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The foundations of productive history in mimesis and narrative identity

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Description: This dissertation explores the basis for an alteration in the way people act ethically and politically due to the changes in their conceptions of themselves and their world that are brought about through reading and particularly through writing history. I proceed from an existential and hermeneutical view as expounded by Paul Ricoeur and move to examine the relationships that obtain between the historian and the text that the historian produces and between the reader and the histories that are read. These relationships are determined by a dialectic between the narrative identities of the people involved and the mimetic narrative of the texts confronted. The confrontations between the writers of history texts and the texts that they write are shown to differ in their potential for affecting the narrative identities of these authors from the change that is possible in the readers of these texts. In addition, the change brought to those confronting history texts is demonstrated to differ from the changes brought by confronting other types of texts. More specifically, while the reading of fiction offers more possibility for altering the narrative identity of the reader than the reading of history offers to the reader, the writing of history is more likely to change the author of history than the writing of fiction is to change the author of fiction. From this we get an understanding of the way in which the writer and reader of histories are changed by their interactions with these texts, and this points to certain conclusions about which types of history (including Sartre's committed history and Foucault's effective history) offer more possibility for producing changes in the narrative identities of those who confront them and in their subsequent actions.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work