Wednesday, September 24, 2008

mediating histories

I've been thinking and writing a lot about epideictic rhetoric over the last few days which is, in very few words, the rhetoric of display. I read this cool article that basically claims that the most successful occasions of epideictic kind of stick around in a community's and even society's memory. We use those pieces of discourse as proverbial dots--culturally defining moments--and connect those dots to create for ourselves workable histories. These histories are never complete and maybe even do more to obfuscate the actual realities of what occurred. Nevertheless, they help us imagine our pasts, and therefore also help us imagine ourselves.

Anyway, I saw this cool ad today and it made me start thinking about this all over again. Media is one way that we do the work of history reconstruction:
is a project with basically these same ends. Reconstruct the past using the pieces of discourse that have persisted (in both artifact and memory).


  1. This is Brandon...

    I think I get it.

    1950s=Poodle skirts and soda fountains.

  2. The more I think about your point, the less I like the word reconstruct. The leftover bits which we think of as history can never be reconstructed. The historian (meaning essentially anyone who wants to make sense of the past) has to do a great deal of spackling, so that Humpty Dumpty is more glue than shell when all is said and done. Better to think of history (meaning the story we tell ourselves of the past) as a new creation of a raconteur who takes the bits and makes sense of them. In that sense, we have finally denied von Ranke and his God-perspective - wie es eigentlich gewesen ist. So what we build (as in the bread commercial) is not so much a view into the past, but a new narrative that uses the bits to tell a new story, in this case the story of bread.