Cover of Haunting History by Ethan Kleinberg
Haunting History
For a Deconstructive Approach to the Past
Ethan Kleinberg

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September 2017
248 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503602373
Paper ISBN: 9781503603387

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This book argues for a deconstructive approach to the practice and writing of history at a moment when available forms for writing and publishing history are undergoing radical transformation. To do so, it explores the legacy and impact of deconstruction on American historical work; the current fetishization of lived experience, materialism, and the "real;" new trends in philosophy of history; and the persistence of ontological realism as the dominant mode of thought for conventional historians.

Arguing that this ontological realist mode of thinking is reinforced by current analog publishing practices, Ethan Kleinberg advocates for a hauntological approach to history that follows the work of Jacques Derrida and embraces a past that is at once present and absent, available and restricted, rather than a fixed and static snapshot of a moment in time. This polysemic understanding of the past as multiple and conflicting, he maintains, is what makes the deconstructive approach to the past particularly well suited to new digital forms of historical writing and presentation.

About the author

Ethan Kleinberg is Professor of History and Letters at Wesleyan University and the author of Generation Existential: Heidegger's Philosophy in France, 1927–1961 (2005).

"Ethan Kleinberg's book is the first deconstructive treatment of the recent debate over the nature of historical time, the presence of the past in the present, and the nature of historicity characteristic of modernity. It's also a healthy response to all of those critics of deconstruction who never bothered reading Derrida sufficiently deeply. It is serious. It is stimulating. It is original."

—Hayden White, University of California, Santa Cruz

"In this eagerly awaited and important book, Ethan Kleinberg makes an impassioned and convincing plea for historians to reflect on the theory and practice of their discipline. Inspired by Derrida and deeply immersed in the traditions of historical scholarship, he argues that a rigorous understanding of the past shows why it is necessarily open to continual revision."

—Edward Baring, Drew University