Featured Thinker: Hayden White


On 7th of June 2011 we were very pleased to welcome Hayden White as a guest in our series "Featured Thinker".

Hayden White is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and recently retired as a Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. One of the most influential thinkers of our time, he became known for his groundbreaking theories on historical writing and narrative. Always thinking across disciplines, White has had a profound impact on critical practices and approaches throughout the humanities, from historiography and literary studies to anthropology, art history, and philosophy.

Hayden White, who proved to be an energetic and captivating speaker with a great sense of humor, and about 80 participants - faculty members as well as doctoral students and postdocs from different disciplines - engaged in an animated discussion on the basis of selected essays from White's oeuvre. In three thematic sections, respondents provided brief inputs and commentary on the selected essays. The responses inspired a conversation with Hayden White and the audience that touched upon major issues of his work - the role of narrativity and storytelling in historiography and as a larger cultural practice; the nature of the historic "event"; the political and ideological implications of historical writing; the critical role of the humanities in the context of the sciences and society at large, and other of White's wide-ranging concerns. These provided for a lively and at times controversial, but therefore all the more stimulating, debate.

Organization: Prof. Dr. Bärbel Tischleder, Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas

Program: (Essays to be discussed)

10:00 SECTION 1

  • 1. Preface from "Metahistory" (1973), pp. ix-xii.
  • 2. "The Historical Text as Literary Artifact" (1978), pp. 81-100.

11:30 Coffee Break

12:00 SECTION 2

  • 3. "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality" (1980), pp. 5-27.
  • 4. Storytelling: Historical and Ideological" (1996), pp. 273-292.

13:30 Lunch Break

15:00 SECTION 3

  • 5. "The Historical Event" (2008), pp. 9-34.
  • 6. "The Practical Past" (2010), pp. 1-26.

16:30 End of Workshop

Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas, Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter, Prof. Dr. Bärbel Tischleder

Prof. Dr. Marian Füssel, Prof. Dr. Stefan Haas, Prof. Dr. Ralf Haekel, Prof. Dr. Tilmann Köppe, Birte Otten M.A., Emily Petermann, M.A., Dr. des. Daniel Stein, Prof. Dr. Petra Terhoeven