WMU Home > WMU News

WMU News

Language, history and philosophy collide

Nov. 12, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The worlds of language, philosophy and history will intertwine when a visiting scholar from Stanford University gives a presentation Thursday, Nov. 13, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Hayden White is professor of comparative literature at Stanford and professor emeritus of the history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He will speak on "The Practical Past," referencing the work of Michael Oakeshott, "one of the most elusive and intriguing intellectuals of the 20th century." His presentation is at 6 p.m. in the Fetzer Center and is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

White earned his bachelor's degree at Wayne State University and master's doctoral degrees at the University of Michigan in 1952 and 1956, respectively. He is perhaps best known for his 1973 work "Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe," which some recognize as a watershed in the philosophy of history.

White rejected the post-Collingwoodian philosophy of history by brushing away previous distinctions and debates and by rejecting the notion of causality in history. He proposed a return to the historical text, which, he thought, had been abandoned in favor of the study of other works.

In "Knowledge and Postmodernism in Historical Perspective," editor Joyce Oldham Appleby writes about White: "Only since the historical profession made the 'linguistic turn' has White become known as the foremost critic of the modern historiographical tradition. While his predecessors focused upon historical methodology, White questions the very forms of language in which history is written."

White's visit is co-sponsored by The Graduate College, The Visiting Scholars and Artists Fund and the departments of History, English, Spanish, Foreign Languages and Anthropology and WMU's medieval studies program.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400