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Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation$
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Frank Ankersmit

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450716

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450716.001.0001

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(p.48) Chapter 3 Interpretation
Meaning, Truth, and Reference in Historical Representation

Frank Ankersmit

Cornell University Press

The terms “historical interpretation” and “historical representation” are often used interchangeably. The historical text can alternatively be described as an “interpretation” or as a “representation of the past.” Nevertheless, the two terms do not have quite the same meaning. Interpretation and representation have their own respective domains of preferred application. And this raises the question of where to locate historical writing in the space defined by the two axes of interpretation and representation. This chapter argues that we should distinguish between interpretation and representation and, more specifically, avoid looking at the historical text from the perspective of interpretation only. Representation takes priority over interpretation in the historical text: there can be interpretation only after there has first been a representation and therefore an either real or imaginary reality represented by the text.

Keywords:   historical interpretation, historical representation, historical writing, historical text

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