Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

11. Dominick C. LaCapra, History/Comparative Literature

History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory (Cornell University Press, 2004). LaCapra explores the relation of historiography (or historical writing) and critical theory that tests the assumptions and implications of the way one approaches the past. He offers a revised understanding of psychoanalysis in order to render more self-aware the relation between the historian and his or her material. He also investigates critically the recent turn in history to the problem of experience, including memory and identity, by discussing the relation between extreme—typically violent—events in history, epitomized by the Holocaust, and the role of trauma and its aftermath. More generally, the book explores relationships that have been insufficiently theorized: between experience and identity, between history and various theories of subjectivity, between extreme events and their representation, between institutional structures and the kinds of knowledge produced within them. Taken together, these discussions form a dialogical encounter, positing the links among epistemological questions, historicist ones, and issues pertaining to disciplinary and institutional politics. Experience emerges as a category both theoretically determined and anchored in the facticity of the everyday.

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