The Practical Turn

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
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  • 1 North Carolina State University

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In The Practical Past Hayden White argues that both history and fiction should be considered “literary writing,” which he defines as writing in which the form (narrative) becomes part of the content. Both history and realistic fiction wish to be faithful to their referents, but are prevented by their need to employ cultural narrative systems. The “practical past,” distinguished from the historical past by Michael Oakeshott, proves to be the arena in which we choose our pasts, define events, and experience trauma.

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