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Engbretsen, Eivind
Darnton’s Cats.
Text or Reality?

2013, e-publikation
ISBN 978-87-635-4137-4
s. 97-115 i:
Ideas in History Vol. 6:2

40 DKK  6 $   5 €


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Although researchers within the history of mentalities have highlighted the importance of text and interpretation, few have accorded the text status as the historian’s real object of study. It is behind the text—in “reality”—that most historians define their object. The text is not an integral part of the ontology of the history of mentalities, i.e., the definition of reality upon which the history of mentalities is built. This paper claims that the linguistic turn has been reductively interpreted by historians as a question of epistemology and it discusses the analytical implications of dealing with the text as an integral part of history of mentalities’ ontology. The article first describes Derrida’s text ontology and argues that the history of mentalities can learn more from this approach. Secondly, this perspective is concretized through the analysis of a modern classic within the field—Robert Darnton’s study of the cat massacre. Unlike Darnton, who uses the “little narrative” about a cat massacre as input to describe a cultural grammar behind the text, this article emphasizes the study of the text itself as a venue for local cultural negotiations. This leads to a critique of Darnton’s conclusions: the story of the cat massacre does not give grounds to see the cat as a symbol of greater distance between master and journeymen. The text is a stage for complex intertextual references in which master and journeymen are both played off against each other and united through their relations to cats and the cat’s symbolic significance.

 
Emneord | Kulturhistorie |
Specifikt emneord | Dekonstruktion | Mentalitetshistorie |
Biograferet person | Robert Darnton | Jacques Derrida | René Descartes | Michel Foucault |
Sprog | Engelsk |





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