Monday, April 6, 2009

Week 10: Historiography

Week 10: Historiography
Vitanza divides the realm of historiographies into three main categories. The first is the Traditional Historiography which consists of what most people would think of when they hear "historiography." It is time-focused and relies entirely, or at least heavily on the collection and representation of "facts." Vitanza’s other two categories of historiographies are both in opposition to the traditional view of historiographies. The more common of these is the Revisionist Historiography which seeks to uncover more truth or see how facts were distorted or ignored in a traditional historiography. There are many points during the occurrence, recording, research, and representation of facts during which the “truth” can be distorted. Vitanza’s third category is called Sub/Versive Historiography. This kind of historiography is similar to reversionary historiography, but is more extreme. It focuses on the inability of traditional historiography to ever “know” and is open to any possible version of the past.

Corbetts’s What Classical Rhetoric Has to Offer the Teacher and the Student of Business and Professional Writing, takes a very strong traditional view of historiography. This article is a recounting of how business communication has misused or ignored the field of rhetoric.

Classical Rhetoric’s 4 components:

1. A speaker or writer
2. Listeners
3. A message
4. A reality or universe that the message is discussing

Corbett makes the following claims about business writing:
The audience gets the most attention (as it should)
Business writing is plain (not moderate or grand)
Sayings actually make writing clearer
Establishing ethos is obviously important (tone, prononcio, acio)
If business writers were aware of how classical rhetoricians viewed style, they would be more interested in it.
In the written form, neatness, correct spelling and grammar are most important in business writing.
“For a long time, business writing” has not paid attention to ethos, until recently
Classical Rhetoric pays more attention to emotional appeals (Aristotle) and has a different view of ethos (more on writing and less on resume of speaker)
“All of us need help honing our communication skills”

Zappen’s Francis Bacon and the Historiography of Scientific Rhetoric is an example of revisionary historiography. This article argues that Francis Bacon’s writing has been used inappropriately, although successfully to argue different (and often competing) points of view. Zappen’s appreciation of the flexibility of writing (and presumably the flexibility of researched facts, such as statistics) would put him in the revisionary or perhaps even sub/versive camp.

Howard’s Who 'Owns' Electronic Texts? is another example of traditional historiography. Part of the paper focuses on the history of copyright law, after which the author poses questions about the effects of new electronic media and techniques on future copyright law.


  1. While Vitanza categorizes revisionary into one group with two different sub/groups, revisionary is truly two groups. The first (full disclosure) is an alternative traditional approach. While it rejects the existing historical paradigm, it also looks to establish itself as the new paradigm. Therefore it acts/behaves in the same manner of seeking the positivist truth as the existing dominant historical perspective. The second revisionist approach (self-critical) is really a different creature in my opinion. Because it takes a more postmodernist approach with many "viewpoints/perspectives" then it is truly different than the positivist counterparts. I don't know if it was just my undergrad history major perspective or not, but revisionist positivists/post positivists are significantly differ from those that follow a self-critical historical perspective, and thus deserve separation.

  2. John, your suggestion inadvertantly raises a point about Vitzanza's historiography which tends to get lost when we concern ourselves too much with with applying these labels. Vitanza admits that we must categorize, and that "[n]aming and categorizing are finally inescapable, just as ideology is" (84). The dissoi logoi finds us, as long as we're hinding on college campuses. To this admission, Vitanza also adds—and here's the point that gets buried—that he intends to construct a third category "that would destroy the categorizing, that would unnmane the naming, that would finally make the activity of categorizing and constructing 'covering-laws' ironic" (84). After a semster's worth of categorizing, we end with a return to the beginning, a look askew which finds the gaps in the rules of the game, and bids us come and play there.