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Commercialised History: Popular History Magazines in Europe

Approaches to a Historico-Cultural Phenomenon as the Basis for History Teaching

Edited By Susanne Popp, Jutta Schumann and Miriam Hannig

This volume of essays is the result of the EU project «EHISTO», which dealt with the mediation of history in popular history magazines and explored how history in the commercialised mass media can be used in history teaching in order to develop the media literacy and the transcultural competences of young people. The volume offers articles which for the first time address the phenomenon of popular history magazines in Europe and their mediating strategies in a foundational way. The articles are intended as introductory material for teachers and student teachers. The topic also offers an innovative approach in terms of making possible a European cross-country comparison, in which results based on qualitative and quantitative methods are presented, related to the content focus areas profiled in the national magazines.
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Popular historical writing from a narratological perspective

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Stephan Jaeger

Popular historical writing from a narratological perspective1

1. Introduction

SPIEGEL editor Michael Sontheimer begins the chapter ‘Hitlers Blitzkriege’ in the book ‘Der 2. Weltkrieg. Wendepunkt der deutschen Geschichte’ (The Second World War. Turning point in German history), published by SPIEGEL, with the sentence: ‘It is the afternoon of the 21 of June 1940 when Hitler arrives in Compiègne northeast of Paris.’2 Sontheimer recounts that on this particular day Adolf Hitler finds a memorial stone commemorating the end of the First World War with a reference to the ‘felonious arrogance’ of the German Empire and his subsequent order to have the stone razed. Following the description of the ceremony of the ceasefire agreement, Hitler’s arrival in Paris is narrated through the words of Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann: ‘Silently and devoutly he stood there in front of Napoleon’s sarcophagus. How was he feeling, what was he thinking? Was he drawing parallels between himself and the man who once ruled Europe?’3 Sontheimer describes Hitler’s subsequent celebrated return to Berlin in the following words: ‘Almost all Germans stand united behind their “Führer”. He has succeeded in overturning the abhorred Treaty of Versailles, which even followers of the Communists and Social Democrats concede.’4

This short introduction to a chapter from a non-fiction book illustrates the most important and fundamental narrative characteristics of popular ← 113 | 114 → historical writing. The historian surveys the events with clear referential truth-claims. The reader is informed factually and objectively about actual events in the history of the Second World War. At the same time, the narrative is scenic in order to create historical presence, and the reader can almost experience attending the historical events in question. The scenic narration can merge into the narration of thoughts of individuals (Hitler) and collectives (the Germans). A possible plurality of historical interpretations at different times and in different groups, as well as the complexity of the connection between history and memory, is, at best, merely hinted at and instantly dismissed in favour of the ‘correct’ representation.5 An assessment of historical sources and any methodological reflexion is missing, as is the reflexion of alternative perspectives and diverging analyses of causal connections. The historical knowledge depicted is conveyed primarily by known historical circumstances and is, in addition, supposed to be interestingly written so as to keep the reader’s attention while processing the information. The historian’s perspective blends into the historical persons’ perspectives – the secondary narrative into the primary narrative – in order to achieve historical presence.6 The historian’s knowledge is no longer clearly distinguishable from the historical persons’ thoughts or attitudes.

A narratological perspective, however, is less about the text’s degree of truthfulness and reflexion, but instead is more concerned with understanding what defines the narrative style of popular historical writing in various genres. Out of this arises the question of how popular historical writing differs, or rather should differ, in narrative terms from academic historical writing, and at the same time in what ways different popular history media ← 114 | 115 → and genres deploy similar or differing narrative strategies.7 In combining scenic narration with the simultaneous overview of historical events, and in constantly varying narrative distance and perspective, it is possible to lead the reader to the specific historical locations of the event. Accordingly, an observational perspective can be simulated, as if the historian-narrator and the reader were actually able to attend the events and sometimes even experience the abstracted train of thoughts of the historical actors. The latter is fundamental since it indicates the complexity of the discussion about the narrativity of historiographic narrative. On the one hand, historical writing cannot merely penetrate the consciousness of individual persons as if it were fiction which has the ability to create the thoughts of its characters.8 Historical writing can, at best, merely cite statements from primary sources. At the same time, it is possible to simulate individual or collective ← 115 | 116 → perspectives.9 As illustrated by the example above, popular historical writing increasingly tends to exploit narratological means such as voice, perspective, distance and order. From the perspective of academic historical writing, however, the particular means by which popular historical writing disseminates information are often considered with little differentiation, as purely didactic, informative, entertaining and potentially manipulative with regard to their representational techniques. In other words, narratologists assign a rather low degree of narrativity to historical writing in general as well as to popular historical writing in particular.10

This attribution, however, can be questioned if the specifics of historiographic narration are discussed, such as the creation of collective perspectives, the possibilities of simulating historical experientiality, or the possibilities of creating a present space of the past. Accordingly, in the following section the question of what defines narrativity in general, and of how the examination of narrativity is particularly relevant for popular historical writing, is theoretically explored before these specific theoretical guidelines are put to the test in three case studies, through the analysis of different media – one history magazine, two TV documentaries and one historical exhibition.

2. On the narrativity of popular historical writing

Narrativity in its most general form is viewed as a number of formal and thematic features which characterise stories or narrative texts and distinguish them from non-narrative texts.11 In structuralist narratology the narrative element is considered to be a temporally organised sequence of ← 116 | 117 → actions, and therefore an alteration of a state in time. Franz Stanzel, in contrast, explains the narrative element by the mediacy of the narrative process;12 a story must be conveyed by a narrator.13 If this basic understanding of narrativity is applied to narration in the historical discourse then historical discourse is to be understood as a vehicle to create and represent historical knowledge as well as historical explanations.14 Thereby, the narrative is, as a general rule, considered to be the cognitive link between content (story), i.e. the historical world, and form (discourse), i.e. writing about history in a historiographic text.15

Following such a general definition of narrativity, according to which narrativity is regarded as a fixed quality of a narrative, the idea that historical writing is narrative goes uncontested in the works of Roland Barthes, Hayden White, Paul Ricœur and others.16 In White’s work the structuralist narratology is applied to the historiographic discourse so that through the narrative the simple chronicle, the chronological listing of events, is exceeded and transformed into a story and historical narration.17 Ricœur has also shown that the human experience of time in general – in history as well as in fiction – is only possible through narrative. The configuration of worlds, which Ricœur describes as Mimesis II, is particularly fundamental to the discussion of historiographic texts. Mimesis II unfolds as interplay between new creations and sedimentation, imagination and tradition.18 Therefore, historiographic narratives are not only imitative as reconstructive narrative, but also creative. ← 117 | 118 → A new world is created by the narration, which would not exist without the historiographic text.

More recent theories of narratology, however, increasingly discuss not only a fixed, but also a scalar model of narrativity.19 In a continuation of structuralist theory the notion of temporally organized sequences of action is further expanded under the keyword eventfulness. For Wolf Schmid eventfulness is characterised by five criteria: relevance, unpredictability, persistence, irreversibility and non-iterativity.20 The main focus of such discussions based on textual theory is, however, the fictional narrative. Nonetheless, historical events are also incidences which cause narrative change.21 They contribute to the meaningful formation of a story, which can only be expressed through narrative. In regard to the story level of historical writing, events meet Schmid’s criteria in every single narrative: they are historically incidental, relevant through narration, their historical reality is irreversible, and they are permanent in their change. However, the question remains: what is really gained for the understanding of historical writing on the level of the representation of history, i.e. the level of discourse, with such a minimal definition of narrativity?

The idea of scalar narrativity makes it possible to apply structuralist approaches, which operate with a fixed model of narrativity in different genres, to other discourses such as historical writing or every-day storytelling. It has been argued that historical writing exhibits a rather low degree of narrativity;22 Monika Fludernik explains that the degree of narrativity of academic historical writing is reduced in comparison to fiction as well as to non-fiction everyday storytelling, because its narrative reports about events, arguments, facts, and collective historical experiences, instead of expressing ← 118 | 119 → experience by means of individual consciousness.23 Recently, this line of argument has repeatedly been questioned and it has increasingly been shown that historical writing can indeed – in other forms than the modernist stream-of-consciousness novel – express or create experientiality.24

However, how proactively academic historians should deal with the insights into the narrativity of historical writing remains disputed. Is it still possible that particularly academic historical writing avoids the emotionality of debates about popular history and memory by means of secured facts and a pathos of sobriety, or is every historical narrative ultimately so strongly shaped by the subjective or ideological influences of the author and their time that history is always subject to a strong relativism?25 This problem can be illustrated by reflecting on Alun Munslow’s differentiation between three forms of historiographic expressions: the reconstructionist, the constructionist and the deconstructionist form.26 In this way ← 119 | 120 → Munslow takes into consideration academic as well as popular forms of historical writing. Reconstructionist historical writing is predominantly concerned with the referential connection between historical writing and the past and tries to represent the past as realistically, objectively and truthfully as possible. Munslow describes constructionist historical writing as a theory-laden social science approach which proceeds not only empirically, but analytically and in an explanatory way. Unlike reconstructionist historical writing, which often focuses on individual historical persons, constructionist historical writing develops hypotheses about causal explanations of the past.27 Munslow’s third and clearly favoured form of expression is that of deconstructionist historical writing, which allows for continuous reflexion on the relativity of historical knowledge: ‘Essentially, the deconstructionist historians hold that past events are explained and acquire their meaning as much by their representation as by ← 120 | 121 → their “knowable actuality” derived by conventional (empirical-analytical) epistemological means.’28

For popular historical writing, a simple question arises on the basis of these three forms: is it almost exclusively a type of reconstructionist historical writing which somewhat ‘naively’ tries to depict historical reality, and which therefore lacks the theoretical-analytical complexity of constructionist explanations as well as the self-reflexive potential related to representation, while placing a stronger focus on historical individuals than on structures? This question, however, makes it apparent that neither the discussion about the fictionality of historical writing nor the discussion about its ontological difference or sameness to fiction really leads to new insight into the narrative possibilities of popular historical writing.

If, however, one leaves the discussion about the distinction between fact and fiction behind and instead argues narratologically, then the representational forms of popular historical writing can be more precisely discussed. The basic definition of narrativity – the temporal connection of events and as the mediation of the narrated by a narrator – shows that popular historical writing generally meets the structural criteria for narrativity. However, from non-fiction history books, to history magazines and TV documentaries to permanent exhibitions in history museums, it can be observed that certain individual forms deploy the technique of emplotment more consistently than others.29 A non-fiction book, written as continuous monographic text, generally exhibits a strong narrative context. This is already weakened in a non-fiction book whose different chapters may be written by different authors. Similarly, a monothematic history magazine is, on the one hand, fragmented due to being structured in individual articles, but on the other hand, capable of strongly spatializing forms of expression by means of image and text arrangements, as well as ← 121 | 122 → by means of paratexts.30 This is compounded by the pictorial narrativity, which increases the temporal structure of the narrative in manifold ways.

The TV documentary is also characterized by a combination of text and images. On the one hand, it is similar – in its prototypal form – to the monographic non-fiction book, since it presents a continuous narrative, mostly pertaining to a historical event or a historical person as a hero or villain, with many different facets. On the other hand, the narrator intervenes far more heavily in the creation of the narrativity than in history magazines or most non-fiction books.

The last case-study, that of permanent exhibitions in the historical museum, is of all the examples presented here the genre which exhibits the least amount of narrativity, despite its focus on historical events and chronologically depicted events and phases. An exhibition is aimed at the creation of a spatial encounter between the visitor and historical objects and data. This again poses the question of how the museum creates narrativity.

In what follows, this article analyses these three genres – history maga­zines, TV documentaries and permanent historical exhibitions – narra­tologically in order to understand the variations of their representational strategies. A basic dichotomy of historical narration, the relation between argument (history as information) and experience (history which can be experienced in a space for historical actors, individuals and collectives as well as for its recipients), is paramount. Firstly, for the three example genres, narrative techniques of event, emplotment, narrator, character’s discourse, perspective, focalization, narrative order and narrative distance are examined. In general, this text-theoretical arsenal is already known in terms of traditional structuralist narratology focused on fictional texts,31 but in order to meet the specifics of historiographic narration its characteristics and specifics must be adjusted.32 Secondly, the relation between argument and experientiality in the sense of recent post-classical narratology as well as the creation of a historical space by means of historical narration is carefully ← 122 | 123 → examined, so that the narrativity of popular history narration can be more closely determined in the specific sense of scalar popular historical writing.

3. On the narrativity of history magazines

The majority of history magazines on the German market are intended for wide dissemination.33 In this respect, history magazines have a threefold function: the distribution of information, entertainment, and history education.34 They put forward clear truth-claims and their contents appear authentic to the reader even though they are strongly constructed. The narrativity of history magazines in the sense of Schmid’s five criteria for eventfulness is clearly shown. History magazines are tailored to epochs, nations or other important collectives, historical persons and historical events such as wars or revolutions. The texts are diegetic, i.e. they are conveyed in a narrative way. They generally aim at recounting history in a realistic way. History magazines differ narratively from academic historical writing as well as from popular non-fiction books35 in that they re-tell the same story ← 123 | 124 → on several narrative levels in several media. The traditional textual narrative is divided into chapters written by different authors and presents the phases or individual stories encapsulated by a general topic. But at the same time, magazines employ a similar temporal structure in their editorial introducing in the issue’s topic as well as in the table of contents, which is mostly supported by long subheadings and often by a parallel list of illustrations, which in itself already reveals the essence of each chapter. In addition, history magazines such as GEO EPOCHE or SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE have their own independent picture narratives with guiding captions, which are inserted between the table of contents and the text chapters like a score. Moreover, further narrative levels exist at the end of the magazine in the form of images, which engage in a dialogue with the respective text chapters, and a timeline or chronicle of the most important historical events.36 In the end, the combination of these text genres and media does not create multiple perspectives of the narrative,37 but it creates the perception of a present space of history with multi-media depth. ← 124 | 125 →

This is exemplified in the magazine GEO EPOCHE ‘Otto von Bismarck 1815–1898’.38 The seven chronologically ordered main chapters are characterized by text and images. They develop the life and work of Bismarck in individual phases, predominantly ranging from the Revolution in 1848 to Bismarck’s resignation in 1890 and his death in 1898. Therefore, the editorial marks the current state of knowledge about Bismarck. In the case of the Bismarck magazine, editor in chief Michael Schaper emphasizes the present-day diversity of opinions about Bismarck in his editorial, after various epochs have interpreted Bismarck in different ways.39 The magazine aims at being documentary and objective, but at the same time the narrative pattern of a positive heroic story (in the sense of a romance) is discernible.40 This is due to the choice of presentism as an approach, so that in the last chapter (‘1890–1898: Bismarck’s last years’) Bismarck appears as triumphant over Wilhelm II in accordance with Bismarck’s appreciation in the public eye of his time.41 Despite all the emphasis on Bismarck’s diverse roles on the various narrative levels of the magazine, today’s reader experiences the epoch as well as the life and work of Bismarck as something positive, leading the way into the future and modernity.

The seventeen-page introductory picture chronicle, a representational form often used in contemporary German language history magazines, already exhibits a temporal dimension of modernity. The introductory double page titled ‘Anbruch einer neuen Zeit’ (Dawn of a new era) is presented as a photograph of the main hall of the Lehrter train station in ← 125 | 126 → Berlin around 1875.42 A single freight train with four wagons is standing in the sun-drenched deserted and pillared hall. In light of this impressive architecture, the outlook is bright – the presence of individual people would only disrupt this vision of progress. Bismarck is consistently linked to a positive image of progress. The accompanying text consisting of 119 words links Bismarck to a time of change, leading to more democracy and to the German National State. A dialectic image-text narration is thereby prepared which is able to illustrate the social misery caused by the Industrial Revolution without damaging the heroic image of Bismarck. The last image of the picture chronicle, which shows Wilhelm II posing with the crew of a battle ship, carries the title ‘Hybris einer neuen Generation’ (Hubris of a new generation) and is deliberately used as contrast to the more considerate Bismarck,43 even if at that time, without placing this photograph within the magazine’s particular narrative, it was more likely to be seen as positive advertising for German technological know-how and Germany’s claim to world power.44

This use of photographs illustrates how popular historical writing manipulates the narrative in such a way that the representation appears to be authentic and the reader does not doubt the fact that history is told in the ‘right’ way. Primary sources (here the historical photographs) and historical narrative blend into one voice as seen in the introductory example by Sontheimer.45 The photograph appears to be ideal for the purpose of telling an authentic story, exactly as reflected in the introductory text of ← 126 | 127 → the picture chronicle: ‘The art of photography, which is still young at the middle of the century, captures the people of the Bismarck era and their environment; it documents the effects of great politics as well as the social transformations, and thereby provides the following generations with very vivid snapshots of a country which is undergoing fundamental change’.46 The magazine does not consider the fact that the images carry out very particular narrative functions in their plot structure as well as through their captions. When looking at the characters of the picture narrative it becomes clear that apart from Bismarck only Wilhelm II is mentioned as a person. All other narrative characters are presented as collectives – the peasants, the military or the navy, the citizens, workers and employees, the city of Hamburg, the poor, German entrepreneurs and the aristocracy – and these have specific functions for the narrative. The navy and Wilhelm II, for example, signal the megalomania of the German Empire and its concomitant decline. Accordingly, the picture story predefines a clear narrative structure for the whole magazine. The reader is primed for the dialectic effects of the Industrial Revolution and while simultaneously seeing Bismarck as the sensible driving force of progress and of the Prussian-German National State.

A glance at the sixth main chapter in Bismarck’s life written by Gesa Gottschalk and titled ‘Kampf um Hamburg’ (Fight for Hamburg) with the overall title ‘1878–1890: Konflikt mit den Sozialdemokraten’ (1878–1890: Conflict with the Social Democrats) can more clearly illustrate the classic narrative methods of a history magazine.47 Just as has been insinuated already in the picture story, the perspective of prototypical individual persons and especially of collectives is also fundamental to ← 127 | 128 → the textual narrative of the history magazine. The beginning of the article ‘Kampf um Hamburg’ depicts the variety of historical narration used here: of characters, perspectives, focalization, order, and distance. The article begins like a novel, with a close-up:48 ‘In the unheated chamber of an apartment building in the Prussian village Ottensen near Hamburg the cigar worker August Kückelhahn and a Social Democratic comrade tie up small packages in the light of a paraffin lamp on the eve of 25 November 1885.’49 The text uses the historical present, the narrator is heterodiegetic and covert; he does not appear himself.50 Initially, the text is externally focalized; the reader seems to attend the scene as an imaginary observer. The reader ‘sees’ exactly what is happening in the room without having insight into the thoughts of the historical persons.51 The last part of the paragraph mentions that both people enter ‘wrong or invented names of senders in the consignment notes’ shifting the text to zero focalisation, since ‘wrong and invented’ clearly implies knowledge which the observer of the scene cannot possess.52 This becomes apparent in the second paragraph, which consists of one sentence: ‘Actually, the boxes contain a far more dangerous freight’53, which creates suspense. Subsequently, the perspective switches back and forth. The narrator provides details about the illegal production of the newspaper DER SOZIALDEMOKRAT (The Social Democrat), but always returns to the specific situation on the night of the 25 November. At the end, the forward-looking introduction turns hypothetical: ‘Does he [Kückelhahn] look back when he leaves the house at around 10pm?’ The appearance of police superintendent August Engels, a Hamburg based ‘Hunter of Socialists’, follows. ‘In any case, that man in the dark who has already endured the cold for the entire evening escapes ← 128 | 129 → the notice of the cigar worker.’54 In this way, two prototypes of individual functional representatives are created, a trade unionist operating in the underground and an ambitious representative of the authorities, who almost appear to challenge each other.

Even more essential to the entire article than the confrontation between two exemplary individuals is the unfolding of the historical world between Socialist Law, social problems, and Bismarck’s social reforms. In order to illustrate the social reforms, the perspective of collectives must be established: ‘The day labourers sit in the pubs at the river Elbe for hours, smoking and drinking. […] They never know what this day will bring: an old cargo sail ship, a modern steamship? Do they have to carry sacks full of coffee or barrels full of tobacco from the freight compartment?’55 In this way, a secondary space is created which depicts the working-class of Hamburg around 1878 caught between existential worries, unemployment and the incommodious and hygienically catastrophic state of the working class districts. On the other narrative levels, this space is multiplied by photographs, captions and highlighted information. For instance, the magazine presents the following message in red ink and capital letters in a framed rectangular square: ‘Even in prosperous Hamburg the workers’ wages are often not enough to pay for rent and food.’56 By these means, the history magazine suggests a narrative world and the possibility of empathy with the life of the workers to the reader. The reader is supposed to be able to relate to the imaginative world of the workers which continues to be created in the historical present tense. As in every other abstracted historical narrative this present tense is secondary or simulated, since in reality collective perspectives generally do not exist.

Like all historical writing, the history magazine is a narrative mediated by the narrator, but it is typical for the genre of history magazines that this mediating authority is put in the background so as to narrate in the most present way possible. This allows the reader to gain insight into the perspective of the time: in the example mentioned above into exemplary individuals such as August Kückelhahn or detective inspector August ← 129 | 130 → Engel, into political and public key figures such as the Socialist leader Lassalle or Bismarck, and into historical collectives such as Hamburg’s shipyard workers or the Communists.

The interesting aspect of a history magazine is in the end not the fact that it depicts anything new about its topic. It compiles known, partially simplified knowledge and sources with the aim of authentic historical writing, which cannot, however, be verified – at least not by the non-expert. A historical world unfolds before the reader, one which is clearly non-fictional since based on a referential claim to a historical world, and which manipulates the reader in accordance with the truth-claim made through, for instance, the dialogue between text and images.57 The fact that the narrator imagines himself into a specific historical space in the introductory scene by means of external focalization does not change this claim and its authentic effect on the reader. The reader expects this scene to make sense in the historical world. This works, since Kückelhahn serves as an example for the underground activities of the Socialists. In this way, the article creates a historical experience that is neither methodologically nor epistemologically challenging but simply present, by means of historical narrative, which is made into a coherent historical world through the arrangement of the magazine, images, and other paratextual means.58

The notions of ‘narrative’ and of ‘experience’, which theorists of history used to see as dichotomy, always come together in history magazines. Since the process of the cognitive understanding of the past is basically considered as a given, history magazines – at least contemporary German history ← 130 | 131 → magazines addressing a wide audience – aim at bringing the reader as close as possible to a historical world and its developments.59 Munslow’s critique that popular history magazines ‘seem to be neither fish nor fowl. It is not serious academic history and yet it has the aim of being trustworthy’, and that such magazines only verify the epistemological status quo, is indeed factually correct, but misses the most interesting narrative aspect of what in Munslow’s eyes appears to be a naive-reconstructionist history genre:60 By means of variations of historical narrative, the reader can experience a certain historical ‘reality’ as presently simulated in historical spaces and temporal sequences as well as in perspectives of prototypical individual persons and collectives.61 In this way, history magazines gain narrativity in the sense of the experientiality of history for the reader.

4. On the narrativity of TV documentaries

Historical TV documentaries are examined as the second case-study, since they function in the same diegetic way as history magazines. In documentaries, events are depicted and connected, predominantly chronologically. The five basic criteria for narrativity according to Schmid are fulfilled. Additionally, history and historical events are also clearly mediated by a narrative authority. Unlike TV event films or documentary drama, and unlike documentary films which according to their aesthetic structure object to or strongly reduce the role of an explicit narrator, historical TV documentaries prototypically use a narrator who guides the viewer through the film by raising questions and connecting events and the way ← 131 | 132 → in which various examined aspects interrelate.62 This especially applies to those history documentaries which in Germany are in the first instance linked to the name of Guido Knopp and his ZDF productions.63 The voice of the narrator is usually marked as the voice of the historian. Moreover, the voices of historical witnesses are added in contemporary TV documentaries if they are still alive or recordings featuring them exist. This is predominantly the case for TV documentaries which depict the historical time periods starting from the National Socialists’ seizure of power in 1933. If no historical witnesses are available the filmmakers increasingly incorporate experts and historians, and highlight the authenticity of objects and locations.64 In this way, a variety of perspectives and angles is presented to the viewer: by the narrator, the historical witnesses and footage. This ← 132 | 133 → ostensive notion of multiple perspectives65 is, however – just as in history magazines and in non-fiction history books – controlled by the historian.66 The remembered experiences of historical witnesses are embedded into the overall narrative as short arguments, in a manner similar to the way that images are deployed. An impression of diversity, multiperspectival narration, and authenticity is thereby created, but in fact the voices only substitute for the voice of the narrator within the same line of historical argument. On the level of discourse, this technique dissolves the multiple perspectives that exist on the story level in favour of the dominating view of the author.67

A simple example for this is the first episode of the production ‘Hitlers Kinder’ (Hitler’s children, 2000) developed under the supervision of Guido Knopp, entitled ‘Verführung’ (Seduction), which deals with the role of the Hitler Youth in the Third Reich.68 In this episode, the later author Erich Loest remembers how in 1936 he was symbolically ‘given’ to Hitler on the occasion of his birthday together with all the boys who joined the Hitler Youth in that year. Other witnesses talk about the satisfaction of belonging and of being accepted, as well as about the skills of the National Socialists to seduce the youth step by step into National Socialism and militarism. In the end, the narrator and the film only propose one message, which is that youth were seduced by the magic of the masses. Narrative allows the viewer to experience this proposition so that he can comprehend the ← 133 | 134 → seduction of an entire generation. Every historical witness, regardless of their political conviction, supports this proposition. Those such as Hans J. Massaquoi (who was of mixed heritage), Jewish children, or children whose parents had prohibited them from joining the Hitler Youth, felt excluded. The narrator is an omniscient narrator – which the academic historian can, of course, never be – who accurately surveys historical events as well as motivations and background circumstances. The witnesses speak as one voice, even though they take on different parts. Thus, it is only consistent that the propaganda material of the National Socialists is continuously used to illustrate the basic proposition of the seduction of the youth.69 The staged reality in the film proves the claim for emotional mass manipulation, and the use of staged images validates the memories of the manipulated youth.

In the second part of ‘Hitlers Kinder’, ‘Hingabe’ (Devotion), which deals with the role of girls and young women in the Third Reich, the narrator poses a provocative question with regard to documentary photographs of girls ecstatically cheering Hitler and crying from excitement: ‘How representative are such images?’ A historical witness, Gertraude Wortmann, answers that Hitler was seen as the dominant father-figure and that this is no longer understandable today. Further footage follows, accompanied by music chosen by the producers, so as to highlight the emotionality of the devoted reactions as the narrator now asks in the historical present: ‘What drives these girls?’ The answers are again given by two historical witnesses: deep love and the comparison of Hitler to God.70

In other words, the messages of the propaganda footage, and brief snapshots of statements by historical witnesses as they remember, reflect the narrator’s level of mediacy. A critical interrogation of how the witnesses’ collective memory was formed does not take place in this presenttense historical writing. Propaganda, memory and history become part ← 134 | 135 → of a collective experientiality.71 The TV documentary occasionally adds a dissenting opinion for the viewer to recognise or to highlight pretences, but in the end, the aim of the narrative is to recreate the historical magic of the mass staging. The surface of history is supposed to become present and be experienced as a simulation; deeper historical complexities are not to be understood or problematized.

Thus, historical writing in ‘Hitlers Kinder’ creates an experiential space. The viewer can ‘experience’ and thereby seemingly understand the manipulation of the German youth. Just as in history magazines, narrativity poses the risk that history could be presented as unambiguous in the narrative. This is enhanced by the fact that ‘Hitlers Kinder’ is primarily focused on how history is perceived, and no real differentiation is made between primary narrative – the propaganda images and memories – and the historiographic secondary narrative. In contrast to the history magazine, the narrating and mediating authority remains a kind of ‘accomplice’ to the propaganda. However, the medium TV does offer possibilities for distantiation in order to highlight the secondary narrative of the historian. For this reason, this article examines a second more recent example, one which tries to subvert the school of Knopp: Ullrich H. Kasten’s 2009 Film ‘Hitler Stalin. Portrait einer Feindschaft’ (Hitler and Stalin. A portrait of enmity).72 Kasten avoids the suggestive effect of the propaganda by radically renouncing historical witnesses or other expert opinions. The documentary, which was produced in collaboration with, amongst others, the German Historical Museum and the English historian Richard Overy, works on three levels: the voice of the narrator, historical footage (including propaganda film) and coloured present-day footage of historical locations and memorial sites. Additionally, some evocative film recordings are used, such as at the beginning of the film ← 135 | 136 → when viewers apparently find themselves in a vehicle passing nocturnal reflections of Moscow and ‘enter’ with Stalin his country home, right before the German invasion of the Kremlin. Under the aegis of the narrator a contrastive knowledge-set about Hitler and Stalin is developed, about their thoughts, their opinions about each other and their desires and fears, which follows the developments of the war in regular pre-views and flash-backs until the death of Stalin (as well as his continued effect in the Cold War). From the beginning, the fight between the principles of racial hatred and class struggle is suggested, which both, in the end, amount to the same thing. With a few exceptions, the film does not use music; the only two original voices in the footage are speeches by Hitler and Stalin so that the viewer only hears the voice of the narrator, apart from a few suggestive pauses. In comparison to a Knopp production it could be argued that to a wider audience the film appears more monotonous, since it is less emotional.

From a narratological point of view, the film is zero-focalized – the position of the narrator is not to be determined. It exhibits regular flash-backs and flash-forwards to express the duel between Hitler and Stalin; from the basic narrative of the surprised Stalin, the rapid advance of the Germans, its faltering and Russian perseverance, to Hitler’s physical deterioration and Stalin’s triumph. The perspective is multi-perspectival with a closed structure, since it swings back and forth between the Russian and the German side and is, at the same time, fully controlled by the narrator. Although there are innumerable propaganda images the footage never stands for itself, but is always immediately interpreted and commented upon. Again and again, the narrator gets close to the thoughts of both dictators. These thoughts are represented as knowledge in a historiographically distanced way: this is what Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler thought or believed. Different interpretations of history are not addressed; what is addressed are merely the gaps should historical knowledge be unable to deduce what was going on in the head of one of the two dictators. Sometimes the film is playful, for instance, when it asks in virtual-history style what would have happened if Hitler and Stalin had actually met in 1913, when they both resided in Vienna and went for walks in the park of Schönbrunn Palace.

Without question, the film displays narrativity in terms of event sequences and mediacy. The more interesting question is whether it also ← 136 | 137 → creates historical experientiality by means of narration. Right at the beginning the narrator says: ‘Their duel [Hitler’s and Stalin’s] tells the cruellest story so far of how ideas can drag everything along, first into enthusiasm, then into death.’ The film, however, is not interested in simulating the experience of this captivating effect. The viewer experiences it neither for Hitler nor for Stalin. The viewer is ultimately left somewhat helpless when it comes to actually being able to imagine or understand their motivations. Nor does the viewer experience the captivating effect for either regime or for the war. The viewer guesses that the German soldiers went to war optimistically, that the Russians led an existential and total defensive war, but this appears to be based exclusively on rational conclusions. There is no such thing as historical presence; the coloured images of the places nowadays are, on the one hand, no more than illustrations on a map which indicate that Brest-Litovsk really existed. On the other hand, they are reciprocal points of constant shifts in history: Hitler celebrates himself in Vienna after the annexation of Austria; Stalin seizes Vienna; Stalin is honoured in Vienna with a monument. What Kasten stages to be experienced in his distanced method of representation are abstract principles. The narrator and with him the images, playfully jump from one topic to the next. For instance, the narrator recounts how the weather-beaten and destroyed tableaus of Stalin fuelled Hitler’s intention to conquer the world while this is supplemented though footage of Hitler and Mussolini visiting the destroyed fortress of Brest-Litovsk. Mussolini’s remark that soon only the moon would remain for Hitler’s will to conquer is used by the narrator for one of many plays on words and images. Hitler is shown ascending in a plane; his metaphorical aspirations for the moon are then explicitly linked to the ‘lunar landscape’ of the destroyed Soviet cities, which Hitler already enjoys, as well as to corresponding images. Whether or not they are always stylistically successful, such plays on associations characterise the film’s antagonistic narrative technique. Principles and directions are intercut with each other. These abstract movements are simulated so that the viewer can experience them in an ironic way (i.e. always tied to narrative distance). ‘Stalin falls, Hitler rises’, says the narrator while a Stalin bust is decapitated. This statement is later reversed accordingly and in the final part of the documentary the construction and erection of a similar Stalin bust dominates the shown footage. The film grants the viewer the ← 137 | 138 → explicit, but at the same time suggestive experience of abstract principles, always filtered so that no doubt arises that this is a historical ‘interpretation’ of a past reality.

Both examples show two extremes of popular representation of history in TV documentaries, which illustrate how differently historical experientiality can be created on various levels. It could indeed be argued that the radical renunciation of historical presence lets the ARTE production by Ullrich H. Kasten stand out from the field of popular history representation with mass appeal. The production ought to address or fascinate a considerably smaller audience than a Knopp production. Due to the suggestive technique of creating a secondary reality of historical knowledge in word plays and image composition, Kasten’s film, however, remains clearly differentiated from a constructionist or even deconstructionist academic form of historical writing. As with the other popular history examples, an abstracted reconstruction of historical events and causalities occurs, which results in ‘one’ story (with some acknowledged gaps) for the viewer.

5. On the narrativity of historical museums

Narration in museums does without a doubt count as popular historical representation for large historical museums and their permanent exhibitions as well as their distinctive special exhibitions, at least according to the definition used in this volume which determines popular historical writing as targeting a wide public. However, narration in historical exhibitions is, on the one hand, fundamentally different from the previously discussed methods of narration in non-fiction history books, history magazines, and TV documentaries, since it has a spatial effect and the visitor has direct contact with the objects.73 The museum exhibits an anti-narrative element, especially if it is focused on exhibits and less aimed at finding a narrative thread through history or a genealogical answer to the development of a story. At the same time, it provides at least the possibility of granting ← 138 | 139 → the interpreter more room for interpretation.74 The criterion of mediacy is far less apparent. On the other hand, a narratological perspective makes it possible to understand how the objects of an exhibition have come together as a story. As with other popular historical media, a historical exhibition usually emphasizes its objectivity and truth-claims very overtly. Many historical exhibitions carefully walk the line between history and memory, which is even more evident than in TV documentaries and their use of the historical witnesses who serve to construct the narrative thread of the film. However, especially in the German-speaking world, it can be noted that state-funded historical museums with their meta-narrative form remain a historiographic medium. A complete-experience ‘immersion’ of the visitor rarely occurs, or at least to a far lesser extent than, for instance, in Anglo-American museums. Rather, techniques such as installations featuring memories of historical witnesses supplement a predominantly documentary museum, which provides thematic and structural overviews. Experience functions less by means of narration and more by the relations the visitor develops to individual exhibits.

In this article, the Zeitgeschichtliche Forum Leipzig (Forum of Contemporary History), which is part of the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Foundation (House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany) serves as an example. It contains one of the historical permanent collections in Germany most strongly shaped by collective memory. The Zeitgeschichtliche Forum was opened in 1999 and the exhibition was fundamentally revised in 2007. On the museum’s website it reads: ‘Join us on a journey through time and experience our tour of the division of Germany after the Second World War, the uprising of 17 June 1953, the construction of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961, the expatriation of the songwriter Wolf Biermann in 1976, the Monday demonstrations and eventually the peaceful revolution in 1989/90 and the fall of the Berlin Wall.’75 This short description already illustrates two moments of representational technique. On the one hand, the aspect of experience is ← 139 | 140 → highlighted: the visitor is supposed to experience history. On the other hand, history appears as narrative in its very essentials, since the description aims at specific historical events and at the temporal moment of a journey through time, and not merely at presenting structures or collecting exhibits. In contrast to prototypical narratives in history magazines, non-fiction books or films, all of which are secondary history narratives and often only hint at their primary source narratives (or, as exemplified above with ‘Hitlers Kinder’, blend them with the secondary narrative), the museum contains both levels of narrative. Survey texts, and the selection and arrangement of the texts indicate a clear narrative structure whose events are highlighted accordingly.76 For instance, the Zeitgeschichtliche Forum emphasizes the foundation of the SED (Socialist Unity Party) or the payment of reparations to the Soviet Union.77 The museum always narrates contrastively: official documents/exhibits of the authorities stand against ‘unofficial’ perspectives of citizens of the GDR; the press in the East and the press in the West etc. Consequently, the visitor is always confronted with two perspectives. Two reading corners, opposite each other, enable the visitor to experience the reading of selected press reports in both German countries between 1959 and 1961 (on the Cuba Missile Crisis and on the construction of the Wall). Even if it could be narratologically argued that a mediating narrator hardly exists, or exists only sporadically – via the short survey texts on the introductory panels – nevertheless, a narrator’s influence is recognizable, since in the end the entire arrangement of the objects does not let the visitor doubt that the official opinion of the GDR leadership is highly propagandistic. In the complex installation on the uprising ← 140 | 141 → on 17 June 1953 the perspective of the protesting human beings and of the people as a collective clearly prevails (amongst others in video footage of demonstrators, through historical witnesses, and through weekly newsreels from the GDR and the FRG). The viewer recognizes the GDR’s representation of the events on 17 June as fiction; the propagandistic undertones of the Western news coverage can also be seen. A steel construction in the middle of the room lets images and newspaper articles speak for themselves, but three stipulations with slogans such as ‘free and secret votes for all Germans’, which expand like road signs across the upper end of the construction into the room, clearly map out the interpretations made and directions given by the museum. A spatial crossing of a border, marked by the keyword ‘voting with your feet’ and the thematic section ‘escape’ follow, which narratively contextualizes the effect of 17 June.

A museum can narrate in a predominantly documentary way, as does the German Historical Museum in Berlin in its permanent exhibition opened in 2005. As soon as a museum, as is the case in Leipzig, gives the visitor the possibility of engaging with primary narratives the possibility of narrative experientiality of history opens up.78 This can possibly be classified and assessed through a higher-level narrative structure, but the functionalization of narrative voices can occur far less functionally and ideologically as compared to the prototypical TV film. For instance, in the part of the installation on the immediate post-war period the visitor is confronted with a rape of a Weimar woman by a Russian soldier portrayed in a detailed letter from the woman to her husband. At the same time, official statements by the Soviet government can be seen which emphasise that Russia does not harbour feelings of revenge against the Germans. A Colonel General from the Red Army regards the crimes committed by the ← 141 | 142 → Soviets as petty compared to the crimes committed by the Germans; and a print edition by Lew Kopelew records his testimony of Soviet crimes in besieged Germany, as a result of which – as the accompanying text explains – he was sentenced to ten years in prison. In this arrangement, the primary narratives stand for themselves; only the visitor can create a secondary narrative and decide how these testimonies are to be interpreted historically. With this constructed openness museums can, to a certain extent, transgress the typically closed experientiality of popular historical writing. Hence, the Zeitgeschichtliche Forum in Leipzig is particularly interesting with regard to the combination of narration and experience in popular historical writing, because it uses the concept of historical presentism, but at the same time opens it up narratologically. Primary and secondary narrations remain recognizable. The ‘one’ reconstructed reality typical for popular historical writing exists as well as other perspectives and worlds which open up for the active visitor.

6. Possible narratological consequences for popular historical writing

To conclude, it is apparent that popular historical narratives are especially characterised by creating historical worlds which are prototypically shaped by one clear interpretation of history. Popular historical narratives tend to simulate historical presence, historical atmosphere, and collective perception. In this article, it was made clear that popular historical narratives deploy familiar narrative means such as voice, perspective or distance in manifold forms. At the same time it becomes apparent that in order to better understand the narrative potential of popular historical writing, narrativity must be determined not only structurally for narrative or historical narrative as such, but specifically for popular historical narratives. The concept of experientiality, applying recent theories in narratology, is therefore as important as the discussion about collective perspectives. The experientiality of historical narratives – for historical individuals as well as for collectives – and at the same time the experientiality of historical narration for the recipient (often connected to the simulation of historical presence) is a decisive means of representation in order to create narrativity in popular historical writing. Traditional ← 142 | 143 → structuralist narratology provides some insight in the representational means of text, which a new interdisciplinary and intermedial narratology needs to utilize, refine, and expand.

What can be learned from the narratological considerations presented here for the practice of popular historical writing? It is particularly striking that the relation between primary and secondary narrative is to be reflected. When can sources speak for themselves? When do they enter into the historiographic discourse without giving the viewer or reader the possibility to differentiate? When can the sources be granted a presence of their own without rendering popular historical writing arbitrary, merely expressing subjective memories? How do historical narratives simulate the perspectives of prototypical individual persons? How do they construct the perspectives of collectives? How do they create a spatial and scenic proximity? How does a narrative allow for distance so that the recipient of a narrative employing the approach of presentism is not manipulated entirely?

The way in which such concepts are evaluated depends of course to an extent on the intention of the writer of popular history. Klaus Arnold therefore has conducted a survey among history journalists. The following representational aims were mentioned most and are listed in descending order: mediate complex topics, convey new perspectives on the past, offer entertainment and relaxation, concentrate on topics which appeal to many, and which educate the audience.79 The fact that the neutral and precise reconstruction of reality and the ‘depiction’ of the past – the way it ‘really’ was – were less important is undoubtedly linked to the high degree of reflexion shown by the interviewees. However, it is narratologically obvious that the reconstructionist form clearly dominates the practice of popular historical writing even though the impossibility of an exact depiction of historical truth is acknowledged by almost every historian.80 ← 143 | 144 →

It may be worth considering whether popular historical narratives can indeed create an open structure of perspectives, which allows for contradictions and multiperspectival narration, without endangering the aim of informing and entertaining a wide audience. Especially if the presence and experientiality of history are paramount, then it will not be unlikely that the reality of a police inspector and that of an underground labour leader are not fully compatible. This is where Munslow’s insistence on deconstructionist self-reflexive historical writing is especially relevant.81 In all genres prototypical popular historical writing allows the narrator to control a narrative reality. But there are always multiple perceptions of the past. The perception of the majority, which by means of manipulation and ideologization has often entered collective memory as ‘true’ history, does not exclude the many other passive or contradictory perceptions. In this way, narratological perspectives on popular historical writing can help prevent popular historical narratives from being seen automatically as having a low degree of complexity with an unambiguous idea of historical truth, merely aimed at providing information. Popular historical narratives certainly tend to adopt a reconstructionist method of historical narration, but information and emotionality, entertainment and education, truth-claims and manipulation often overlap. These overlaps in particular allow for manifold forms of narration. Instead of castigating this as hardly academic history, and as offering a problematic insight into knowledge, the diversity of popular historical narratives can be analysed by narratology – as well as by cognitive science and other theories related to representation. At the same time, historians can reflect more precisely on their means of narration and on the construction of historical narrative: both those that narratology has shown for fictional narratives and those specific to (popular) history writing. In the end, such reflexion on self-presentation leads to a more precise utilisation of popular historiography’s representational and narrative possibilities, as well as to the differentiation of the often-made comparison to academic historical writing, in which popular historical writing by its very nature can nothing but lose regarding its degree of truth or truthfulness and as well as its standards of objectivity ← 144 | 145 → and knowledge.82 Narrative experientiality (including the representational self-reflexion of the simulated and constructed character of history depiction) does, however, allow to take the distinctive aspect of popular historical writing seriously.

1 This text is a translation from the German original ‘Populäre Geschichtsschreibung aus narratologischer Perspektive’. All quotations from German-speaking sources have been translated as well.

2 Michael Sontheimer: Hitlers Blitzkriege. In: Stephan Burgdorff/Klaus Wiegrefe/Götz Aly (eds.): Der 2. Weltkrieg. Wendepunkt der deutschen Geschichte. München 2005, p. 53–69, p. 53.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., p. 54.

5 Sontheimer’s representation regarding the encirclement and evacuation of British and French troops in Dunkirk is characteristic for this: ‘The rescue from the pocket in Dunkirk was transfigured to a heroic saga in the UK, but in truth the world power was in no way prepared for the war and rarely had to accept such a humiliating defeat’ (ibid., p. 64).

6 For instance, the prepositional construction ‘inspired by the fast and easy victory over Poland’ (ibid., p. 59) could either be the historical conclusion about what Hitler may have thought during summer 1940, or it is the historian’s conclusion (or rather the one of his unmentioned historical sources).

7 Regarding the traditional differentiation between academic and popular historical writing and the present-day challenges posed by pluralised and international cultures of remembrance cf., for instance, Dirk van Laak: Zeitgeschichte und populäre Geschichtsschreibung. Einführende Bemerkungen. In: Jan-Holger Kirsch/Achim Saupe/Katja Stopka (eds.): Sonderheft Populäre Geschichtsschreibung. Zeithistorische Forschungen 6 (2009), issue 3, p. 332–346, p. 334 ff. Van Laak observes that popular historical writing can be increasingly seen as a new historicism in which it is important that history skilfully follows the expectations of the culture industry (ibid., p. 336). For the discussion of the term, the genre and the plurality of popular (= non-academic) historical writing, cf. also, with an emphasis on a historical perspective, Wolfgang Hardtwig: Geschichte für Leser. Populäre Geschichtsschreibung in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhundert. In: Wolfgang Hardtwig/Erhard Schütz (eds.): Geschichte für Leser. Populäre Geschichtsschreibung in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhundert. Stuttgart 2005, p. 11–32. As an example of a historical examination of the historical discourse of popular historical writing, cf. Martin Nissen: Populärgeschichtsschreibung. Historiker, Verleger und die deutsche Öffentlichkeit (1848–1900). Köln/Weimar/Wien 2009.

8 Dorrit Cohn: The distinction of fiction. Baltimore/London 1999, p. 119. Also cf. Monika Fludernik: Fiction vs. non-fiction. Narratological differentiations. In: Jörg Helbig (ed.): Erzählen und Erzähltheorie im 20. Jahrhundert. Heidelberg 2001 (Festschrift für Wilhelm Füger), p. 85–103, p. 93 f. For a general overview of narratology and historical writing cf. Stephan Jaeger: Erzählen im historiographischen Diskurs. In: Christian Klein/Matías Martínez (eds.): Wirklichkeitserzählungen. Felder, Formen und Funktionen nicht-literarischen Erzählens. Stuttgart/Weimar 2009, p. 110–135.

9 For instance, cf. Stephan Jaeger: Historiographical simulations of war. In: Elena Baraban/Stephan Jaeger/Adam Muller (eds.): Fighting words and images: representing war across the disciplines. Toronto 2012, p. 89–109. Also cf. Axel Rüth: Erzählte Geschichte. Narrative Strukturen in der französischen Annales-Geschichtsschreibung. Berlin/New York 2005, p. 81 f., p. 110.

10 For instance, cf. Fludernik (note 8), p. 93.

11 Ansgar Nünning: Narrativität. In: Idem (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie. 2nd ed. Stuttgart/Weimar 2001, p. 464 f. For a detailed summary of the latest discussions on narrativity, cf. H. Porter Abbott: Narrativity. In: Peter Hühn et al. (eds.): Handbook of narratology. Berlin/New York 2009, p. 309–328.

12 Franz K. Stanzel: Theorie des Erzählens. Göttingen 1979, p. 15–38.

13 Wolf Schmid: Elemente der Narratologie. Berlin/New York 2005, p. 19.

14 Alun Munslow: Narrative. In: Idem: The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies. London/New York 2000, p. 169–174, p. 169.

15 Ibid., p. 170.

16 For an overview cf. Alun Munslow: Narrative and history. Basingstoke/New York 2007, p. 1–9, as well as Rüth (note 9), p. 16–52.

17 ‘In historical discourse, the narrative serves to transform into a story a list of historical events that would otherwise be only a chronicle’ (Hayden White: The question of narrative in contemporary historical theory. In: Idem: The content of the form. Narrative discourse and historical representation. Baltimore/London 1987, p. 26–57, p. 43). Also cf. Hayden White: The value of narrativity in the representation of reality. In: Ibid., p. 1–25.

18 Paul Ricœur: Time and Narrative. 3 vols. Chicago 1984–1985. Vol. I, p. 52–87.

19 Cf. Abbott (note 11), p. 309.

20 Cf. Schmid (note 13), p. 22–27.

21 In the latest discussions about the use of narrative theory, the historical event is particularly important for historians, especially in order to better understand narrative sources at the level of content. In particular, cf. Andreas Suter/Manfred Hettling (eds.): Struktur und Ereignis. Special issue 19. Geschichte und Gesellschaft. Göttingen 2001; also cf. Martin Fitzenreiter (ed.): Das Ereignis. Geschichtsschreibung zwischen Vorfall und Befund. London 2009.

22 Cf. Fludernik (note 8), p. 93.

23 Fludernik sees the distinction explained through different kinds of agenthood, since fictional protagonists and quasi-agents in everyday life storytelling constitute text through their consciousness and intentions, whereas historical persons are merely used as part of the argument of historical actions (Monika Fludernik: Towards a ‘natural’ narratology. London/New York 1996, p. 24 f.); Monika Fludernik: Experience, experientiality and historical narrative. A view from narratology. In: Thiemo Breyer/Daniel Creutz (eds.): Erfahrung und Geschichte. Historische Sinnbildung im Pränarrativen. Berlin/New York 2010, p. 40–72, p. 41 f. In this newer study, Fludernik tries to classify collective experience as non-experiential. This unnecessarily reduces the means of representation of historiography in comparison to fiction, instead of focusing on the specifics of historical writing.

24 Stephan Jaeger: Poetic worlds and experientiality in historiographic narrative. In: Julia Nitz/Sandra Harbert Petrulionis (eds.): Towards a historiographic narratology. Special issue SPIEL 30 (Siegener Periodicum zur Internationalen Empirischen Literaturwissenschaft) (2011), issue 1, p. 29–50, p. 34 f.; Jonas Grethlein: Experientiality and ‘narrative reference’ with thanks to Thucydides. In: History and Theory 49 (2010), issue 3, p. 315–335; Daniel Fulda: Why and how ‘history’ depends on readerly narrativization with the Wehrmachts exhibition as an example. In: Jan Christoph Meister (ed.): Narratology beyond literary criticism. Berlin/New York 2005, p. 173–194.

25 For further contextualization of such ideas cf. van Laak (note 7), p. 345; White: The value of narrativity in the representation of reality (note 17), p. 11; cf. Munslow (note 16), p. 121 f.

26 Cf. Munslow (note 16), p. 10–15.

27 This can be discussed through the works of Jörn Rüsen, German expert in historical theory, who defines narrativity through a constructivist approach. He is primarily interested in explanatory models of the formation of historical meaning so as to position the narrative in the scope of academic historiography. In his typological description of function, he differentiates between four types of historical writing (traditional, exemplary, critical and genetic), which operate, sometimes jointly, at different times with a varying function of dominance (Jörn Rüsen: Die vier Typen des historischen Erzählens. In: Reinhart Koselleck/Heinrich Lutz/Jörn Rüsen (eds.): Formen der Geschichtsschreibung. München 1982, p. 514–605). Recently, Jakob Krameritsch has expanded Rüsen’s four types with a fifth type – the situative narration – with regard to the ‘age of digital media’ (Jakob Krameritsch: Die fünf Typen des historischen Erzählens – im Zeitalter digitaler Medien. In: Jan-Holger Kirsch/Achim Saupe/Katja Stopka (eds.): Sonderheft Populäre Geschichtsschreibung. Zeithistorische Forschungen 6 (2009), issue 3, p. 413–432). Accordingly, the space and the range of experiences are continuously and situationally related to each other; identities are thereby described as transitory and non-essentialist. Krameritsch indicates briefly that experimental modes of narration could derive as a possible consequence from a collective and individual loss of meaning (ibid., p. 425). Wulf Kansteiner argues in a similar way (Wulf Kansteiner: Alternate worlds and invented communities. History and historical consciousness in the age of interactive media. In: Keith Jenkins/Sue Morgan/Alun Munslow (eds.): Manifestos for history. London/New York 2007, p. 131–148). With the primary example of video games, Kansteiner argues that Rüsen’s genetic model, which he describes as ‘utopian vision dressed up as realistic analysis’, was obsolete today (ibid., p. 145).

28 Cf. Munslow (note 16), p. 14.

29 Other forms of popular historical representation include films, documentaries, video games, online articles, websites and online data bases, monuments, radio reports, and re-enactments of history. For a comprehensive survey of different popular forms of historical representation cf. Jerome de Groot: Consuming history. Historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture. London/New York 2009.

30 On the paratextuality of historical writing cf. Julia Nitz: In fact no fiction. Historiographic paratext. In: Nitz/Petrulionis (note 24), p. 89–111.

31 For an overview cf. Gérard Genette: Fictional narrative, factual narrative. In: Poetics Today 11 (1990), p. 755–774.

32 Cf. Jaeger (note 24), p. 46.

33 On the dissemination of popular history magazines (as of the fourth quarter of 2009) cf. Walter Hömberg: Die Aktualität der Vergangenheit. Konturen des Geschichtsjournalismus. In: Klaus Arnold/Walter Hömberg/Susanne Kinnebrock (eds.): Geschichtsjournalismus. Zwischen Information und Inszenierung. Münster 2010, p. 15–30, p. 20.

34 Christian Spieß: Zwischen Wissenschaft und Unterhaltungsanspruch. Aktuelle Geschichtsmagazine im Vergleich. In: Sabine Horn/Michael Sauer (eds.): Geschichte und Öffentlichkeit. Orte – Medien – Institutionen. Göttingen 2009, p. 169–176. Spieß is especially interested in how the various contemporary history magazines in Germany position themselves on the German market, establish themselves between research and the public and, if need be, differentiate themselves from other history magazines and history representations. Also cf. Christian Spieß: Zwischen populär und wissenschaftlich. Geschichtsvermittlung in aktuellen Geschichtsmagazinen. In: Swen Steinberg/Daniel Trepsdorf/Stefan Meißner (eds.): Vergessenes Erinnern. Medien von Erinnerungskultur und kollektivem Gedächtnis. Berlin 2009, p. 132–151. On the connection between the public and research predominantly exemplified by analysing the history magazine DAMALS also cf. Marlene P. Hiller: Der Spagat zwischen Öffentlichkeit und Wissenschaft oder: Geschichte schreiben für Liebhaber. In: Horn/Sauer (note 34), p. 161–168.

35 It must be noted that history magazines vary in their basic narrative tone between objectivity and subjectivity. Some prefer a traditional, de-emotionalised, constructivist form of historical writing, which separately employs forms of academic history narration and at the same time in other texts uses a rather subjective representational style as is usually the case in ZEIT GESCHICHTE. Others mix both forms of narration as generally is the case in GEO EPOCHE.

36 Unlike in fictional texts, it is difficult to distinguish between embedded narrative and frame narrative. It is more precise to speak of the simultaneousness of various narrative levels, whose effect strongly depends on each respective reader’s behaviour.

37 The narratological concept of multiperspectival narrative considers both the story (a multitude of voices) as well as the discourse; with regard to history writing cf. Stephan Jaeger: Multiperspektivisches Erzählen in der Geschichtsschreibung des ausgehenden zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts. Wissenschaftliche Inszenierungen von Geschichte zwischen Roman und Wirklichkeit. In: Ansgar Nünning/Vera Nünning (eds.): Multiperspektivisches Erzählen. Studien zur Theorie und Geschichte der Perspektivenstruktur narrativer Texte im englischen Roman des 18. bis 20. Jahrhunderts. Trier 2000, p. 323–346. Multiperspectival narration in the didactics of history is exclusively confined to the level of past events. It therefore describes the representation of history ‘where historical topics are illustrated from several, at least two different perspectives of involved and affected historical witnesses, who represent different social positions or interests’ (Klaus Bergmann: Multiperspektivität. In: Klaus Bergmann et al. (eds.): Handbuch für Geschichtsdidaktik. 4th ed. Seelze-Velber 1992, p. 271 ff.). Popular history narration tends to dissolve multiple voices and perspectives on the level of discourse into one unitary structure of perspective.

38 GEO EPOCHE 52 (2011) ‘Otto von Bismarck 1815–1898’.

39 Bismarck was at the same time seen as civilian, choleric, fervent monarchist, rational and down-to-earth politician, reactionary, warmonger, artful diplomat, master of foreign policy, Socialist hater, and faithful Christian (ibid., p. 3).

40 Cf. Hayden White’s basic typology for the emplotment of history (Hayden White: Metahistory. The historical imagination in nineteenth-century Europe. Baltimore/London 1973, p. 7–11, p. 29 ff.).

41 Contribution by Jörg-Uwe Albig, cf. GEO EPOCHE 52 (2011), p. 142–155. Yet at the end of the issue an interview with the Hamburger historian Bernd Jürgen Wendt fragments the idea of emplotment as romance again, resulting in a more differentiated categorization of the role and the historical relevance of Bismarck. This includes the various phases of the history of remembrance (ibid., p. 158 f).

42 Ibid., p. 6 f.

43 Ibid., p. 22 f.

44 On related topics on the image between authenticity and performance especially cf. the edited collection Thomas Knieper/Marion G. Müller (eds.): Authentizität und Inszenierung von Bilderwelten. Köln 2003; particularly the contributions by Elke Grittmann: Die Konstruktion von Authentizität. Was ist echt an den Pressefotos im Informationsjournalismus?, p. 123–149, and Thomas Schierl: Der Schein der Authentizität. Journalistische Bildproduktion als nachfrageorientierte Produktion scheinbarer Authentizität, p. 150–167.

45 For an exemplary study which shows how problematic it is to use photographs as ‘authentic sources’ without reflecting on how they were created see Ulrike Pilarczyk: ‘Ostjuden’ im Scheunenviertel. Eine bildanalytische Recherche. In: Jüdisches Museum Berlin (ed.): Berlin Transit. Jüdische Migranten aus Osteuropa in den 1920er Jahren. Göttingen/Berlin 2012, p. 65–69.

46 Cf. GEO EPOCHE 52 (2011), p. 6 f. (text by Frank Otto).

47 Ibid., p. 118–138. Also the longer text chapters are characterised by simultaneous narratives in images, captions, subheadings and short summaries. In ‘Kampf um Hamburg’ the basic content of the text is already provided by a three-line text functioning as a summarizing subheading: ‘August Bebel calls the metropolis on the river Elbe the “capital of German Socialism”: in Hamburg resides the board of the “Socialist Labour Party of Germany” (SAP); the Social Democrats find many voters and members here. But Chancellor Bismarck sees the labour movement as a revolutionary threat – and declares war against them’ (ibid., p. 118 f.).

48 Later on the reader discovers that this is a flash-forward when the narrator moves back into the 1860s for the actual start of the story.

49 Cf. GEO EPOCHE 52 (2011), p. 120.

50 Cf. Rüth (note 9), p. 35 and p. 45, on the concepts of overt and covert narration.

51 On the possibilities of external focalization in history writing, for example, cf. Rüth (note 9), p. 110; on the three basic types of focalization in general cf. Genette (note 31), p. 762.

52 Cf. GEO EPOCHE 52 (2011), p. 120.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid., p. 120 f.

55 Ibid., p. 126.

56 Ibid., p. 122 f.

57 Unlike the slightly more academic magazines ZEIT GESCHICHTE and SPIEGEL GESCHICHTE, which to some extent base themselves on an institutional authority by employing university professors as their authors, it is GEO EPOCHE’s style to playfully – in this case by a spatial and historical coincidence of the historical topic – emphasize the subjective expert knowledge of its authors. One example reads: ‘Gesa Gottschalk, 31, lives in Hamburg and regularly writes for GEO EPOCHE. Her second child was born in Ottensen at the very hour, 120 years after the end of the Socialist Law’ (ibid., p. 138).

58 It is typical for the narrative form of a history magazine not to reflect explicitly on the simulated reality – neither on the historical method nor on the form of representation. It is expected that the simulation of reality is based on thorough source criticism and it is decisive that the representation is accepted as truthful and authentic by the reader.

59 To sum up the discussion cf. Jaeger (note 24), p. 35 f. The self-reflection that occurs refers – for instance, in GEO EPOCHE ‘Otto von Bismarck 1815–1898’ – to the various roles of Bismarck, which are illustrated in the editorial as today’s multi-perspective state of knowledge as well as to individual reflections upon the gaps in historical knowledge, such as the gap that nothing is known about the further fate of August Kückelhahn apart from the possibility that he participated in one of the celebrations on the occasion of the end of the Socialist Law on 1 October 1890 (ibid., p. 138). Probability suffices so as to maintain the narrated world as historically credible.

60 Cf. Munslow (note 16), p. 72.

61 Cf. Jaeger (note 9).

62 For instance, cf. Tobias Ebbrecht: Docudramatizing history on TV. German and British docudrama and historical event television in the memorial year 2005. In: European Journal of Cultural Studies 10 (2007), issue 1, p. 35–53; Stephan Jaeger: Das Gedächtnis des Bombenkrieges (1940–1945). Inszenierungstechniken zwischen Ideologisierung und Entideologisierung in Historiographie und Dokumentarfilm. In: Stephan Jaeger/Christer Petersen (eds.): Zeichen des Krieges in Literatur, Film und den Medien II. Ideologisierung und Entideologisierung. Kiel 2006, p. 118–141.

63 On a classification of Knopp’s representational techniques in the scope of contemporary historical writing cf., amongst others, Judith Keilbach: Mit dokumentarischen Bildern effektvoll Geschichte erzählen. Die historischen Aufnahmen in Guido Knopps Geschichtsdokumentationen. In: Medien + Erziehung 42 (1998), issue 6, p. 355–361; Wulf Kansteiner: The radicalization of German memory in the age of its commercial reproduction: Hitler and the Third Reich in the TV documentaries of Guido Knopp. In: In pursuit of German memory: history, television, and politics after Auschwitz. Athens 2006, p. 154–180; Stefan Brauburger: Fiktionalität oder Fakten? Welche Zukunft hat die zeitgeschichtliche Dokumentation? In: Claudia Cippitelli/Axel Schwanebeck (eds.): Fernsehen macht Geschichte. Vergangenheit als TV-Ereignis. Baden-Baden 2008, p. 43–56.

64 Alternatively, there are TV films which re-stage history as such in the form of re-enactment. On the various forms by which historical representation creates authenticity cf. Eva Ulrike Pirker/Mark Rüdiger: Authentizitätsfiktionen in populären Geschichtskulturen. Annäherungen. In: Eva Ulrike Pirker et al. (eds.): Echte Geschichte. Authentizitätsfiktionen in populären Geschichtskulturen. Bielefeld 2010, p. 11–30.

65 On the notion of multiple perspectives and multiperspectival narration in narratology and history didactics cf. note 37.

66 History magazines, however, are also able to grant historical witnesses intrinsic value due to their fragmentary and open structure rather than to fully functionalise them in a narrative structure. This can be implemented in separate interviews and texts of remembrance, which function as independent articles, as becomes clear in ZEIT GESCHICHTE 2 (2009) ‘1989. Die geglückte Revolution’. At the same time, eyewitnesses become, similarly to the GEO EPOCHE issue on Bismarck analysed above, acting personae in events which are presented in present tense narrative texts. The statement made by the witness is here directly transferred into the reality of the historiographically explored world.

67 Cf. Jaeger (note 37), p. 323–346.

68 Hitlers Kinder. 5 parts. Co-ordinated by: Guido Knopp. ZDF 2000. Part 1: Verführung. Directed by: Peter Hartl/Anja Geist. ZDF Video DVD 2009.

69 Cf. Hömberg (note 33), p. 24. Hömberg also refers to the consequences of the channel ZDF’s decision to increasingly give historians a say in its documentary series ‘Die Deutschen’ (2008, second season 2010) so as to mark the difference between historical reality and historical writing (ibid.).

70 Hitlers Kinder (note 68) Part 2: Hingabe. Directed by: Christian Deick/Mahnas Rassapur.

71 For a critique of the use of NS propaganda material and the uncritical implementation of memory fragments of eyewitnesses cf. Horst Walter Blanke: Stichwortgeber. Die Rolle der ‘Zeitzeugen’ in G. Knopps Fernsehdokumentation. In: Vadim Oswalt/Hans-Jürgen Pandel (eds.): Geschichtskultur. Die Anwesenheit von Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart. Schwalbach/Ts. 2009, p. 63–74.

72 Hitler Stalin. Portrait einer Feindschaft. Arte in cooperation with Discovery Communications Europe, Luce, Kaleidoscope, Looks, Transit Film and ZDF. Directed by: Ullrich H. Kasten. DVD 2009.

73 Heike Buschmann: Geschichten im Raum. Erzähltheorie als Museumsanalyse. In: Joachim Baur (ed.): Museumsanalyse. Methoden und Konturen eines neuen Forschungsfeldes. Bielefeld 2010, p. 149–170.

74 Apparently, the average visitor does not perceive the exhibition in its totality, but approaches it selectively. This differentiates them from readers of a book or viewers of a film since here a ‘total’ perception is more likely to happen.

75 URL:

76 Some parts of the museum are clearly less narrative and more object-oriented, such as the exhibit on every-day life in the GDR, in which the visitor is confronted with objects and installations that recall the desires of the 1970s and 1980s in an anti-narrative way.

77 At the same time, the chronology and the importance of such historical events is depicted in a circular gallery of panels, each representing one year, which lists events, individually supported by original film recordings screened on video monitors, in the style of a chronicle. This chronicle in itself does not possess narrativity (cf. note 17); with Hayden White it can be argued that it receives narrativity in the permanent exhibition and thereby adds a further narrative structure, similar to the timeline at the end of history magazines.

78 Also individual witnesses can be directly heard at computer stations (‘life cycles’) distributed among the exhibition. The visitors choose a card similar to a credit card which allows them to choose the gender of ‘their’ witness and one out of three generations. At each computer station they listen to the sequence of an interview which matches the respective time span in the permanent exhibition. Thereby, exemplary, but subjective narrations of remembrance expand the historiographic narration. In contrast to many TV documentaries, the historical witnesses are not fully functionalised by the narrator so that the narrative maintains its individual value.

79 Klaus Arnold: Geschichtsjournalismus – ein Schwellenressort? Arbeitsweisen, Themen und Selbstverständnis von Geschichtsjournalisten in Deutschland. In: Arnold/Hömberg/Kinnebrock (note 33), p. 87–107, p. 102.

80 Additionally, a mass audience would possibly see its perception of the same historical representations with a very different goal in mind.

81 Cf. Munslow (note 16), p. 14 f.

82 An interesting example is the special exhibition ‘Berlin Transit. Jüdische Migranten aus Osteuropa in den 1920er Jahren’, which was to be seen from 23.03.2012 to 15.07.2012 in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. At first glance, the exhibition seems to allow for a ‘real’ experience of the Berliner Scheunenviertel of the 1920s through photographs of the time and via a video installation. However, when taking a closer look it becomes apparent that the exhibition at the same time addresses the construction mechanisms of the pictorial memory of the past and its effect on the present-day visitor. The visitor gains an impression in the present, which is, however, at the same time deconstructed by a meta-reflection of the representational means of the historical sources.