". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, February 12, 2012

We Little Engines That Can + Henry Adams 3

Despite the obstacles of him coming down sick and now me too, again, and why yes, the classic raw days of classic February NYC winter -- currently we are after noon and the temperature stands at 27º.

I'm gonna go back to bed where I shall curl up with Henry Adam's novel set in D.C., the delicious Democracy (published anonymously in 1880) until it's time to go to the theater for Chico and Rita.  This is a screening that includes a Q&A with the creative and production team, and the students are going. I promised I'd go with el V, so I shall. Beside the film is so lucious, graphically and musically.  If it plays in your area you really should check it out. 

The more I read in Democracy, the more I think I'm reading one of Gore Vidal's Chronicles of Empire novels. There's Senator Gore, who plays a role -- an actual senator, who was one of Vidal's family. Democracy is filled with the names of contemporaries in D.C. at the time it's set as well as barely disguised other names, for this is also a roman à clef. As well, it's a comedy of manners and an exposé of contemporary D.C. corruption. The wit and observations sparkle still. I'm deeply impressed. Surely Edith Wharton read this.

I'm reading this in a Library of America volume that collects Democracy, his other novel, Esther, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, and The Education of Henry Adams. None of his historical work is collected in anything, much less the wonderful Library of America series. Keep in mind his Mont Saint Michel and Chartres are presented as belles lettres at best, in a lit course, or art history. This confirms my sense of why Henry Adams has so dropped from sight in the last decades. I must thank Gore Vidal for returning him to my consciousness as an historian.

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