". . . 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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Touché - The Literary History of the Duel

Touché: The Duel in Literature (2015) by John Leigh; Harvard University Press is the latest addition to the ever-popular histories of dueling. Among others, see: Dueling in the Old South: Vignettes of Social History ( 2000) by Jack K. Williams;  Dueling in Charleston: Violence Refined in the Holy City (2012) by J. Grahame Long;  Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (1983) by Bertram Wyatt-Brown; The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy (1989) by Victor Gordon Kiernan;  Gentlemen's Blood: A History of Dueling From Swords at Dawn to Pistols at Dusk (2008) Barbara Holland.

But this may be the first literary history of the practice.

From the catalog copy:

Many of the greatest names in Western literature wrote about or even fought in duels, among them Corneille, Molière, Richardson, Rousseau, Pushkin, Dickens, Hugo, Dumas, Twain, Conrad, Chekhov, and Mann. As John Leigh explains, the duel was a gift as a plot device. But writers also sought to discover in duels something more fundamental about human conflict and how we face our fears of humiliation, pain, and death. The duel was, for some, a social cause, a scourge to be mocked or lamented; yet even its critics could be seduced by its risk and glamour. Some conservatives defended dueling by arguing that the man of noble bearing who cared less about living than living with honor was everything that the contemporary bourgeois was not. The literary history of the duel, as Touché makes clear, illuminates the tensions that attended the birth of the modern world.
Review here.

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