New PDF release: Comparing the Incomparable (Cultural Memory in the Present)

By Marcel Detienne

In evaluating the Incomparable, Marcel Detienne demanding situations the cordoning off of disciplines that hinder us from asking trans-cultural questions that might allow one society to make clear one other. a few years in the past, he undertook the learn of "construction websites" grouped round common inquiries to be placed to historians and ethnologists approximately their specific parts of craftsmanship. 4 of those comparative experiments are offered within the chapters of this ebook. the 1st issues myths and practices with regards to the founding of towns or sacred areas from Africa to Japan to historical Greece. the second one appears to be like at "regimes of historicity" and asks why we converse of historical past and what we suggest by means of it, which results in a comparability of cultural philosophies and of the methods diverse cultures exhibit themselves, be they oral, written, or visible. The 3rd bankruptcy, following within the footsteps of comparative philologist Georges Dumézil, turns to polytheistic pantheons, arguing that we should always not just examine the gods in and of themselves but in addition on the kinfolk among them. the ultimate part of the booklet examines how, from historic Greek democracy to the Ochollo of Ethiopia to the French Revolution, peoples shape a cognizance of themselves that interprets into meeting practices. A intentionally post-deconstructionist manifesto opposed to the risks of incommensurability, Detienne argues for and engages within the positive comparability of societies of a very good temporal and spatial variety. the end result testifies to what new and illuminating insights his comparatist process can produce.

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This chapter argues that, in everyday language, ‘the past’ refers to ‘historical reality’, that is, to the world as it existed at some earlier moment in time. However, it will show that there different kinds of ‘pasts’, which will be labelled successively as the chronological, completed, strange and present past. Unlike ‘historical reality’, which existed independently of what current-day people think or feel about it, these four ‘pasts’ exist only in so far as they are shaped and refracted in the historian’s imagination.

17. 4 James T. Patterson, ‘Americans and the Writing of Twentieth-Century United States History’, in Anthony Molho and Gordon S. Wood (eds), Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past, Princeton: Princeton University What is the past? 29 Press, 1998, p. 190; Erwin Panofsky, ‘The History of Art’, in Franz L.  91. 5 Arthur C.  151. 6 King, ‘Thinking Past a Problem’, pp. 33–7. 7 Leopold von Ranke, Über die Epochen der neueren Geschichte: Vorträge dem Könige Maximilian II von Bayern im Herbst 1854 zu Berchtesgaden gehalten, ed.

3 The completed past This completed past can be interpreted in two different ways: as a series of homogeneous epochs or as a set of partly overlapping, partly complementary layers. Those who subscribe to the first view think about the past in terms of periods succeeding each other. This epochal thinking deeply influenced Western historiography through nineteenth-century historicism (see the text box historicism). Historicists like Leopold van Ranke saw history as a succession of epochs, each of which was characterized by its own ‘idea’ or ‘tendency’.

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