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Narrative and History

Daniel Mendelsohn, in an essay in the April 2015 issue of HARPER'S that starts from the recent movie SELMA, discusses the crossroads of drama and journalism. I'll just offer a brief excerpt here:

"Just how much 'story' can we responsibly mine from 'history'? The conundrum is even more elegantly visible in the Romance languages, which make no distinction between the words 'history' and 'story': histoire in French and storia in Italian can mean both. Blame Herodotus: the so-called Father of History coined the word as we know it. For him, historia was a quasi-scientific investigation....But in part because Herodotus' inquiries into the causes and events of the Persian Wars were ever so entertaining -- epic, slightly rambling, sometimes gossipy, never dull -- the word came, in time, to mean something much more like our 'narrative.'"
[The bust above is of Herodotus.]


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