In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the Rodney King beating, the O.J. Simpson trial, what is to count as history, and how can it be recounted? The Persistence of History is an anthology of essays from major film scholars and historians which focuses on a radical contemporary challenge to historical representation in film. This challenge is brought about by what the collection terms "the modernist event"--novel historical occurrences unthinkable before the 20th century and raised to visibility, if not intelligibility, through the mass mediations of film and television.
Contributors to The Persistence of History look at how moving image has not only challenged, but completely altered, traditional modes of historical thought and representation. Exploring a range of film and video texts, from The Ten Commandments to the Rodney King video, from the projected work of documentarian Errol Morris to Oliver Stone's JFK and Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, the volume asks what are the appropriate forms of media for making the incoherence and fragmentation of contemporary history intelligible and meaningful?
At a moment when History is said to be at an "end," why are more people than ever fascinated by "the historical"--defined as the possibility of being "in" a historical event that is documented, validated, if not invented, through mass media simply by viewing it? By focusing on the relationship between historical events and historiography, the essays in The Persistence of History address this question as well as such issues as ennui and boredom, national identity, violence, and the "ownership" of history.
Contributors: Robert Burgoyne, Thomas Elsaesser, Sumiko Higashi, Bill Nichols, Patrice Petro, Dana Polan, Shawn Rosenheim, Robert Rosenstone, Janet Staiger, Frank Tomasulo, Hayden White, Denise Youngblood.