Most theorists of history now seem to regard narrative as the only discursive model on which historians rely to make sense of the past. The structure of many works in current historiographic production, however, is not that of a narrative as defined in literary theory. The histories of World War II discussed here, for example, do not all tell a story; several of them take the form of synchronic analyses bearing on some aspects of the conflict. Furthermore, those histories of the war that tell a story follow different models and have widely divergent degrees of narrativity. That is, they resort at various levels of frequency and deliberateness to strategies that narratologists such as Meir Sternberg and Raphaël Baroni view as typical of storytelling. Positing readers who know how the war ended (the Allies won), they do not turn to suspense but seek to arouse curiosity by making counterfactual hypotheses (What if?) that offer alternatives to what actually happened. Furthermore, they attempt to create surprise by proposing “new versions” grounded in recently uncovered evidence and/or thus far unasked questions. As Dorrit Cohn speaks of the “distinction of fiction,” it would thus be legitimate to speak in these areas of the “distinction of historiography.” Indeed, the classical nineteenth-century extra-heterodiegetic narratives to which histories are frequently compared are unlikely to include counterfactuals, as they are unlikely to offer new, “better” versions of the events that they report.

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