Hardback
November 2, 2005
9780801882142
English
320
3
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
0.92 Inches (US)
1.25 Pounds (US)
$60.00 USD, £44.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

History Out of Joint

Essays on the Use and Abuse of History

In History Out of Joint, Sande Cohen considers the ways in which historical narratives summon up a past and lay down a future in the ever-multiplying intellectual debates of contemporary public culture. As competing factions advance contradictory principles to validate or discredit their preferred accounts of the past and the present, Cohen argues that the fundamental question of how these principles themselves should be addressed—of what truly constitutes the use or abuse of history—has been pushed aside. Taking Nietzsche's idea of a simultaneous production and "anti-production" of culture as his starting point, Cohen proposes that the real abuse lies in the attempt to establish one version of history by effacing every other and shows how this now prevalent idea of historiography reduced to a political resource has itself become a "normal" starting point of such abuse.

Cohen looks first at some current struggles to control public history, examining popular newspaper accounts of events in geopolitics and art, different views of the modern historian's role as a public authority, and the function of anecdote and its relationship to historical writing. He then turns to the works of several major figures in contemporary critical theory, including Derrida, Lyotard, and Deleuze and Guattari. Against the belief that their ideas led primarily to escapism, blindness, or endless deferral, Cohen demonstrates how their concepts of an affirmative yet critical event can be applied specifically to counter contemporary abuse of history and, in doing so, to resist social passivity, the nihilism and eschatological catastrophe of which they describe.

About the Author

Sande Cohen teaches in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts.

Reviews

"Cohen has established himself as one of the harshest critics of the academy in general, and the historical discipline in particular... Worth reading."

- Phillippe Carrard - Clio

"Even the book's most contestable critical interventions produce valuable insights that might have been missed in a less ambitious book... The interest of the book consequently far exceeds the specific disciplinary frame professional historians would likely bring to it."

- Michael Mirabile - Postmodern Culture

"Elegant and eloquent on the topic of how French theorists help us to understand the limitations of neopositivist constructions' temporality."

- Carolyn J. Dean - Journal of Modern History

Endorsements

"An intensely directed essay in historiography—how and where history is done and what it does—not about how to write history more accurately or effectively, but how to read history writing and its effects more critically. Cohen's theoretical tools are Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, and Lyotard, and his explications of their difficult texts are first-rate, as are his critical but generous readings of Derrida's Specters of Marx and Joel Fineman's History of the Anecdote."

- Howard Singerman, author of Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University
Johns Hopkins University Press
Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
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