News & Events
Topic: History and Fictionality: Insights and Limitations of a Literary Perspective by Prof. Zhang Longxi
Posted - 11/09/2003 : 17:31:00
Au Ching Pong
Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Professor Zhang Longxi
City University of Hong Kong
History and Fictionality:
Insights and Limitations of a Literary Perspective
Time: 4:30 - 6:00 pm
Date: 22nd September 2003 (Monday)
Venue: B7603 (CTL Multi-purpose Room), City University of Hong Kong
In both China and the west, the literary quality of historical narratives has been fully recognized. In recent postmodern theories, however, the recognition of history as narrative is given a radical interpretation that challenges not only the truth-claim of historical narratives, but also the very distinction between fact and fiction, reality and textuality. By drawing on both Chinese and western sources, this essay revisits the debate on history and fictionality and refutes both the extreme position of insisting on the objective truth of historical representation and the completely relativist view that denies history the possibility of representing reality. Given the influence of the postmodern theories, it is particularly important to acknowledge the difference between historical and literary narratives. History as narrative shares with literature elements of constructive imagination, but it ultimately depends on a core of facts verifiable by non-linguistic means. When we realize that the truth recovered from the past in historical writing is not final and absolute, but can be improved to approximate the truth, we can both accept the truth-claim of historiography and subject that claim to further investigation and modification.
About the Speaker
Zhang Longxi has a MA in English from Peking University and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard. He had taught at Peking, Harvard and the University of Calfornia, Riverside, before joining CityU in 1998 as Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation. He is also Director of CityU's Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies. He has published numerous articles in both English and Chinese and is the author of 《二十世紀西方文論述評》 (A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century Theories of Literature, Beijing: Sanlian, 1986); The Tao and the Logos: Literary Hermeneutics, East and West (Durham: Duke UP, 1992); Mighty Opposites: From Dichotomies to Differences in the Comparative Study of China (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998); and 《走出文化的封閉圈》 (Out of the Cultural Ghetto, Hong Kong: The Commercial Press, 2000). This presentation is a lecture he has been invited to deliver in late October at the History/Literature Workshop in MIT.
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