What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

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DCHindley
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What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by DCHindley » Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:34 am

Over on the "This may be interesting" thread, MichaelBG had stated that there *must* be a way to tell from characteristics in the text. To this I replied "Both use the same techniques."

So, I'd like to hear from members what authorities they would propose to support distinction between fiction and historical explanation.

Through the middle ages and early modern period, "history" was considered an art form and taught along with rhetoric. It was Leopold Von Ranke who sought to make it a scientific discipline based on objectivity.

This POV had prevailed for a century or so until postmodernist critics popped its bubble by declaring all narrative based on past facts as interpretations of past events based on the critics' own present understanding of things.

"What thinkest thou, Simon?"

Gotta run ...

DCH

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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by spin » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:29 am

I wrote a post blowing my top about the inappropriateness of these two terms as used by most people on this forum, which upon reflection I deleted, because I could foresee the banal responses I would get. But fuck it, I will people would just plain stop using the term "fiction" with regard to ancient materials they think are not veracious. Fiction is modern intentioned narrative, deliberately written with the knowledge that it did not reflect events that took place in the past, usually written for entertainment. Yes, I know some people use the term "fiction" also for the popular notion regarding text that is not "true", while "history is "true". Most ancient writers of the past did not write fiction, though there is a small body of ancient fiction. Most ancient writers did not write history for they lacked the basic understanding of historiography to do so. Few understood what Herodotus started in his histories, that Thucydides and Polybius honed, but they were consciously writing history. Few Romans beside Tacitus got the idea. Most writers were tradents of traditions they received into their worldviews and passed on mediated through those worldviews and perhaps embellished or improved upon during the mediation.

The best that we can hope for is that they writers believed that what they passed on reflected the past, though few of them had means for testing the belief. The tradition was taken on through trust. Our job from this stuff is to discern history, ie figure out what happened in the past.
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DCHindley
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by DCHindley » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:00 am

spin wrote:I wrote a post blowing my top about the inappropriateness of these two terms as used by most people on this forum, which upon reflection I deleted, because I could foresee the banal responses I would get. But fuck it, I will people would just plain stop using the term "fiction" with regard to ancient materials they think are not veracious. Fiction is modern intentioned narrative, deliberately written with the knowledge that it did not reflect events that took place in the past, usually written for entertainment. Yes, I know some people use the term "fiction" also for the popular notion regarding text that is not "true", while "history is "true". Most ancient writers of the past did not write fiction, though there is a small body of ancient fiction. Most ancient writers did not write history for they lacked the basic understanding of historiography to do so. Few understood what Herodotus started in his histories, that Thucydides and Polybius honed, but they were consciously writing history. Few Romans beside Tacitus got the idea. Most writers were tradents of traditions they received into their worldviews and passed on mediated through those worldviews and perhaps embellished or improved upon during the mediation.

The best that we can hope for is that they writers believed that what they passed on reflected the past, though few of them had means for testing the belief. The tradition was taken on through trust. Our job from this stuff is to discern history, ie figure out what happened in the past.
Yes, it is frustrating to have to deal with someone who attemts to "wave away" what disturbs them. One of the classic defenses to cognitive dissonance is to consciously make it irrelevant. That is like US President Donald Trump cutting science research budgets because many, maybe even most, of them think that mankind is contributing to global warming and, horrors, that species evolve over time. This approach does not help cancer cure research or contribute to direct applications of the discoveries of pure science.

If I could, I'd wave away from Trump any technology derived from scientific inquiry, so he must perform tax reform on an abacus or knotted rope, write with reed and papyrus, communicate only by verbal or written letters, no phone, computers, synthetic fabrics (he'd probably wear linen or cotton, not wool, washed by his household staff of illegal immigrants willing to do menial labor for cheap rates), and no genetically engineered food products. His chef would have to make do with barley bread and sauces, and add lead to his roasted meat to make it sweeter. We'd just have to go back to an average lifespan of about 40 yrs, making Trump overdue. Then the problem might take care of itself. (All said tongue in cheek)

Break over, back to work ...

DCH

John2
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by John2 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:01 am

I gave a link in another thread to my all time favorite Christian origins website which has a page that discusses this issue.
Matthew" claims to know stuff he could not possibly have known. "Matthew" says things happened that could not possibly have happened. "Matthew" made stuff up. The Gospel of Matthew, right there in our Bible, is full of stuff that didn't really happen. Not literally. Not actually.

So was "Matthew" a dirty liar? No, he wasn't. "Matthew" was a product of his time and place. In ancient times this is how people wrote history. In ancient times historians routinely, unashamedly, got their quotations by making them up. Our Bible, our New Testament, is a product of its culture. It includes stuff—direct, verbatim quotations—that it's authors made up.

http://pocm.info/pagan_ideas_phony_quotes.html
Last edited by John2 on Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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davidbrainerd
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by davidbrainerd » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:36 am

DCHindley wrote:
spin wrote:I wrote a post blowing my top about the inappropriateness of these two terms as used by most people on this forum, which upon reflection I deleted, because I could foresee the banal responses I would get. But fuck it, I will people would just plain stop using the term "fiction" with regard to ancient materials they think are not veracious. Fiction is modern intentioned narrative, deliberately written with the knowledge that it did not reflect events that took place in the past, usually written for entertainment. Yes, I know some people use the term "fiction" also for the popular notion regarding text that is not "true", while "history is "true". Most ancient writers of the past did not write fiction, though there is a small body of ancient fiction. Most ancient writers did not write history for they lacked the basic understanding of historiography to do so. Few understood what Herodotus started in his histories, that Thucydides and Polybius honed, but they were consciously writing history. Few Romans beside Tacitus got the idea. Most writers were tradents of traditions they received into their worldviews and passed on mediated through those worldviews and perhaps embellished or improved upon during the mediation.

The best that we can hope for is that they writers believed that what they passed on reflected the past, though few of them had means for testing the belief. The tradition was taken on through trust. Our job from this stuff is to discern history, ie figure out what happened in the past.
Yes, it is frustrating to have to deal with someone who attemts to "wave away" what disturbs them. One of the classic defenses to cognitive dissonance is to consciously make it irrelevant. That is like US President Donald Trump cutting science research budgets because many, maybe even most, of them think that mankind is contributing to global warming and, horrors, that species evolve over time. This approach does not help cancer cure research or contribute to direct applications of the discoveries of pure science.

If I could, I'd wave away from Trump any technology derived from scientific inquiry, so he must perform tax reform on an abacus or knotted rope, write with reed and papyrus, communicate only by verbal or written letters, no phone, computers, synthetic fabrics (he'd probably wear linen or cotton, not wool, washed by his household staff of illegal immigrants willing to do menial labor for cheap rates), and no genetically engineered food products. His chef would have to make do with barley bread and sauces, and add lead to his roasted meat to make it sweeter. We'd just have to go back to an average lifespan of about 40 yrs, making Trump overdue. Then the problem might take care of itself. (All said tongue in cheek)

Break over, back to work ...

DCH
The Leftist narrative about Trump is a good example of fiction.

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DCHindley
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by DCHindley » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:37 am

I was hoping to further the discussion of the characteristics that make something "fiction" versus "historical explanation."

To illustrate the complexity of a historical narrative, here is a summary of Hayden V. White's elements of historical representation, as found in the 40 page introduction of his 1974 book Metahistory, which technically deals with narratives since the Enlightenment b ut can be used in the ancient period with some adjustments:

DEEP LEVEL
SURFACE LEVELS
[/b]
[/b]
TROPE: Figures of speech that deploy words in such a way as to turn or translate meaning. Operates at the deep level of human thought in the sense of 1) creating meaning through binary opposition (Saussure) or 2) otherness, or difference in any historical period (Foucault). As used by White, becomes a means to distinguish the dominant modes of historical imagination (in 19th century Europe in his case). By extrapolation to the cultural level, identifies the figurative structure that underpins the surface tiers that are employed to describe its historical imagination. Can be extended to include creation of large-scale metaphors (such as the base-superstructure metaphor of Marx) that rely upon the basic relationships of part-whole/whole-part that serve that in turn as models used as the basis of a total explanation of historical change. EMPLOTMENT: Story line or plot structure that imparts meaning to a historical narrative. A technique that relates a sequence of events with their contextual or colligatory connections. Turns a sequence of events into a story of some kind. Either employed to discover the meaning, or imposing a meaning, on that sequence of events. White conceives this tier as the historian's vehicle(s) of historical explanation. ARGUMENT: A set of premises and the conclusion drawn or inferred from them. An argument is "valid" (although not necessarily true) if the conclusion follows either inductively of deductively from the premises. IDEOLOGICAL IMPLICATION: Ideology is a coherent set of socially produced ideas that lend or create a group consciousness. Time and place specific, ideology represents the dominant mode of explanation and rationalism that saturates a society, transmitted through various social and institutional mechanisms such as media, church, education and law. Some commentators find ideology imbedded in all social artifacts such as narrative structures (like written history), codes of behavior and patterns of belief. Can be viewed as a means employed by the dominant class to maintain its dominant position by obscuring the reality of its economic exploitation of other classes.
Archetypical plot structures are: Theories of truth: Suggests to readers the import of their studies of the past for the comprehension of the present:
METAPHOR: Word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. Represents the similarities between objects. Representational. ROMANCE: Imagines the power of the historical agent/hero or protagonist as ultimately superior to his/its environment. Unfolds as a quest where the final success, redemption or transcendence is assured. FORMIST: Identifies the unique atomistic or dispersive character of events, people and actions in the past. Permits historians to graphically represent vivid individual events from which it is possible to make significant generalizations. ANARCHISM: Demands rapid, perhaps even cataclysmic, social change in order to establish a new society.
METONYMY: Use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute of, or of which it is associated. Reduces an object to a part or parts. Reductionist. TRAGEDY: Imagines the agent/hero or protagonist as engaged in a quest where final success is eventually thwarted by fate or by a personality flaw. MECHANIST: Identifies events, people and actions in the past as subject to deterministic extra-historical laws, usually cast in the form of equivalent part-part relationships. Tends to be reductive rather than synthetic. RADICALISM: Welcomes imminent social change, but are more aware of the effects of inherited institutions, and are thus more exorcised by the means to effect change than are anarchists.
SYNECDOCHE: A part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part. Integrates objects by stressing their similarities or essences. Integrative. COMEDY: Imagines an agent/hero or protagonist as moving from obstruction to reconstruction, achieving at least a temporary victory over circumstances through the process of reconciliation. Often ends with rejoicing over the coherence or consensus a heroic figure achieves between groups of men, women, races, nations or classes. ORGANIC: Identifies past events, people and actions as components of a synthetic process in a microcosmic-macrocosmic relationship whereby a single element or individual is just one element among many. Tends to be integrative. CONSERVATISM: Oppose rapid change by supporting the evolutionary elaboration of existing social institutions. Are most suspicious of change than the other ideologies.
IRONY: Negates literal meaning. Negational. SATIRE: Imagines the agent/hero or protagonist as inferior, a captive of their world, and destines for a life of obstacles and negation. CONTEXTUAL: Identifies events, people or actions in the past by their presumed connections to others in webs of colligatory relationships within an era, or with a complex process of interconnected change. Tends to be moderately integrative. LIBERALISM: Prefers the fine tuning of social institutions to secure moderately paced social change.

White grouped them (the rows) by their general associations, but these can be mixed any which way that the author wants to make their point, and elements can even be nested.

Can you think of ANY historical explanation that does not employ these elements (except perhaps Annals)?

perhaps the real difference is "explaining" evidence as it exists as opposed to "explaining away" threatening evidence to get rid of it.

DCH

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DCHindley
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by DCHindley » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:47 am

davidbrainerd wrote:
DCHindley wrote:Yes, it is frustrating to have to deal with someone who attemts to "wave away" what disturbs them. One of the classic defenses to cognitive dissonance is to consciously make it irrelevant. That is like US President Donald Trump cutting science research budgets because many, maybe even most, of them think that mankind is contributing to global warming and, horrors, that species evolve over time. This approach does not help cancer cure research or contribute to direct applications of the discoveries of pure science.

If I could, I'd wave away from Trump any technology derived from scientific inquiry, so he must perform tax reform on an abacus or knotted rope, write with reed and papyrus, communicate only by verbal or written letters, no phone, computers, synthetic fabrics (he'd probably wear linen or cotton, not wool, washed by his household staff of illegal immigrants willing to do menial labor for cheap rates), and no genetically engineered food products. His chef would have to make do with barley bread and sauces, and add lead to his roasted meat to make it sweeter. We'd just have to go back to an average lifespan of about 40 yrs, making Trump overdue. Then the problem might take care of itself. (All said tongue in cheek)

Break over, back to work ...

DCH
The Leftist narrative about Trump is a good example of fiction.
While I say these things tongue in cheek, I have the sneaking suspicion that the only ones who will benefit from Trump's actual policies (as opposed to the ones he promised on the campaign) will be the wealthy. That's all he knows!

Now Trump could reduce the cost of building his wall by importing low cost labor, from Mexico, to build it. It would cut the costs dramatically! They would certainly earn many times the average yearly income in their native country. This, plus the fact that Amercians are not attracted to low-paid back-breaking jobs (we could not then afford the modern conveniences that marketers tell us we cannot do without, and the economy would collapse), are the reasons they come here anyways. If any are then injured in the construction project, we can then send them back in a wheelbarrow and dump them at the border. Those who survive, he can then reward for their valient efforts by jailing and deporting them. How DARE them fill an economic need created by the powerful money interests!!!

davidbrainerd
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by davidbrainerd » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:54 am

Leftists really believe their own narrative about Trump, so they think its history. Even their absurd future predictions are history to them. A thousand years from now if archeologists were to take their texts seriously, they'd think Trump put gays in gas chambers and banned all forms of birth control. So when we read "history" what are we really reading?

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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:58 am

Surprise, surprise. The low level amateur historian will little to know actual educational background in the field he makes sweeping assertions is a Trump supporter. Who'd have seen that coming ...
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

davidbrainerd
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Re: What makes a writing "Fiction" versus "History"?

Post by davidbrainerd » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:15 am

Secret Alias wrote:Surprise, surprise. The low level amateur historian will little to know actual educational background in the field he makes sweeping assertions is a Trump supporter. Who'd have seen that coming ...
I think its a pretty good barometer of what's crazy to check if you support it. If archeologists 1000 years from now found your written history of Trump he'd end up as the Catholic editor of the book of Revelation or something.

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