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.
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.