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Hayden White Teaches at Freie Universität Berlin at the Graduate School of North American Studies

Opening Lecture on “The Practical Past” to Be Held on May 6, 2010

№ 115/2010 from Apr 28, 2010

The American historian and literary scholar Hayden White will be conducting research and teaching for three months at the Graduate School of North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. The first event of his visiting professorship will be a public lecture entitled “The Practical Past” on May 6, 2010. White will also be teaching a week-long master class on “The Postmodern American Novel as Novelesque Historiography.” The master class is open to all doctoral students in Berlin, but because of the limited number of participants, advance registration is required.

For decades Hayden White worked in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California in Santa Cruz and since 1996 has been teaching comparative literature at Stanford University. In his widely acclaimed work Metahistory, published in 1973 and translated into many different languages, White developed a theory of history that authoritatively influenced the poststructuralist and postmodern approaches to the history and literature.

As an interdisciplinary thinker well known for his work on the relationship between history, historiography, and literature and whose research also involves the social and cultural sciences, White is a particularly interesting guest for the Graduate School of North American Studies. There young scholars from the fields of cultural studies, literature, political science, and history work on interdisciplinary issues.

In his lecture, “The Practical Past” Hayden White uses a concept of the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott. It has to do with how the past is told and represented in the present in ever new ways, in line with the question “How should we act today?” Official or scholarly historiography cannot claim more validity in this regard than autobiographies and first-hand testimonies. The lecture will focus on considerations of how variable the boundaries between history and literary narrative are and how traumatic historical experiences such as genocide and slavery, are handled in texts by Primo Levi and Toni Morrison.

Time and Place

May 6, 2010, 6:15 p.m., Lecture Hall of the Ethnological Museum, Lansstraße 8, 14195 Berlin

For information on the lecture and master class and for interview requests from media representatives:

Dr. Katja Mertin, Managing Director, Graduate School of North American Studies
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-52868, Email: mertin@gsnas.fu-berlin.de