Tonight’s menu: Pork Paprikash. Wait, this is not that kind of blog. (But I really did make paprikash this week, and it was pretty darn good for my first time.) Anyway…
In today’s reading came the end of the first chapter, “The Curtain Goes Up: ‘Gregorian Chant,’ the First Literate Repertory, and How it Got That Way.” Taruskin’s title—especially the first phrase—cleverly sets the stage, so to speak, for the enterprising soul who has set out to read his history. “Settle in to your seat,” Taruskin seems to say, “and enjoy the OHWM, a History in Five Acts. Cue the overture!”
His use of the curtain metaphor has me thinking about the connection between the telling of history, and the presentation of a drama. We usually talk about history as a “narrative” (Taruskin included, notwithstanding his condemnation of the nefarious “master narrative”), but is there any benefit to applying dramatic theory to historiography? Or do the pitfalls of such a paradigm outweigh the benefits? Does anyone know if any work has been done on this, or have thoughts about it?
Of course, when I think drama I automatically think opera: a curtain-raising overture, several acts, a cast of characters whose relationships to one another will be revealed over the course of the evening—however ill-fated those relationships turn out to be—remember, it’s opera. How does/should the work of a historian emulate drama? (Extra points for the first commenter who uses “dramaturgical” in his/her response.)