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INDIRECT REFERENCE AND THE CREATION OF DISTANCE IN HISTORY

EUGEN ZELEŇÁK
History and Theory
Vol. 50, No. 4, THEME ISSUE 50: Historical Distance: Reflections on a Metaphor (December 2011), pp. 68-80
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41342622
Page Count: 13
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INDIRECT REFERENCE AND THE CREATION OF DISTANCE IN HISTORY
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Abstract

In his discussion of David Hume and historical distance, Mark Salber Phillips points out that in the process of distance-creation there is a distinction between something occurring "within the text" and "outside the text." In this paper I draw on this distinction and introduce a semantic mechanism (namely, meaning) that allows a certain distance to be designed within a historical text. This mechanism is highlighted in a view of reference that sees it as indirect (in distinction from a view of reference that sees it as direct and that has no room for the notion of meaning). According to the indirect reference view, meaning opens up a space for what might be called historical distance. However, this is not to say that everything with regard to the immediacy and remoteness of this historical distance is analyzable solely in terms of what is happening at the level of the text. In fact, I argue that distance-effects can be understood only if we also take into account contexts of the writing and reading of history. The semantics of indirect reference allows for distance-construction, but its span depends on the circumstances governing the creation and reception of historical representation. I conclude with the observation that the view presented here should not be interpreted as disconnecting historical work from past reality.

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