Historiography and Narrative Writing

This site was designed and built to draw attention to non-novel forms of narrative writing. In my first post, I briefly discussed that history books are examples of narrative writing. Here, I want to further explain that notion and draw attention to the importance of historiography in the development of narratology. 

So, first thing’s first: What is historiography? This is the study of the methods employed by historians to develop history as an academic discipline. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied and presented that event or period—the sources they used, the data-gather techniques employed, and the various theoretical approaches applied to the writing itself. Historiography has different approaches and genres; there’s political history and social history, academic history and historiographic literature. In essence, historiography is the study of how historians write history.

Though I briefly detailed narratology in a previous post, I’ll reiterate for the purpose of clarity. This is the study of narrative, narrative structure, and the ways in which that structure affects our perception of a sequence of events. This study is strongly associated with the structuralist movement and the need for a formal system of discussing narrative structure.  

So, what do these two seemingly disparate studies have to do with each other? Well… everything. If historiography is the construction of a story through various methods, that story itself is narratological. There are causal events and moments, and the language used to discuss history is inexplicably tied to narratology. I’m surprised I haven’t seen much literature discussing the ties between these fields of study–the connection feels so obvious and inextricable. 

Learning about these fields has led to me to an important question. Before the development of narratology, how did people talk about narrative structure? The study was created in the early 20th century, but historiography and the construction of history has occurred since, well, the beginning of history. I’d be curious to see how these fields grew—if they did so concurrently or separately, meeting somewhere in the middle. Did one borrow language from the other? How was historiography discussed prior to the study of narrative form? If you have answers to any of these questions, drop me a line–I’m curious to know.  

Categories: General