"The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it." Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Of course there are many who don't appreciate these common notions of history: history as a representation of the past, as an accurate description attempting to mirror a real and empirical state of affairs. Oscar Wilde's line is a prelude to very recent trends in history and historiography which view history more as: a literature, a story-telling, a rhetoric of monument. History isn't a description of what really happened or the way the world was. History is a picture of our appreciation of the historical archive, those particular technologies of the storeroom, the photograph, the diary, the home video, and the book. (And what if history were recorded not in paitings, but in kisses?)

Wilhelm Dilthey wrote, some time ago: "The art of understanding therefore centers on the interpretation of written records of human existence" (Gessamelte, 249). It is a hermeneutic act like the interpretation of written records, a reading of the archive, that determines our histories to a far greater extent than the actual past. The line between history and apocrypha isn't determined by a fixed and stable past, but by practices of writing and reading, acts of interpretation, and other practical mechanisms that occur in their discursive situations. That line is always shifting. At one time Neitzsche writes this book... and at another time he doesn't write it, but his sister does.

The historian's job is not so much to faithfully reflect the events of the path. Rather, their job is to tell us a good story about the texts she has chosen to tell a story about. I don’t see why this is any different from the novelist’s job or even the poet’s job. There are, of course, certain practical standards implicit to the history, the novel, or the poem that indicate very important differences between these three genres of writing. The novelist isn’t required to refer to an archive, the poet isn’t required to footnote references, the historian isn’t required to make use of a certain meter or rhythm of speech (at least not usually). These differences, of course, are not mundane or unimportant. They are, however, the very sort of difference that we might give preference to in the delimitation of discursive jurisdiction. Contrary to those historians and philosophers that feign our sensitivity to things like meaning, context, or reality, some postmodern historians feign our sensitivity to the practical standards imminent in the books we read and the discourses on these books. They think that the interesting things about our history books are what actually goes on in and around them, rather than how close ‘Marx got Reality right’, we ‘reconstruct the cultural context into which Hobbes was born’, or we ‘retrieve the Meaning of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations’. The interesting works on Marx aren’t those works that claim to have the final word on him because they have finally placed his texts in their true cultural context. The interesting works on Marx are those works that say interesting things about Marx. A work on Marx is going to be interesting and informative, in other words, if it fits certain practical standards we have for works on Marx.

(Note: if there is one goal my friends and I have on e2 it is to debunk the ridiculous conceptions of history that pervade the sorrier of texts (and vote systems, and allegiances) that shame some users here. It is not histories that we are writing, but histories that we are destroying. It is not the past that we profane, but a conception of the past as something that we pay homage to. (More later, and always between parentheses))