Poststructuralist/Postmodernist History: LOL, What?
I’m finally coming to the end of my historical theory class, and our mad professor saved the best for last: Poststructural/Postmodern theory. Yikes!
Poststructuralism and Postmodernism carries this tenet when applied to history: History is essentially made up of texts or signs and symbols which make up discourse. Since we the historian can never know the true meaning of these texts, we analyze and draw our conclusions based upon our own bias, which is created by external influences of the present day. Following that line of thinking, we can never present a whole and true version of history, therefore, what we present is myth, or fiction.
Is your mind blown yet? Mine sure as fuck is.
Look at it from this perspective: History is a house to be built. Each historian, or builder, contributes to the construction of the house using their specialized technique and materials. When the last piece is installed, the house is finished. The Poststructialists/Postmodernists say that we can only see one part of the house no matter what angle we view it from, therefore we can never truthfully know that the house is finished. In that sense, the house is constantly subject to revision.
Wow. Just. Wow.
It took me three readings of the text book to even grasp what in the name of Foucault they were talking about. At first I thought Poststructuralist theory was hooey, now I’m starting to think it just may be on to something.
Think about it, me and two other historians are assigned to analyze text from a certain period, and come to our own conclusions. Based on what we know and think, we’re likely to draw three different conclusions, so the analysis can never be 100% accurate. Future historians, based on their external influences and internal bias, may interpret the same texts completely different from the conclusions that we drew. Therefore, our conclusions would be myth and fiction from their perspectives.
Discourse shapes reality:
Poststructuralism/Postmodernism baby! The surreal meets the real.
I love History
One more thing: the analysis and interpretation I just provided is based on how discourse in my life has shaped my reality. Therefore, this post can only be perceived as myth or fiction.
Wrap your head around that for a while