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The Melancholy Of History: Disenchantment And The Possibility Of Narrative After The French Revolution

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Chapter Summary

Lynn Hunt has aptly described the French Revolution as a 'great talking machine'. From the very beginning, the revolution was recognized as a profound epochal event. The melancholy of history is rooted in the recognition of loss. Since the past was no longer taken to be an extension of the present, it was also increasingly unknowable and opaque, even if it became an object of increasing attention. This epistemological crisis is another dimension to the melancholy of history: its accounts will always remain incomplete and provisional. The second order of difference constituted by modern history is the distinction between nation and empire. Elaborating the distinctions between West and non-West is the third and final order of difference constitutive of modern historical narratives. The master narrative of disenchantment was literary and historiographical gestures that inevitably colonized the stories of others.

Keywords: disenchantment; French Revolution; melancholy; modern historical narratives



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