Spurned Lover

Posted by sepoy on May 13, 2008 · 2 mins read

Via pdcs

What is it that must precede the conveying of history? Must there not be the declaration of a double passion, an eros for the past and an ardor for the others in whose name there is a felt urgency to speak? To convey that-which-was in the light of this passion is to become a historian. Because the past is irrecoverable and the others in whose stead the historian speaks are dead, unknowable, she cannot hope that her passion will be reciprocated. To be a historian then is to accept the destiny of the spurned lover - to write, photograph, film, televise, archive and simulate the past no merely as its memory bank but as binding oneself by a promise to the dead to tell the truth about the past.
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Can the historian ever bring back that which has gone by, ever tell the truth about the past? The mundane view of truth as a matching of event or pattern with what is said about it, a relation of homology between proposition and referent, has been undermined by powerful present-day criticisms of both rationalist and empiricist theories of knowledge. Is the historian as the lover who is spurned a faithless lover after all who seduces with a promise that cannot be fulfilled, yet knows all along that truth as the return of the past in all of its Leibhaftigkeit is a chimera? Does she lie when she avers, "I will tell the truth about the past, je te jure?"
- Wyschogrod, Edith. An Ethics of Remembering: History, Heterology, and the Nameless Others. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.


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