History, anthropology and archeology is very repetitive


Historians write their own stories, but “not of their own free will, not under circumstances of their own choosing, but rather under circumstances immediately found, given and handed down”.[1] With this reformulation of the famous Marx’s dictum, leeway and dependencies can be characterized when writing texts that deal with the past. Because the circumstances found, given and handed down undoubtedly also include narrative patterns and narrative structures in which you as the author of stories have always been integrated.

Narratives and short stories have been booming in cultural studies for some time. In the course of the hegemony of scientific models, the narrative was long regarded as a supposedly inferior form of knowledge or the transfer of knowledge, but it has recently undergone an unmistakable rehabilitation. After the end of the “great narratives”, the narration advances to become a leading category in cultural studies that is used in areas as diverse as history and the history of science, but also in memory research, film studies, sociology, psychology and law.[2]

After an introduction to central narratological theories and basic concepts, in a second step we present narratological approaches in the theory and methodology of historical studies. Finally, some fields of application in the science of history will be shown.

What does storytelling mean?

Roland Barthes introduces his treatise on the structural analysis of narratives with the succinct remark: "The narrative does not care about good or bad literature: it is international, transhistorical, transcultural, and therefore simply there, like life."[3] Since people have obviously always told stories everywhere and always and our culture is permeated by narratives, narratological approaches are in principle open to an enormous area of ​​application. However, this is not infrequently accompanied by an excessively great arbitrariness that robs the concept of its contours - the narrative seems to be threatened with the same fate that overtook its relatives, the discourse, some time ago. If one wants to make the concept of the narrative fruitful beyond literary studies, it is necessary to ask about the possibilities and limits of its expansion and expansion. The focus is initially on those specific services and functions that can be ascribed to narratives far beyond the field of literature. Despite all the differences, they basically agree on at least two points: First, stories are characterized by the "composition of the events",[4] so by specific connections, and secondly by a genuinely temporal structure, so that it can generally be understood as a temporally structured representation of event sequences.

The epistemic and ontological status of narratives

In a very broad sense, storytelling can be understood as a fundamental form of access to the world, as a narrative "way of creating the world," as Nelson Goodman put it.[5] The cognitive scientist Mark Turner even elevates the narrative imagination to “the” fundamental instrument of human thought.[6] For an understanding of the cognitive function of storytelling, however, such an extensive determination does not seem to make much sense. The cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner has developed a more differentiated perspective. Bruner distinguishes between two fundamental modes of thought: the paradigmatic and the narrative. The narrative mode of thinking is characterized by the tracing of stories and the production of plausibility and "truthfulness", while the paradigmatic mode comprises the logical-scientific - or explanatory - thinking, is based on "truth" and develops argumentatively.[7] The narrative mode is understood as a cognitive structure that humans first impose on experiences and actions in order to translate them into a more or less coherent order: between "life" (or "happening") and "thinking" (or “Representation”) there is no continuity, but a break. The American philosopher Louis Mink summed up this point of view: “Stories are not lived but told. Life has no beginnings, middles, or ends. "[8] So it makes no sense at all to speak of experienced but non-articulated stories, since the essence of a story is its narrative structure and articulation.

This narrative constructivism is of course not undisputed. On the other hand, there are positions that closely relate life and storytelling. In the sense of a fundamental "narrative being-in-the-world"[9] the view is taken here that human life itself can be understood as a story or narrative and is experienced as such.[10] The Husserl student Wilhelm Schapp argued furthest in this direction when he declared humans to be fundamentally “entangled in stories”. In doing so, he consistently denied the question of whether “there could be anything outside of stories”.[11] The fact that Schapp is received relatively little is not least due to this pan-narrativism, as his phenomenological approach ultimately amounts to completely eliminating the break between events and narrative.[12] At about the same time, the narrative being-in-the-world was also problematized by Hannah Arendt. In “Vita activa” (1958) she describes a “reference fabric of human affairs” which manifests itself in “clearly recognizable patterns” that can be “told as life stories”.[13]

Building on this consideration, the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre tries to anchor the personal identity "in the unity of a narrative embodied in a single life" and accordingly turns the quoted dictum of Louis Mink into the opposite: "Stories are lived before they are told."[14] Critics, however, have not only problematized the normative character of these positions - the view that a meaningful life is bound to a consistent narrative form - but also pointed to the excessive demands of the narrative expressed here. On the other hand, as Dieter Thomä emphasizes, the strength of the narrative is to be seen “not in the totalizing exaggeration, but in the restriction to the particular”.[15]

A third, in a certain way mediating position is taken by Paul Ricœur. Following on from Aristotle, he describes a threefold “circle of mimesis”: According to this, the narrative composition is fundamentally based on a “pre-understanding”, so it has a “prenarative structure” according to Schapps and Arendt[16] on. In doing so, he insists on the independent and creative character of the actual narrative processing. This “refiguration” represents - in the sense of narrative constructivism - a fundamental break, but on a third level it has an effect on reality or the world of action.[17] The narrative "configuration" plays the decisive role. A previously heterogeneous temporal event is put together to form a coherent whole - a story. In narratives, not only events or actions, but completely disparate elements - actors, actions, objects, times, places, etc. - are linked in a “synthesis of the heterogeneous” and condensed into specific plots or fables.[18]

This is exactly where the specific strength of narratives lies: Stories do not consist of stringing together or simply listing what is always the same and what is expected. Rather, they address deviations and changes, i.e. the unexpected and its consequences. It depends on this break with the routine whether an event is considered to be at all worth telling applies.[19] The decisive moment of narrative representation consists in the fact that changes, as Aristotle put it, “nevertheless consistently emerge from one another”.[20] The individual elements of the narrative only derive their meaning from their interlinking, and contingent events are transformed into history. In this sense, Ricœur emphasizes the ability and power of narratives to transform the "contingency effect into a necessity effect"[21] to turn over and to convert the “wild contingency” into a “regulated contingency”.[22]

Starting from this function of creating meaning and coherence, social psychologists have examined the central role of self-narratives in the constitution and transformation of personal and collective identity and developed various concepts of “narrative identity”.[23] "Collective narratives", ie intersubjective stories circulating within a society, are of particular historical relevance.[24] Such public narratives ultimately have an important function in processes of collective identity formation.[25] Here, too, meaningful links and narrative integration of disparate experiences or events play a central role. Cultural narratives or narrative patterns not only constitute communities, but also mark their boundaries. In this sense, cultures can also be described as specific narrative spaces within which certain narratives not only appear meaningful, but also develop an integrative and exclusive force.[26] A particularly sustainable and well-researched example of this process is the constitutive meaning of narratives in modern nationalism. The "synthesis of the heterogeneous" consists here in the meaningful composition of the nation's disparate pasts and the narrative focus on specific fundamental events and decisive changes.[27]

Basic concepts of narratology

For a more detailed analysis of narrative texts, one can fall back on terminology and instruments such as those developed by narrative research or narratology in the second half of the 20th century.[28] As a rough guide, a distinction can be made between so-called classical and structuralist approaches.[29] In classical narrative research, the mediating authority of the narrator, who is distinguished by the author, functions and thus the “indirectness as a generic feature of the narrative”. Depending on the degree of involvement of the narrator in the narrated event, a distinction is made between different types or narrative situations - such as first-person narrators, personal narrators and authoritative narrators.[30] A narrative is therefore a story conveyed by a narrator. According to this narrow version of the narrative term, for example, drama, film or comic do not belong to the narratives because they do not have a distinct narrative instance. Against this limitation, the accusation of “medial one-eyedness” has been raised, and so today's narrative research is particularly interested in the variety of media forms of representation of narratives.[31]

In contrast, will Narration Conceived in structuralist narratology as a basic linguistic mode that can be differentiated accordingly from other modes or text types.[32] They act as the classic opposite poles of narration Description and the argumentation. Both the argumentative and the descriptive mode are fundamentally static - they lack the temporal element of narration: arguments are geared towards conviction and proceed deductively or inductively; Descriptions assign certain properties to objects, people or situations and develop a synchronous and spatial order. In contrast, narratives address changes (of states or situations). According to this minimal definition, every representation of temporally structured event sequences can be defined as a narrative. Insofar as history is constitutively related to change - the becoming of the world - there can therefore be no non-narrative (i.e. purely descriptive and purely arguing) historiography.

Another fundamental distinction in structuralist narratology relates to the relationship between the form and content of what is told: because every story or event can be told in multiple ways, a distinction can be made between the “what” and “how” of the narrative. The content page is usually called the "story" (story) and the presentation side as "discourse" or "narrative" (discourse) designated.[33] Even if the more recent “transmedia” narratology has pointed out the problem of this structuralist distinction and emphasized that the story depends to a considerable extent on their specific representation in various media,[34] this distinction can be maintained at least for heuristic reasons.

Another term - later prominently anchored in the historiographical debate by Hayden White - is that of plot. This describes an already prepared basic motif of a story that goes beyond the mere (chronological or episodic) sequence of actions or events and rather relates them to one another or allows them to emerge from one another.[35] This distinction was introduced and explained using a concise example by the British writer E.M. Forster: “'The king died and then the queen died' is a story. 'The king died and then the queen died of Grief' is a plot. "[36] A plot - or narrative - describes a certain scheme of action or narrative pattern that can be related to a basically infinite abundance of events and actions and for this reason must prove to be stable and flexible at the same time.[37] There have been various attempts to systematize narratives and reduce them to basic forms.

In the debate about the narrative structures in historiography, the schema of the Canadian literary scholar Northrop Frye plays a central role: Frye distinguishes four “generic plots” - romance, tragedy, comedy, satire - that apply to every literary creation underlie.[38] Today's narratology - oriented towards cultural studies or cultural history - has deviated from the idea of ​​universal narrative structures that span time and culture. Rather, it is assumed here that narrative patterns are historically changeable phenomena of collective reality generation and intersubjective understanding, which basically depend on cultural and social contexts: They are therefore always subject to breaks and changes.[39]

Telling factual: storytelling in the sciences

It is commonplace that stories are told beyond fictional literature. The question, however, is the extent to which literary-fictional and non-fictional narratives - factual narratives[40] or Narratives of reality[41] - differentiate is more difficult to answer. For a narratological approach to factual texts, the first question that arises is less to what extent the presented content of a statement corresponds to an extra-textual reality, but rather whether and to what extent this difference can be identified on the basis of specific linguistic features.

In this context it can be useful to distinguish between Fictionality and reality on the one as well Fictionality and Factuality can be used on the other hand. The question of whether the content of a text is fictional or real relates to the ontological status of what is presented and thus to the reference, i.e. the relation to an extralinguistic reality. In contrast, refers Fictionality on a certain narrative mode that triggers the expectation in the readers that they are dealing with an essentially imaginary world. In contrast, the mode of the Factuality (or factual narration) to texts that aim to convey true facts and are understood accordingly by the recipients - regardless of whether the content presented is actually true.[42] In this sense, the content of famous forgeries or inventions - such as in the "Hitler diaries" - is undoubtedly fictional, while these texts are not fictional, but factual stories.

Now there are various ways in which a fictional work can be recognized as such or "exposed".[43] All attempts, however, go beyond so-called paratextual features[44] (like the labeling as a novel on the cover) such "Signposts of Fictionality"[45] or "fiction signals"[46] linguistically determined were ultimately not able to convince. Analytical language philosophers like John R. Searle insist on this: "There is no textual property, syntactical or semantic that will identify a text as a work of fiction."[47] Rather, fictional signals depend on social conventions and thus prove to be historically variable. Conversely, the same also applies to “science signals”, i.e. those textual markers that make it clear to the reader that this is a work that follows contemporary scientific practices. Corresponding paratextual features (footnotes, list of sources and references, the format of scientific journals) can be easily identified. In this sense, in addition to a "fictional pact"[48] from a science pact (in the case of historiography, from a "historiographical pact"[49]) speak. This pact guarantees the reader by convention that the respective text is to be assigned to the genre “science”. While fiction assumes that readers voluntarily give up their disbelief, scholars appeal to a suspicious readership who expects the presentation to be authenticated according to scientific criteria.[50] This is linked to the idea that the author adheres to historically variable, but scientific standards, which also include the truthfulness and verifiability of the empirical data material used.

It is also part of this pact that readers assume an identity between author and narrator in academic texts. In this sense, Gérard Genette has asserted the coincidence of the two as a general indicator of factual narration, since here the personal responsibility and liability of the individual author for the narrated is decisive.[51] However, there are good reasons to object to this argument that scientific texts also develop a concise narrative voice, their own rhetoric and their own narrative style.[52] In historiographical texts, for example, the narrator can take the voice of the eyewitness, defense counsel, investigating judge, detective, accused or a defensive marginalized person and this can be sober, evocative, distant, emotional, pastoral or depending on the position and purpose of the presentation perform analytically.[53] In addition, scientific texts often have narrative instances that in no way coincide with the real authors or do not even index them. For example, the “we” that often appears as a narrator in scientific texts does not usually correspond to plural authorship, but rather represents a literary convention that a researcher or reader collectively constructs. Likewise, the names listed as authors of (natural) scientific articles do not have to correspond to the real authors of the text. Rather, they usually also contain the names of people - such as institute or laboratory managers - who are sometimes not involved in specific research practice.

Of course, diverging narrative voices and narrative instances do not turn scientific texts into aesthetic literature, nor do they speak in favor of a “pan-fictionalist” leveling of the difference between fiction and reality. However, they point to the interferences and borrowings between the two narrative conventions - that is, the use of fictional signals in factual representations or the role of "reality effects"[54] in fictional literature.

Narratological approaches in the theory of history

In the science of history - or more specifically: the theory of history - Hayden White is certainly the best-known exponent of a narratological approach.[55] White claims in his 1973 book Metahistory (as well as in numerous articles) that historians only have a certain number of modes of representation available to tell a story.[56] Language, was one of his initial considerations after the linguistic turn, be not a transparent medium, but structure the meaning of every narrative.

Cover: Hayden White, Metahistory. The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1973 Wikipedia (public domain).

Referring back to the narratological plot term outlined above, White uses the term des emplotment a. He denotes a specific assignment of meaning to the narrated past: Historians who are faced with a chaos of facts indicate a beginning, a middle and an end to the story according to the chronological arrangement of the events - a first, spartan form of the narrative with it a plot too. Using the Fryes typology, he assumes only four “archetypal” narrative patterns - romance, comedy, tragedy and satire or irony. According to White, historical representations are ultimately based on a dramatization of historical events, but as with Frye, these narrative patterns appear peculiarly indeterminate, especially since there is no historical perspective on these changeable forms of genre.[57]

Historians, according to White, in no way grasped the romance-like, tragic, comic or ironic meaning of history, as Marx had suggested following Hegel in “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”.[58] In the sense of narrative constructivism, he rather claims that a historical event is by no means inscribed with a tragic or any other plot. In his daring, but thoroughly stimulating theory, White rather creates family resemblances to these plots, which were subsequently designed by historians, with certain formal arguments, ideological assumptions and finally with linguistic tropes that structure the thought movements of a text.[59]

In contrast to Ricœur, for example, the narration with White has a negative connotation. The stated “unity” of many historical narratives of the 19th century is for him an indication that the story remains tied to both the “moral consciousness” and the “moral authority of the narrator”.[60] For this reason he sees narration as "an ideological instrument".[61] White's critical attitude towards such closed narratives leads to a favoring ironic - i.e. self-reflective - narrative methods that are able to break up such narratives.

Reception and debate

White's poetology of historiographical forms of representation, which at the same time was associated with an ideology-critical attack on a positivist understanding of science, earned not only recognition but also vehement criticism. The focus was on his supposedly postmodern relativism: after all, he pointedly referred to historical narratives as “verbal fictions”, “their content as well invented how found[62] be. He was also accused of largely ignoring the research process and the constructive nature of historical interpretations, which most historians have certainly reflected on. In the German-language historical scholarship, this debate also met upstream threads of discussion, for example when the struggles for positions of the historical social sciences against traditional political historiography in the 1970s and 1980s were also accompanied by catchphrases such as "explain" versus "narration" or "theory" versus " Narration ”.[63] In this respect, it is not surprising that the narrative dimensions of historical meaning formation were only hesitantly reflected in the course of the new cultural history.

In the dispute over “facts and fictions”, some concerned the salvation of historical reality, a “defense of history”, if not the historical truth itself,[64] while others assigned the factor that constitutes meaning and identity to narrative modeling alone. The critics referred to the evidential value of the monuments and documents of the past, to a negative limitation of the historical imagination through the "veto right of the sources"[65] or on a more comprehensive, in particular argumentative-explanatory, science-immanent and intersubjective "referentiality" of historical research.[66] Literary scholars, on the other hand, saw the assertion of the “fictionality” or “literary nature” of historiography threatened the field they cultivated and the “poetological difference”. In particular, narrative research tried, as outlined above, to define the differentiation between fictional and factual narration more clearly.[67]

Functional narrative theories

Functional and communication-theoretical approaches can be distinguished from purely narratologically argued historical-theoretical approaches. This also shows that the considerations about the meaning of storytelling in the historical sciences are not as new as the talk of narrative turn occasionally lets appear.[68] Prominent forerunners in the 19th century can be identified - above all Johann Gustav Droysen. In his “Historik” Droysen distinguishes between “investigative”, “narrative”, “didactic” and “discussive” forms of representation, each of which has different functions in communicating about history.[69]

Referring to Droysen, but in a pointed demarcation from poetologically or rhetorically oriented narrativity theories, Jörn Rüsen also assigns an important aspect to the story for the constitution of meaning and orientation performance of history. Its ideal-typical construction distinguishes between “traditional”, “exemplary”, “critical” and “genetic” storytelling.[70] Although he finds examples of all forms in the present, Rüsen's typology implies a “teleological figure who believes in progress”[71]who ultimately favors critical and genetic and thus at the same time rational and argumentative storytelling. This can explain why history has been in motion in historiography since the end of the 18th century through figures such as progress and process, evolution and revolution, on the other hand, traditional and exemplary narrative styles appear prematurely as outdated forms of historical meaning formation.

Fields of application

Narratological approaches have their place not only in historical methodology and theory formation or history. As outlined below, they have rather been used in a wide variety of historical research fields and, not least, have promoted a text-analytical source criticism and multi-perspective presentation methods.[72]

In the history of historiography, narratological approaches were initially seen as a challenge to deal with the relationship between literature and history, between aesthetics and science. The focus here was on the exchange of modern (historical) sciences since the second half of the 19th century with literary, later also film and other media-specific narrative patterns.[73] The view, which has long been widespread in historiography-historical research, that the “scientification of the historical sciences” becomes quasi an anesthetic[74] the representation has been increasingly called into question.[75] Particularly noteworthy in this context are works that deal with the interdependencies between historiography and literature. These dissolve the rigid dichotomy of "fact and fiction," of scientific and literary narratives, which is inscribed in both White's texts and many of his critics. Explicative patterns of meaning that result from the narrativity of historiographical representations do not have to be equated - as Paul Ricœur shows convincingly - with an alleged fictionality of the historical discourse. Rather, it is about mutual borrowing, i.e. the "crossing of history and fiction"[76]how they manifest themselves in certain plausibility strategies of historical narratives and the adaptation of literary and documentary narrative methods in historiography.

Attempts to apply White's tropological model directly to the history of historiography were hardly convincing.[77] The situation is different, however, with the identification of the four narrative patterns (tragedy, romance, comedy, satire and irony) and their respective ideological implications. However, they should not only be understood as construction patterns, but also as patterns of reception of history, which assign a consistent, intersubjectively comprehensible meaning to a larger context of events. Competing historical narratives can then be analyzed to determine how they present certain events in different narrative explanatory patterns. Such dramatic patterns of meaning and reception of history are not only to be found in science, but - even more so - in biographical and collective memory as well as in popular historical narratives.[78]

The interferences between literary and historiographical narratives have been extensively analyzed, particularly with regard to the so-called Sattelzeit around 1800 and the emergence of historicism. Thus, works investigate the question of how the “Goethe era aesthetics” (Fulda) and the emergence of the modern novel (Süssmann) affected the writing of history in the first half of the 19th century.[79] Subsequent attempts to relate the development of historiography in the 20th century in part to the literary avant-garde were more of an experimental nature.[80] The situation is different with regard to the adaptation of criminal literary or detective schemes in scientific historiography, which can be easily traced back to the 19th century.[81] Overall, it can be observed that narratological approaches are less widespread in historiography research when it comes to more recent contemporary historiography. Studies on the work of contemporary historians in particular focus more on social or institutional issues than on the narrative construction of meaning.[82]

In addition, numerous studies refer to the outlined approaches of a cultural-historical narratology. This also includes more classic historiographical or historical cultural works that are national, but also increasingly transnationalmaster narratives, méta récits or dedicate "master stories".[83] This can be understood to mean a “coherent, with a clear perspective and usually oriented towards the nation-state” that gains “public dominance” or hegemonic power of interpretation (for example via the “German Sonderweg”, the “liberalization and democratization of the Federal Republic ”Or the“ Clash of Civilizations ”). Master narratives can be described in terms of content, structural, methodological, argumentative, legitimizing, semantic characteristics (selection of events, analysis of the beginning and end of the narrative, criteria of rationality, basic terms, etc.) as well as with regard to the "relation [s] to the social practices of the traditional foundation and history politics ”[84] analyze in order to understand their social significance.[85] If these investigations speak of "stories of suffering" and "decline", of "special paths" and "wrong turns", of "success stories" or the pattern of "rise and fall", Hayden White can also describe this as a tragic, romances or comedy-like views of history are called.[86]

For the area of ​​historical (auto) biography research, memory and memory history[87] as well as oral history[88] it can be stated that biographical forms of narration are in one way or another culturally shaped master narratives Respectively. Biographies, for example, can inscribe themselves in such narrative patterns - or they can set themselves apart from them and try to make corrections to the dominant narrative patterns. Without claiming to be exhaustive, some typical narrative patterns and topoi can be named: the story of conversion and conversion, which is the portrayal of a central break through which the life that has been overcome is largely presented as outdated, if not as an error.[89] Confession and self-confession[90] As the basic narrative pattern of the autobiography - especially in the 20th century - there are exculpatory narratives of the "apolitical" or the "technician", who each want to have "only served the cause".[91]Psychological or psychoanalytically inspired explanatory patterns can be found in narratives of trauma,[92] but can also be found in the topos of the “Faustian character” or the pattern of “Jekyll and Hyde”.[93]

In addition, the connection between life turns and political and social upheavals can be analyzed in the biography.The reason for writing is often based on a contingent and crisis-ridden experience of caesura, which leads to a self-historicization, self-therapy or narrative of emancipation.[94] The biographical narrative transforms the experience of time into contexts by placing the “past and present in a relationship to one another” and thus signaling a consciousness of continuity or caesura.[95] The traditional (auto) biography tries to construct a meaningful context of events: By insisting on the chronology, simultaneities can be captured, while their breaking up offers the possibility of discerning non-simultaneity and thus the connections of far apart events. The identity-forming narrative coherence is of course described by Pierre Bourdieu as a "biographical illusion"[96] been exposed.[97] This is not the only reason why it is controversial whether the (auto) biographical narrative can only fall back on existing cultural narratives or whether it can decide between different circulating patterns of interpretation through the “actual individual history of experience” and thereby rebuild and modify the socially constructed patterns of interpretation.[98] Finally, it should be pointed out briefly that the biographical narrative pattern is increasingly being applied to other subjects, for example in the context of “object biographies” or on the basis of “biographical objects” in the course of studies on material culture[99] or also for the history of cities.[100]

Furthermore, narratological approaches following White and Rüsen have recently been taken up in neighboring historical sciences such as archeology. Last but not least, the question is whether and to what extent archaeological and conventional historical narrative methods differ - for example due to different evidence (material instead of written sources).[101]

Research into the history of science has only just begun to deal more intensively with the function of narration in various epistemic contexts.[102] A twofold set of questions arises here: On the one hand, it is about the presentation and conveyance of knowledge, and on the other hand, the more far-reaching question of the extent to which narratives do not already play a role in the constitution of knowledge. From one epistemic The function of narration can (apart from the outlined cognitive meaning) be spoken where “facts from fictions”[103] generated - for example, when different scenarios are played through narrative or entire models of world explanations come along in narrative form (a prime example of this is the theory of evolution).[104] The representative The function of narration relates to the presentation and communication practices in the sciences.[105] The importance of the narrative mode seems particularly evident in popular scientific presentations, in disciplinary historical overviews or biographies of scientists. At the same time, it cannot generally be assumed that the importance of narrative structures decreases the more one turns away from popular scientific forms of representation and orientates oneself on customary conventions. More recent science research in particular has dealt intensively with scientific text production and has pointed out the importance of recurring narrative patterns in this context.[106]

Narratological approaches have also proven to be helpful in other historical fields.[107] Last but not least, one can also ask about the media prerequisites for writing history and their effects on the formation and modification of historical and historiographical narratives. It can be about the impact of archival and library practices - the excerpt and the slip box, handwritten practices, the use of the typewriter, the dictaphone or the computer - on the conception of historical narratives.[108] These questions have been discussed anew, especially with regard to the writing of history in the Internet age - and need to be discussed further.[109]

Summary: Open questions and problem areas

In the past, narration was dismissed as an alleged non-scientific or pre-scientific presentation, but narration is now very popular in cultural and scientific research. It is widely recognized that the narrative mode plays an important role not only in the representation but also in the constitution of knowledge. It therefore seems wholly inappropriate to place scientific and literary procedures in an antagonistic relationship. Rather, it should be about further elaborating the interferences and mutual borrowings of both narrative forms, which of course by no means means leveling out their differences or even defying the non-existence of extra-textual realities.

Such a narratological investigation seems particularly fruitful in the case of historiography, which has always been particularly close to narration. Unfortunately, to this day, the debate about the overlap between history and fiction is primarily focused on Hayden White. A stronger consideration of subject-specific requirements and practical research factors would have saved them from viewing the - inevitable - narrative constructional character of every historical narrative as the sole characteristic of historiographical construction of meaning. Because a central problem of his considerations remains that he does not go into the historiographical research practice, the documentary evidential value and a more comprehensively conceived internal scientific referentiality of historiography.

At the same time, however, the “narrative culture” should also be included in this interpretation horizon, and with it the question of which narrative patterns exist in literature, science and society to tell a story, and which excess meaning they each carry with them. In addition, there are good reasons to adhere to a pragmatic distinction between fictional and factual narratives in the sense explained above (and not to allow this difference to merge with an ontological difference between fiction and reality). However, the boundary between historiography and literature, between factual and fictional certification, should always be kept open in order to achieve the broadest possible understanding of different modes of historical and scientific formation of meaning. Another suggestion would be to no longer focus primarily on the macro level, i.e. on overarching plots or narratives, when examining historiographical texts, but also to include individual components of narratives. So far there have been hardly any studies on the historiographical representation or narrative constitution of historical actors.[110]

Admittedly, not only narratological approaches have indicated the importance of language for the constitution of history. Rather, conceptual history, historical semantics and historical discourse analysis are also based on this assumption. It is all the more astonishing that their connection and their different explanatory potential are seldom discussed. From a theoretical as well as a historiographical perspective, it would be worthwhile to ask how terms and metaphors shape narrations and whether certain narrative patterns depend on distinctive terminology.[111] The same goes for - en grosso modo - also for historical discourse analysis.[112] The question that arises here is the relationship between a concept of discourse aimed at the ordering function of language (and therefore more synchronously applied) to the linear and temporally organized concept of narration.[113]

Historians have always wanted to make past events understandable by reconstructing the “found, given and handed down circumstances” under which people act. You should not be afraid to apply this procedure to yourself and to examine more closely the circumstances under which you are acting, i.e. making history.