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Co-authoring History: Montpellier, the Vendée, and the Co-authorship of the Sources
Department of Economic and Social History, Eötvös University, 6-8 Múzeum körút, Budapest, 1088, Hungary
Received: 4 September 2013; in revised form: 25 September 2013 / Accepted: 11 October 2013 / Published: 18 October 2013
Abstract: The discourses of literature and history are generally regarded as two distinct genres. This essay sets out to investigate the use of fictitious, that is, the invented, as well as real elements, in addition to narrative tools in some literary and historical texts to examine whether there is evidence for a fundamental difference between them in this respect. In the first half of the article, from the juxtaposition of Merle’s historical novel, En nos vertes années, to Le Roy Ladurie’s The Beggar and the Professor, we shall see that real and fictitious elements are also interwoven in Merle’s text, just as history uses fictitious elements, necessarily and tacitly, or, in some works, in a rather provocative way. In the second half of this essay, in examining literary and historical narratives of the counter-revolution in the Vendée, it will become evident that historians also use the same narrative techniques as writers to orientate readers. While these findings would confound the normative distinction between history and literature, we cannot, however, finally conclude that there is no fundamental difference between literary fiction and history. Arguing against Alun Munslow, who claims in Authoring the Past that “’doing history’ is an authorial activity,” this present article tries to argue that, while in many aspects writing history is indistinguishable from writing fiction, the historian has co-authors: the sources themselves may enter the process of writing history. This is a conclusion that emerges from the analysis of Simon Schama’s Citizens. His text about the revolt in the Vendée points to a potential advantage of history when compared to literary fiction: historians may feel obliged to change their original point of view under the burden of the fact they themselves have enumerated—something we can call the latent but inherent co-authorship of the sources in historical narratives.
Keywords: history; literature; narrative; sources; authorship
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Szijártó, I.M. Co-authoring History: Montpellier, the Vendée, and the Co-authorship of the Sources. Humanities 2013, 2, 449-461.
Szijártó IM. Co-authoring History: Montpellier, the Vendée, and the Co-authorship of the Sources. Humanities. 2013; 2(4):449-461.
Szijártó, István M. 2013. "Co-authoring History: Montpellier, the Vendée, and the Co-authorship of the Sources." Humanities 2, no. 4: 449-461.