ABSTRACT

When Hayden White pointed to the constructedness of historical representation in the 1970s, he fundamentally changed the way in which we think about history. After his intervention, history as static, knowable fact was replaced by history as a particular view of the past always mediated by the historian and by the structures of language necessary to any written representation. While emphasizing the importance of the historian and of the tropological form historical narrative takes, White also gestured towards the importance of the experience of the reader – an experience shaped by the particular historical narrative at hand.1 After they have been shaped by the historian, historical texts depend on the reader, who brings her own extratextual knowledge and experiences with her, to fully constitute them as “history.” Ultimately, history is not the texts produced about the past. Rather, it is the experience of history that is generated by the reader’s encounter with those texts, the historical consciousness that people incorporate into their everyday lives.