonetheless.

This is not true just of historians, either. Something similar happens when political strategists take the basic facts of (say) economic life and “spin” them into part of a larger narrative (in which, say, persistent high unemployment is a sign that we are on Hayek’s road to serfdom, part of a larger narrative about the inevitable failure of the welfare state, or whatever). It happens also when contemporary prophets of the Hal Lindsey variety take the bare facts of earthquakes and tornadoes and work them into a theological narrative of sin and redemption. This sort of “encodation” is everywhere.

Also, please review the arguments made by Annette Kolodny in The Land Before Her about the ways that descriptions of the New World landscape were not objective but in fact heavily influenced by gender.

Here’s the question: Have the theories of White and Kolodny helped you to notice things in Heart of Darkness and/or O Pioneers that you would not have seen otherwise? Can you give some examples?

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