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HistoryFor Both Watermelon Womanand KindredUntil now, we’ve been reading the literature of race in terms of its contemporaneous legal and anthropological contexts. In these last two weeks, however, we’ve shifted the ground to questions of history, memory, and forgetting. What is the relationship of the present moment to the past? What is the legacy of race and slavery in the United States? Is it possible to live outside or beyond the past? And what does it mean to find oneself “outside” of history—that is, outside of the dominant modes of representation of history?:
History v. HistoricityIt’s one thing to say that history is the domain of the facts of the past. But what facts, since there are so many? And what can one say about these facts in terms of their significance, their relationship to cause and effect?
History v. Historicity
Context: Time Travel
Context: Time Travel StoriesH.G. Wells. Time Machine (1895)Can history be altered? Wells leaves this question tantalizingly unanswered.Ray Bradbury. “A Sound of Thunder” (1952)The killing of one single butterfly, in the prehistoric past, changes everything in the present.Alfred Bester. “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” (1958)No matter how many times a angry husband goes back in time to erase his wife from history, he fails. He starts by killing his wife’s grandfather; then the grandmother; then George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, and, finally, Mohammed. No luck. Each person dwells in their own time continuum, and they can only travel up and down their own. The carnage afflicted on the past unhinges the main character only from his own continuum, so he now dwells as an insubstantial ghost or voyeur through time.