JONAS GRETHLEIN, “Experientiality and ‘Narrative Reference’ with Thanks to Thucydides” takes up the recent interest in experience and its relation to narrative, and does so with great flair and illumination. Postmodernist theorists declared the idea of experience dead, but this idea has recently seen a renaissance, seeming to offer the possibility of reaching beyond linguistic discourse. Indeed, some theorists, in their attempt to overcome the “linguistic turn,” have pitted experience against narrative. But Grethlein convincingly argues that the relation between experience and narrative is more complex than is widely assumed, and in the process he sheds light on techniques that historians can and should use to render history more accessible and more open.
HUAIYIN LI, “From Revolution to Modernization: the Paradigmatic Transition in Chinese Historiography in the Reform Era,” offers a rigorous, informative analysis of exactly what the title promises, namely, the way Chinese historiography has changed from embodying Marxism to adopting Modernization Theory, but all the while keeping an unchanged commitment to serving present political needs in the way the past is interpreted.
BENJAMIN ALDES WURGAFT, “The Uses of Walter: Walter Benjamin and the Counterfactual Imagination” notes that many authors, both scholarly and otherwise, have asked what might have happened had Walter Benjamin survived his 1940 attempt to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. In answering this question Wurgaft not only shows important dimensions of Benjamin and his work, but also explores the larger question of why few intellectual historians ask explicitly counterfactual questions in their work—and why they should. The essay can only be described as elegant, both in conception and in its writing.
The issue also contains a comprehensive “Retrospective” of a historical classic, Norbert Elias’s The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. The article offers an overview and assessment of this work by two authors—ANDREW LINKLATER and STEPHEN MENNELL—who know more about Elias’s work than perhaps anyone else in the world, and who write with great insight about both the details of Elias’s work and also about the larger intellectual implications of it. If you want to understand the meaning and import of this great book, this is the place to look.
The issue also contains a number of wide-ranging, provocative review essays:
WILLIAM M. REDDY on Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain;
RAYMOND MARTIN on Allan Megill, Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: a Contemporary Guide to Practice (free download here: http://www.historyandtheory.org/freereview.html);
HARRY HAROOTUNIAN on Christopher L. Hill, National History and the World of Nations: Capital, State, and the Rhetoric of History in Japan, France, and the United States