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Laurence Raw/ Defne Ersin Tutan
“When we attempt to answer the question ‘What is history?,’ E.H. Carr suggests, in his highly praised assessment of history and historiography, that “our answer, consciously or unconsciously, reflects our position in time, and forms part of our answer to the broader question what view we take of the society in which we live.” Carr regards the present age as “the most historically-minded of all ages,” as “[m]odern man is to an unprecedented degree self-conscious and therefore conscious of history.” In the perspective of Eric Hobsbawm, this increasing self-consciousness coincides with “the rapid historicization of the social sciences themselves. For want of any help from academic historiography, these have increasingly begun to improvise their own – applying their own characteristic procedures to the study of the past.” Today, we may easily take it for granted that historians are not as ‘innocent’ as they used to be thought of, that theirs is not a role of ‘objective recording/compiling of facts’ for the aim of creating a ‘universal history;’ indeed, that historians are not the sole authority in the writing of history to begin with. Hence we have ‘histories’ – in the plural; we frequently speak of ‘alternative histories’ battling their way against ‘History’ – with a capital; we have ‘novelists’ posing as ‘historians’ and ‘historians’ as ‘novelists;’ all of which signify but one ‘fact’: that our fascination with the debate over history has not been the least exhausted yet!
Where, then, does the history debate intersect with the notion of ‘adaptation’? Having so far produced its most fruitful work in exploring the relation between literature and film, studies in adaptation should by no means be considered limited to the film-novel/drama paradigm. Indeed, from a fresh standpoint, every version of history may be regarded an ‘adaptation,’ for the ‘historian’ adapts the material s/he has at hand into a pre-planned scheme, to meet a certain end. What should be considered more crucial is the process through which the historical material becomes adapted. One is, then, tempted to ask, ‘Do ends justify the means?’ To what ends does history get adapted? So the focus is rather on the ‘why’ than the ‘how;’ in other words, the argument raised in this framework scrutinizes adaptation of history as a process, questioning the procedures involved. Through this approach, we might be able to fulfill Gareth Stedman Jones’s dictum that “[social historians] should not be content to chip away at the easily sacrificed protuberances of received historical interpretation. […] They should instead establish the theoretical foundations of any history, they should advance into the structure and history of the ruling class, into the interpretation of the historical morphology of whole cultures. […] Only vigorous intellectual imperialism and collective assault will make a mark. Otherwise the limp ghosts of long departed liberal mandarins will forever ‘weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living.’”
To this end, some questions to be raised and discussed are as follows, though by no means limited to this list:
· What does it mean to adapt/revive/sustain history?
With these questions and arguments in mind, we are setting out to compile a book of academic articles, with a transdisciplinary focus, that uses case-studies as a way of investigating the process of adapting history. The aimed end-product of this work is a theory of adaptation that addresses history from a fresh perspective. We encourage contributions that are as fresh as the compilation aims to be. Contributors are highly welcome to address this politically-charged issue within a multi-national framework.
Please send e-mails, to both of us, of 300-500 word abstracts, along with short bios, by April 1st, 2011. Complete articles will be due October 1st, 2011.
Dr. Defne ERSİN TUTAN
Dr. Laurence J.A. RAW