Narrative, Experience and Class: Nineteenth-century Social History in Light of the Linguistic Turn

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Beginning in the mid-1980s, social historians found their approach and assumptions under attack from scholars interested in cultural theory. Those taking the ‘linguistic turn’ rejected social history’s materialist paradigm, arguing for the primacy of language in the generation of identity and consciousness. By the mid-1990s, this challenge spawned fierce polemics among scholars debating the validity of concepts such as experience and class. In the intervening decade and a half, though, the heat has dissipated and scholars can calmly assess the impact of the critique. Though they disagreed fiercely at the time, many participants in these debates operated along a continuum that allows for the continued relevance of social history and the implementation of the lessons of the linguistic turn. By integrating social history’s concerns and insights drawn from the application of cultural theory, promising new approaches transcend the divisions of the 1990s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-396
Number of pages13
JournalHistory Compass
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History

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