Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Augustine in the Sunshine

Well, actually -- I've spent the last few days reading books on theories of history, narrative and medieval historiography. I've made some fascinating discoveries, too.

The library here at Wake is closing in about 20 minutes, so this will be brief. I'll add to it tomorrow. But first -- and I know I've heard about this elsewhere, but I just finished Patrick Geary's book, Myth of Nations, which provides a really easy to read overview of an early medievalist's view of the rise of nations and nationalism. I don't know what the critical reception to it has been, but I felt like its attempt at translating some of the more complex theories into a form that a more generalized audience would understand was both helpful and important to future discussions of the nation and national identity. A moment I found particularly interesting:

Both in large hegemonic states and in aspiring independence movements, claims that "we have always been a people" actually are appeals to become a people--appeals not grounded in history, but rather, attempts to create history. The past, as has often been said, is a foreign country, and we will never find ourselves there. (p. 37)

A tension I'm finding in that quote, interestingly enough, is in that last line, which is haunting (and for good reason). "The a foreign country, and we will never find ourselves there."

While I "believe" Geary on that point, I wonder if there's anyway of writing "History" as we know it and not ending up stuck in this narritivized setting....

More soon, with thoughts on the Homi Bhabha's introduction to Nation and Narration and Brian Stock's Listening to the Text all of which is tied up in my mind with the text my freshman comp class will be working with for their final papers -- Adrian Hastings' "Nation and Nationalism" from The Construction of Nationhood. Tomorrow will bring bibliography for all this thought and more musings. Any of either in the interim or after are appreciated...

For now, ZSR Library is closing, and they're going to lock me in if I don't get moving!