From: IN%"email@example.com" "Robert Rosenstone" 24-MAY-1995 23:14:56.30
Gary Daily writes something like this: "Rosenstone may slip into a mystical "deeper knowledge" mode . . . " OUCH! It is true I am at that age when all of one's words and assertions cannot easily be recalled. True too that I (blush) probably have a mystical side. But not about the historical film. Certainly I cannot remember ever writing that films conveyed deeper knowledge than the page, and if I did, it certainly is not my viewpoint now . . .
In this thread about history and film there seems to be missing from some notes much sense of the constrcuted nature of historical knowlege. Let me refer only to Hayden White or Paul Ankersmit - among theorists and even some working historians this idea is too common and too lengthy to flesh out here. Anyway, what I have argued in various essays (to be published altogether in one neat volume entitled Visions of the Past from Harvard in August)) -- or what I think I have argued is the filmmakers can be historians too. But historians functioning according to different rules (codes if you will) for rendering, reconstructing, reinventing the past. Personally I was horrified and delighted when this insight (if insight it was/is) first came to me. Other people on this thread are clearly thinking the same way. I (we?) dont necessarily believe that all historical films are therefore good renditions of the past, but that (for me) they must be judged not only with reference to the written work, sinc ethat work itself has a problematic status; its truth claims, as some have pointed out in earlier messages, are not unquestionable.
Written history contains good large doses of fiction; all written history. So does history on film. There is not direct experience of the past and fiction (creating things - ideas, metaphors, images - what have you) in the present is the way we access and understand the past. Film can do this too. The question is how we judge the historical fictions on the screen. A difficult question. One that some of my essays point towards. Remember: researching history and writing history are two very different activities. Research may turn up one sort of truths; narrative (or whatever other presentational mode one uses for ones findings) creates another sort of truth. The relation between the two is never easy or transparent.
~There is a huge literature on all this, but I will stop now. Its a vital discussion. One we shallgo on having for a long time. Robert Rosenstone firstname.lastname@example.org
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