Critical historiography

Critical historiography

Critical historiography approaches the history of art, literature or architecture from a critical theory perspective. Critical historiography is used by various scholars in recent decades to emphasize the ambiguous relationship between the past and the writing of history.

A type of critical historiography can be seen, for example, in the work of Harold Bloom. In Map of Misreading, Bloom argued that poets should not be seen as autonomous agents of creativity, but rather as part of a history that transcends their own production and that to a large degree gives it shape. The historian can try to stabilize poetic production so as to better understand the work of art, but can never completely extract the historical subject from history.

Also among those who argue for the primacy of historiography is the architectural historian Mark Jarzombek. The focus of this work is on disciplinary production rather than poetic production, as was the case with Bloom. Since psychology - which became a more or less official science in the 1880s - is now so pervasive, Jarzombek argued, but yet so difficult to pinpoint, the traditional dualism of subjectivity and objectivity has become not only highly ambiguous, but also the site of a complex negotiation that needs to take place between the historian and the discipline. The issue, for Jarzombek, is particular poignant in the fields of art and architectural history, the principal subject of the book. Pierre Nora's notion of "ego-histories," also moves in the direction of critical historiography. The idea of these histories is to bring into focus the relationship between the personality of historians and their life choices in the process of writing of history.


  • Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973; 2d ed., 1997. ISBN
  • H. Bloom, A Map of Misreading. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
  • Mark Jarzombek, "Critical Historiography," in The Psychologizing of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2002) online chapter
  • Pierre Nora, Essais d'ego-histoire (Gallimard), 1987

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