Organized Panel Session
How do historians deploy different narrative modes to represent historical events and thereby influence their times? How are the narrative modes adapted across different times, regions, and cultures? For what purposes? To answer such questions, this panel examines a range of historiographical genres from across early and medieval Japan, China, and Iran. We focus on genre conventions in dialogue with the discursive environments in which the historians created, adapted, or transformed them. We treat historiographical genres as venues where different and often competing views confront one another, rather than sets of isolated and static narrative conventions.
Through a narrative analysis of the “Annals” (ji) in the first Chinese universal history Shiji (c. 91 BCE), Chen reveals how historians used this subgenre’s narrative conventions to investigate the legitimacy of the Han dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE). Felt demonstrates how early Japanese historians modified the subgenre “Annals” in the first official state history of Japan, Nihon shoki (720), to account for a different rationale of dynastic legitimacy. Shields examines how the author of the first state-sponsored history of China’s Tang dynasty (618-907), Xin Tangshu (1060), utilized the historian’s evaluations to rewrite biographies and further transformed these individual life stories into metanarratives. Kamola analyzes how a blending of literary genres by a Mongol-era Iranian courtier resulted in an artificial and highly moralized narrative that heavily influenced histories up to the modern period. By comparing historiographical genres in diverse societies, the four panelists illuminate general trends in chronical history and culturally specific strategies.