Poetic and Performative Memory in Ancient Greece: Heroic Reference and Ritual Gestures in Time and Space

  Calame, Claude. 2009. Poetic and Performative Memory in Ancient Greece: Heroic Reference and Ritual Gestures in Time and Space. Hellenic Studies Series 18. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_CalameC.Poetic_and_Performative_Memory_in_Ancient_Greece.2009.

I. Spatio-temporal Poetics of the Past in Ancient Greece

“Memory is the present of the past.”

Saint Augustine, Confessions 11.20,26

The transition from the twentieth to the twenty-first century has helped history to experience a real renewal, both as a determining influence on our social life and as an academic discipline. Historians can no longer consider it enough merely to denigrate the collective actors of social history as being too Marxist compared to the mainstream perspective fashionable at the end of the twentieth century, one marked by selfish individualism and imposed by the economic practices of global neo-liberalism (fashionable at the end of the twentieth century). Nor is there any question of seeking an erudite refuge in the local specifics of a micro-history that tries to shelter itself from comparative generalizations and from overblown theories. Historians can no longer avoid facing a “social question” that will yield center stage to textual refractions or relativistic diversions rendering illusory any grasp on reality and any practical engagement. It will not suffice to reconstruct great characters as history’s actors and actresses in the frenzy of an essentially economic competition, nor will it suffice to hand over indigenous peculiarities to some epistemologically agnostic specialist, nor will simple textual objects suffice if they call only for the intellectual practices of writing as a game.

This renewal of history has been forced on us by our need to re-think our shared knowledge of the recent past and thus how we represent our fathers and our grandfathers as they participated in the worldwide conflict that created a political and moral point of no return for Europeans in the middle of the 20th century. We needed to reformulate a recent past that we had generally rejected or idealized. We are witnessing the (re)birth of a history that is documentary, certainly disenchanted and conscious of its ideological presuppositions, but a real “history” nevertheless: a history based on the etymology of its name – an inquiry consequently determined to investigate from the present, if not to act upon the present; a history whose anthropological dimension could be much more developed, as we shall try to show; a history neither national nor European, but widened to include territories opened by the process of globalization to what were originally economic interests; a history sensitive to events, which are primarily made up of representations and accounts with symbolic overtones; consequently a social history of moments that have marked the development of a cultural community; and so a history of manifestations and representations of communities that identify themselves within a culture, however composite that culture may be. But this is a history which – far from ignoring its narrative and poetic foundations – is written under an imperative which must not be underestimated, in that historians from now on will be asked to sketch and formulate responses to present questions and needs. And so a history searching for itself, and which, by its sensitivity to anthropological methods as well as those of the science of discourse, may question itself openly about different practical concepts of space and time in different cultures which care about their memory.

1. Prelude: A historian’s tensions (“tensions historiennes”) relative to the present

For the Swiss citizen attempting to address both a French and an American readership, this contradictory movement is inscribed between two poles; we can illustrate these poles schematically by means of two recent ideological events. On the one hand, we might evoke the mandate given by the Swiss government to a group of respected professional historians, to furnish the public with new insights on the attitudes and policies of federal authorities regarding Nazi power during the Second World War. The attention of these professional archivists and scholars was to be focused on official relations with Hitler’s Germany, on economic links between big businesses and banks and their German counterparts, and on the restriction of the rights of asylum applied especially to refugees of Jewish origin. [1] This attempt at a collective rewriting of official history based on a rereading of archived documents coincided with a fundamental revision of the shared image of a traditionally neutral and humanitarian Switzerland. It brought about a debate which could have been healthy, had it had a practical effect on the current attitude of Swiss authorities toward those requesting asylum from regions in a state of civil war. Whatever may happen with what once was a right of asylum and is now a policy of dissuasion and return, the various reactions to this report on how Swiss economic interests accommodated the Nazi regime—reactions to news of the report’s preparation and reactions upon its publication—show that the (re)writing of history is not without pragmatic impact.

Certainly we can consider the successive wars in the Middle East, wars conducted by those who hold world economic and military power, as new efforts to annul time and space by repeated assertions against a “terrorism” that is seen as a global menace to the immutable and universal values of liberal and capitalist democracy. Yet I have no intention of reviving the worn and erroneous opposition between a young United States, without depth or historical consciousness, and an old Europe, with not only its secular cultural traditions but also the weight of its unenviable colonial past.

We must realize that such tension—between an economic projection into a very near future and a political concern about the depth of history—does not coincide exactly with the apparent geographic division that the Atlantic Ocean would seem to form. This is more and more true at a moment when several European Community countries are lining up behind the United States of George Bush, in a military-ideological crusade against an allegedly extremist Islam, in order to defend their oil interests rather than their civilization. This tension between looking back toward a past which questions us and forward to a future animated by the fastest possible profits and consumption is inherent in any political community observing the great principles of neo-liberal modernity. There is tension on the one hand to reread one’s own past in order to reformulate it critically, knowing that it largely determines our actions, and on the other hand to focus on the present instant, oriented toward the immediate future, with the incitement to consume ever new goods and services, thanks to accelerated techniques of advertising and to the media, for instantaneous profit. Consequently, this is a tension between two “regimes of historicity,” between two ways of representing oneself, of managing and practicing individual and community relations with the passing of cosmic time. [4] Finally, it is a tension between two different feelings for history, one for the person who sees his own actions on his environment as oriented and constrained as much by his own experience of time as by his own knowledge and representations of the past of his social and cultural community, and on the other for the person who, as a citizen voluntarily subject to the global market economy and its logic of quick profit, intends to live in a state of youth constantly sought and renewed, a youth seemingly offered by an economic system based on consumption and on immediate gratification.

This is no doubt an exaggerated dichotomy, especially in that it inscribes itself in a sequence of binary oppositions, oppositions of contraries which are sometime forced upon us by a reductive version of structuralism. Do we want to draw a very artificial division between on the one hand the hedonistic image and practice of capitalist time, and on the other a more-or-less thoughtful image and practice of time with historical depth? The former would come through immersion in a present time from which, by adopting the all-consuming values of exchange, we extract what material advantages we can. The latter we would retain from social and symbolic temporality by our efforts at a critical revision of conventional values relative to the past. Such a division would have to be, in any case, nuanced to the extent that the practice of a present constantly lying in wait for the immediate future is animated by an obsessive desire to anticipate the future constantly. Brought to life by the media, this burning desire coincides with an anguish not to be dé-passé “outdated or overtaken”. This is most certainly our fear of being bypassed, in a logic based on competition among individuals; but, less obviously, there is also the muted fear of being dispossessed of one’s past, which gives life to numerous nationalisms, despite globalized modernity. And so, in one of those word games which postmodernism likes so well, the incitement to constant projection into the immediate future invites us not to break basic attachments with a recent past, even if it has a bad reputation, attached as it is for Europe either to the largest organized massacres that humanity has ever known (thanks to Western technological progress) or to a series of social gains which have been widely denigrated for the past two decades. In a logic of symbolic memory, it is the acceleration of a breathless immediate which requires a return to history.

For that is one of the essentials in the four case studies presented here: to give food for thought about the paradigms of time and space we depend on, by choosing practical concepts of time and space in that different culture, both geographically and historically, which is the one constantly recreated by the ancient Greeks. And since the learned journey proposed here is that of discourse analysis inspired by the approaches of cultural and social anthropology, the four configurations and practical concepts of time and space taken up here invite us to reflect briefly on four of the paradigms which have marked the development of human sciences since the 1960’s: in order of their presentation, structuralism, gender studies, philosophical idealism redivivus, and neo-mysticism.

2. Pragmatics of spatio-temporal representations

It is important to state from the outset that the present moment also implies spatial location and consistency. While physicists have been pondering for nearly a century the question of the curvature of a time inseparable from space, it is the observation imposed by the anthropological and discursive dimension of history that is defended in these pages. That poses the question of the ontological status of this dynamic of temporal flux whose axis runs through present time and present space. To make of the passage of time a movement of the animus, as Saint Augustine proposes, in a dialectic between intentio and distentio, is finally to see time in a psychological dimension. But this dodges the question of how interior temporality is articulated with social time or cosmic time, and it erases the spatial parameters of all temporality. This first chapter is intended to show that, on the contrary, spatiality is consubstantial with any form of temporality.

In this regard, texts from the cultural and symbolic manifestations of ancient Greece offer especially significant representations of time and space. They are all the more interesting in that, conveyed by poetic texts with a practical function, they are always created and conditioned, as are ours, by a preoccupation with the hic et nunc in relation to the past. Generally oriented toward a ritualistic action done in a precise place, these spatio-temporal manifestations also maintain a pragmatic relationship with the immediate future. They are thus sensations, but also representations, and finally, because of the putting-into-discourse whose object these representations are, they are configurations of temporality and spatiality. In their practical aspect, they are strongly distinguished from the philosophical concepts of time which have been too easily attributed to the representatives of Greek culture in general; some have tried to make metaphysicians of simple poets who define themselves as having a certain savoir-faire (sophoì). Representation, configuration, and putting-into-discourse are three notions we shall soon return to, but their relevance we can try to illustrate immediately with an example.

A poem by Bacchylides is given over to ritual praise of a young man from Metapontum in Magna Graecia, a winner of the Pythian games at the dawn of the Classical Age. Most of the praise is accomplished through narration, in the story of the flight of the daughters of King Proïtos of Argos. In a reading sensitive both to the development of the narrative and to the marks of enunciation presented by this ritual poem, I have tried to show the practical effects of combining several temporal threads and several sites in a complex poetic configuration: the line of the narration of the account of the legendary flight of the Proitides, abandoning Tiryns which was founded by their father, then the cultural and etiological honors that the girls pay to Artemis in Lousoï in Arcadia; the thread of the story narrated whose chronology goes back to the founding of the “Mycenaean” city of Tiryns by Proïtos, with its causes; the thread of enunciation (uttered in the poem) to celebrate the present victor in his native city in Magna Graecia (in a hic et nunc of a discursive and enunciative order). These three temporal and spatial lines (narration, story told, enunciation) intertwine in the poetic discourse as sung (on an “intra-discursive” level) to converge finally toward the (“extra-discursive”) moment of the poem’s “performance,” with its cultural and social implications, in the colonial city of Metapontum, in the first half of the fifth century b.c. [6] The discursive and narrative operation of this melic poem is all the more significant in that it poetically reconfigures, both on the discursive level and in the fictional mode, a form of social time; this “regime of historicity” is shared between the memory of the founding of the colonial city to which the young victor of the Pythian games belongs and the ritual cyclical celebration of the goddess Artemis, who proves to be both the goddess honored in Arcadia by the girls in the legend and the goddess of the city in southern Italy where the athlete’s pan-Hellenic victory is ritually celebrated. This work of poetic representation and temporal and spatial configuration is accomplished in a subtle interplay of anticipations and returns along the chronological timeline and in the space recounted; these spatio-temporal movements combine with the rhetorical structures of an (intra-discursive) ring structure which evoke the cyclical character of the (extra-discursive) ritual celebration. In addition, a final enunciative and narrative passage through the heroic past of the Trojan War leads at the end of the poem to the realization in the near future, by the community of citizens of the colonial city of Metapontum, of the spirit of justice throughout the exemplary great acts of the Achaean heroes. Through the intermediary of the “instance of enunciation,” the sung ritual performance thus ensures the pragmatic transition of the different (intra-discursive) spatio-temporal threads woven into the poem toward the (extra-discursive) time and space of the ritual act of enunciation.

2.1 Philosophical temporalities

So we have too often overlooked that Greek concepts of time and space are situated at the intersection of several temporal lines which appear as constituents of our being in a social space. As an operating statement, and thus schematically, we must remember that one can distinguish several lines of realization in our thoughts and in our expressions of a temporality (and a spatiality) which are essentially existential. I shall readily and naïvely take up here the distinction that is traditionally made between cosmic time and lived time. The former corresponds to physical time (and space), and it is this universal time/space which draws the world into an apparently inexorable dynamic of material and organic changes, most probably from a principle of entropy which assures its irreversibility; the second, often viewed as psychic time or ordinary time, coincides with the perception that every human has of physical time, and with the experience that he has of it in his own body and intellect. Concomitantly, this allows a complementary distinction, equally operational, between “natural” or organic space and perceived space.

It is precisely in these practices of history that the philosopher Paul Ricoeur proposes to find the points which will permit us to overcome the aporia of a temporality divided between the “objective” time of the world and “phenomenological” time. Or, to use the terms of a Heideggerian phenomenology which has once again become fashionable, it is in the domain of history that one must seek the bridges between an exterior, measurable time, and interior time, the time of the Dasein. In a highly meaningful paradox, the former would have to be rejected, in the name of the latter’s ontological status, as “vulgar” time, time designated as such because it would be awash in a succession of anecdotal and contingent events. Consequently, the time of the Dasein, based essentially in man, would be marked by a tension toward the future. Despite its ontological status, such a tension could be stimulating were it not animated by an unhealthy existential and metaphysical concern and if it did not end up coinciding in a decidedly morbid mode with “being toward death” (Sein zum Tode). [7] Using artifices of language which were denounced by Pierre Bourdieu and Henri Meschonnic, and formulated in such a way that the usual etymologizing redundancies are underlined by the typographic ingenuities of an absurdly mimetic translation, Martin Heidegger can affirm, for example:

Indeed, if there is a “being toward death” for each individual—we’ll see that Hesiod himself would not have disagreed—the Dasein depends entirely on lived time, on “exterior” time which is itself founded on the physical and cosmic flux of space/time. And so it is a complete reversal of perspective that we hope to achieve here.

This makes obvious the aporia which an ontological and philosophical time oriented toward death leads to, disregarding the potential for realization and construction of social and practical time. Faced with this philosophical impasse, one might willingly re-examine Ricoeur’s twofold attempt, to return to history its function of “rewriting lived time on cosmic time” and to base man’s historic condition with its hermeneutics in the dialectic of memory and forgetfulness. We must remember that his first effort was based on a model representation of the construction of historic time in three phases, in a processing sequence whose cognitive status is not specified: “prefiguration” operations, understanding both the practical and symbolic natures of human action and its temporality (mimēsis I); a process of “configuration” by narrative and discursive mise en intrigue “emplotment” of man’s actions organized in a temporal sequence (mimēsis II); and “refiguration” of configured time by narrative means, when this time is in some way given back to human experience (mimēsis III). Because of the attention given to semio-narrative analysis which developed in the 1970s, the arrangement is part of the definition of a hermeneutics which claims for its own the tripartite structure and the procedures implied by a communication schema applied to literary production. “Hermeneutics, on the other hand, is careful to reconstruct the entire range of operations by which practical experience gives itself works, authors, and readers. (…) The issue therefore is the concrete process by which textual configuration mediates between the prefiguration of the practical field and its refiguration by the work’s reception. (…) Aristotle, as we have seen, ignored the temporal aspects of emplotment. I propose to disentangle those aspects from the act of textual configuration, and show the mediating role of this time of emplotment between the temporal aspects prefigured in the practical field and the refiguration of our temporal experience by this constructed time. We follow destiny from a prefigured time to a refigured time, through the mediation of a configured time.” [9]

On the other hand, in the most recent stage of his lengthy itinerary, Ricoeur has noticed that by defining the works of historians as discursive and more especially narrative configurations of different prefigurations of time, he was confronted with the thorny problem of linguistic reference. It is obvious that if one conceives the general problem of articulation between phenomenological time and cosmic time in terms of emplotment (mise en intrigue) or even of (historic) putting-into-discourse (mise en discours), an immediate question arises from what mediations the spatio-temporal “reality” of the past, events, are constituted in history. Beyond the role of prefiguration played by the indispensable individual memory, beyond the materialization of archived singular and collective memories, simple narrative emplotment proves insufficient to account for intellectual operations relative to the configuration in the movement of mimēsis II. These operations would be grouped into three categories implying an order of succession: after archiving operations would come explanation/comprehension procedures, which would lead to representations grasped as interpretations in “representance.” “The problem of referentiality appropriate to history seems to me to stand out clearly, in that a tendency to closure, inherent in the act of emplotment, becomes an obstacle to the extralinguistic, extratextual, even referential impulse by which representation becomes representance.” [10] We shall see that we must go much farther critically, concerning the privilege granted emplotment (mise en intrigue) in procedures relative to the act of configuration and representation, independent of the question of reference.

Defined in the first part of Ricoeur’s first investigation on the time of history, the process of three mimetic moments proves to be essential when, in the third part of Ricoeur’s work published in the 1980’s, there appears the question of “third time” (tiers temps) capable of ensuring mediation between lived time and cosmic time, to find some way out of the impasses of the (Heideggerian) phenomenology of time: “a third option, opened up by pondering the aporias of the phenomenology of time, is to reflect on the place of historic time between phenomenological time and that other time which phenomenology does not succeed in constituting, whether it is called world time, objective time, or vulgar time.” We understand that the “third time” he seeks coincides with history, which truly does the work of poetic ordering, using “instruments of thought” such as the calendar, the succession of generations, or recourse to archives and documents. [11] Lacking the reversal of perspective proposed here, and given the ontological status conferred on the temporality of the Dasein, it is not surprising to see Ricoeur placing the work of the historian among procedures of the refiguration phase. Indeed, in returning to the philosophical question of time, Ricoeur assimilates the fabrication of history to a process of reading and rereading temporal configurations already constituted in the mimēsis II moment. The “third time” which is supposed to serve as mediator between lived phenomenological time on the one hand and physical, organic, even cosmic time on the other, would consequently be found in the interpretive procedures of reconfiguration in mimēsis III!

Due to the reversal of perspective proposed here, the concept of “third time” must be replaced by the concept of “spatio-temporal mediations” (plural): mediation on the one hand in the prefigurations of lived time and space (anchored in physical time and space) with the individual and collective memory which corresponds to them; mediation also in the different operations of history which rework these configurations in order to base them not in philosophical or even metaphysical time, but rather in a community memory of a discursive and practical sort; mediations finally by the fact that operations of the historical memory, well known by everyone in the community through different oral and written genres, are in turn inscribed in a historicity and spatiality which is both individual and collective, and find a practical effectiveness in refigurations. To that extent, whether entrusted to poets specializing in the memory of the community or to university professors using erudite academic methods, history as a re-creation practice using different ways of emplotment is not refiguration, but configuration. It is poietic – as we shall see in 4.5 – in the etymological sense of the term; as at the time of the Greek aoidoi, it remains the daughter of Mnemosyne.

But as a social practice, it also has an impact on the spatial and temporal flux of what we live collectively and individually. From the perspective of hermeneutics, the realization of this pragmatic dimension essential to any operation of emplotment and historian configuration no doubt belongs among refiguration operations. It is by refiguration that history-configuration can reorient the spatio-temporal flux which makes up our historicity in physical space/time. Far from being accidental and “vulgar,” this flux is the referent for the memorial operations of history as a poietic genre and as an academic discipline, operations which should help us manage it!

Ricoeur thus seems to be the victim not only of his dependence on the narratological paradigm of the 1970s, but also of his fascination with Heidegger’s metaphysical phenomenology. By making of the emplotment of historical discourse a “third time” operation, and by situating this “third time” not in a sequence of movements of configuration beginning with our way of living physical space/time, but rather in discursive refiguration, as well as by erasing the spatial points of reference of every temporal and historical configuration, the hermeneutic philosopher sustains a fundamental misunderstanding in his effort to resolve the unmistakable aporia of the phenomenology of time by defining an intermediary situation between history and fiction. This ambiguity stems largely from silence about the fictional effects of any use of language and any putting-into-discourse; these effects of fiction themselves also contribute to relativizing strongly the ontological status accorded to the philosophical temporality of the Dasein. This misunderstanding has as corollaries no fewer than four other misunderstandings which we must now dispel in order to change them into instruments of analysis.

2.2 The double articulation of calendar time

Now I would like to point out that in every cultural community, the temporality of the calendar is in fact founded on a combination of conventions which rest not only on a regular measure which allows one to move in a linear manner in the past, but also on a series of recurrences of a more or less cyclical sort. Certainly, by virtue of the reference point concerning a founding moment taken as axial point, calendar time in its linear dimension depends on the representation which every society creates of its own community past; to this extent, in its practical effects, the temporality of the calendar corresponds to a way of living collectively, intellectually, and symbolically, the inexorable progress and flight of cosmic time. On the other hand, in its cyclical dimension, calendar time depends on points of reference furnished by the “natural” world, with astronomical phases or meteorological repetitions such as the cycle of the seasons or the rhythm of monsoons, but also with the recurrent biological successions attached to the mortality of the human being. Through the rhythm which it imposes on social behavior, calendar time also creates a communal way of living the cyclical aspect of organic time by symbolic and cultural practice. And because of its twofold dimension, both linear and circular, calendar time does indeed furnish, well before historiographic operations, a privileged mediation between physical, biological, and cosmic time on the one hand, and psychic and social time on the other. Before the intervention of the writing of history with its fictional effects, the temporal mediation being sought takes place in this complex symbolic organization and scansion, starting from a specific spatio-temporal environment and from collective representations of the past.

Inscribed in calendar time, “myth” and “rite” contribute by different symbolic means to transform, socially and spatially, the linear and cyclical components of physical and biological time, in its flow and in its recurrences. Thus in the Bacchylides poem cited at the beginning of this discussion, the different lines of heroic time and space recounted, through the spatio-temporal reference points of the discursive enunciation and by the annular rhythmic and rhetorical structures that the song presents, lead to the ritual celebration, hic et nunc, in the cult of the city deity, for the Delphic victory of a renowned citizen: from heroic Argos and Troy we move in time through the choral ritual instituted in Arcadia toward Delphi to end up in the colonial city of Metapontum, under the aegis of Artemis. In so doing, the different symbolic manifestations that modern anthropology labels myth and rite transform individual apprehensions, prefigured by the time and space of the world, into a shared knowledge and practical collective memory, performed as cultic songs; these apprehensions, felt as psychic time and space based on the development of organic time and the deployment of physical space, are transformed in mythico-ritual configurations and realized as ritualized collective memory. This is far from the “vulgar” time rejected by Heidegger in favor of “historiality,” a constitutive element of the projection of Dasein into death.

2.3 The question of putting-into-discourse

From this perspective, there is no choice but to observe that, based on the prefigurations of temporality represented by our individual feelings of physical and cosmic time, biological and psychic but also socialized, the configuration of social time and space through calendar time immediately calls for a putting-into-discourse. The temporal (and spatial) operations of mimēsis II call immediately for representations of a discursive sort. In this regard, the polysemy of the term histoire in French, of storia in Italian, and even of Geschichte in German is no doubt significant: history as constituted and shared knowledge of the past by selection and putting-into-form of the events retained in “memory”; history as a narrative practice and as story sharing with history as knowledge the narrative and more generally poetic (but also pragmatic) narrative aspects inherent to any putting-into-discourse; but also history as (individual and collective) apprehension of and relationship to the past through a sequence of events, thus history as memory. [18] Certainly, these three modalities of history can be found in a dialectical relationship of reciprocity and interaction which ensures that one of them, history as knowledge, feeds from the other two, history as narrative and history as perception and representation of the past. One could thus imagine that history as shared knowledge is founded largely on our perceptions and our practical ways of living history as past, but that this knowledge is also constantly reshaped by historians using essentially discursive means.

In this wider po(i)etic perspective to which I have said I shall return (section 4.5), the historian’s work can be imagined as a historiopoiesis which erases the distinctions which one might be tempted to make between history and historiography, between history as doing and erudite history (configuration on the one hand, refiguration on the other?); the poietic work of the historian thus seen as construction and fashioning of temporalities and spatialities prefigured in our individual and collective apprehensions of time and space. In this respect, the historiographic operation is in fact situated in mimēsis II as well as in mimēsis III. Having become a historiopoiete, the historiographer can indeed be called on to reread a past discursive configuration in which he himself or others have already actively participated in the mimēsis II phase; he would thus intervene, as a “hermeneuticist,” in the reconfiguration operations of mimēsis III. But these hermeneutics are a dynamic process, destined not to reveal the meaning of a fixed canonic text like the Old or New Testament, but rather to produce a new discourse, with its concrete efficacy. In their discursive dimension, spatio-temporal configurations and refigurations are thus based on procedures of selection and schematization, on description and modelization, through intermediary prototypes and stereotypes, on argumentative placing into sequence, on logical concatenation, which as we have just seen are characteristic, along with narrative structures, of any putting-into-discourse. It is in this measure that, in the final phase of Ricoeur’s reflections on time metamorphosed into history, the schematizations which constitute mentalities, variations of scale, and the representations themselves can be included in the intermediate phase of explanation/comprehension. Already at the beginning of the 1970s, Reinhart Koselleck had grasped fully that it is the role of shared concepts, more than simple narrative forms, to ensure the intelligibility of history and thus of past time: “Concepts which include facts, complex relationships, and past processes become, for the historian who uses them in his cognitive approach, formal categories which may be posited as conditions of possibility of histories. It is only with concepts capable of covering a certain duration (…) that the way opens which permits one to know how a once ‘real’ history can appear to us today as possible and thus representable.” [21] It is as discursive, configuring, and refiguring poiḗseis that the practices of historians contribute to the cognitive stabilization of the collective temporalities known by every political and cultural community, in an “as if” which ensures both the relationship of reference to events localized in the past and their comprehension in the present.

2.4 The enunciative dimension

Since the constitution of time (and space) in history in the wider sense of the term falls within the different procedures of putting-into-discourse, a fourth ambiguity may spring from not taking into account the enunciative dimension proper to any act of discourse: and this once again caused by defining calendar time too restrictively. Concerning selection, succession, and logical and argumented sequencing, Benveniste says: “In all forms of human culture and in every era, we see in one way or another an effort to objectify chronical time. It is a condition necessary to the life of societies, and to the life of individuals in societies. This socialized time is that of the calendar.” Based as we have seen on calendar time, this time of our shared cultural experience of history would thus have the rhythm given by a regular computation based on a point of origin coinciding with a founding moment in the community’s past. And in the perspective adopted by Benveniste, this counted time not only does not integrate into its linearity the cyclical occurrences from which calendar time is also made, but it is in opposition to “linguistic time,” which is linked to the exercise of the word. There would be a contrast between calendar time and linguistic time to the extent that, obviously, the axial point of the latter, stemming from the putting-into-discourse, coincides not with the point of origin, but with the very moment of enunciation, a “now” which defines itself concomitantly with a “here” in a new intermingling of temporal and spatial parameters. These discursive indices recalling time and space of communication combine with the pronominal forms of “I” and “you” to constitute what Benveniste in an almost contemporary study calls “the formal apparatus of enunciation.” [22] From this linguistic and enunciative hic et nunc, the position varies with the place, the moment, and the actors of the putting-into-discourse itself.

A surprising paradox, this opposition between calendar time and linguistic time, for the person interested in representations of time and space. It seems indeed that the configurative capture of time and space implies, on the contrary, a combining of calendar or chronicle time and linguistic time, in the complex operations of putting-into-discourse. Configuring linguistically a time which is at once smoothed, regulated, and profiled by a homogeneous system of measurement, but also accentuated by cyclical celebrations, any discursive representation of time and space orients the temporal line from the point of origin of the calendar computation toward the focal point of the putting-into-discourse. Which is to say that, by the putting-into-discourse, temporality organized by the computation from an axial point of origin (also marked out spatially) is oriented toward the “instance of enunciation”; represented grammatically by the “I” of the “speaker,” this instance of a discursive and enunciative order is also the object of a spatial and temporal locating. The “performance” of the discourse makes the spatio-temporal parameters correspond with the hic et nunc of communication and with the different places and moments of reception. Conforming to a particular chronology, the putting-into-discourse of time (and of space) that the writing of history constitutes is therefore oriented equally by an enunciative logic!

As it relates to the operation of putting-into-discourse of time, together with its spatial corollary, the tension which exists between the two focal points of any discursive temporality, between chronological point of origin and instance of enunciation in the hic et nunc of communication, implies a twofold passage: from social reality to the order of discourse, then, conversely, from discourse to this reality; from the extra- to the intra-discursive, then from the intra- to the extra-discursive, if we may be allowed this admittedly artificial operative distinction. From the temporal point of view, one thus moves from the scale of measure of socially organized and configured time to the discursive and enunciative assumption of this scansion into the discourse, only to return later to reality and to social representations through the process of communication in its mobile hic et nunc. This discursive movement under tension requires that we distinguish carefully, from both a temporal and spatial point of view, two levels of a different (semiotic) nature: on the one hand, the (extra-discursive) level which corresponds to the act of enunciation and narration and which thus coincides with the empirical and historic time and space of the putting-into-discourse (and, consequently, of telling) – for instance, the choral and ritual execution of the song composed by Bacchylides to celebrate the young citizen of Metapontum; and on the other hand the (extra-discursive) level of expression in the discourse itself, by different linguistic and enunciative means, of this time and this space of the enunciation—the affirmation of the “I” of the poet and the allusion to processional chants of young people in the colonial city of Magna Graecia. The social and historical reality (of an extra-discursive sort) must thus be distinguished from this intra-discursive and enunciative spatio-temporal reality (we go so far as to speak of the énonciation énoncée, the “utterance of the enunciation”), even if the latter finds itself highly dependent on the former. For the historian, this means that, through verbal and discursive mediation, the moment and the place of his act of putting-into-discourse, of his enunciation, are integrated into the operation and into the result of the discursive configuration of time and space of the history: from the enunciative point of view, the historian is present in his own discourse. Because of the obvious permeability between extra- and intra-discursive, especially in the process of communication, historic discourse itself carries (linguistic and enunciative) traces of this enunciative tension; it is part of any putting-into-discourse, and thus of any reference by means of language.

It is thus in the very instant of the putting-into-discourse and of the enunciation, with its mimēsis II operations, that time and space as lived and the social and individual memory come into the configuration of any discourse, especially if it is poetic and literary. They take place not only in the forms of enunciation as they relate to the hic et nunc of communication, but also in the rhythm of the narration (the different narrative movements which, in the melic poem of Bacchylides, permit a return to the moment of the heroic founding of Tiryns), as well as in the chronological scansion of the utterance itself (and consequently in that of the narrative—the chronological sequencing of the spatial movements which lead to the institution of choral dances in honor of Artemis in Arcadia). This last distinction between the rhythm of narration and chronological scansion corresponds to the classical distinction between Erzählzeit and erzählte Zeit, between the rhythm of recounting (and describing) and time (and space) recounted (or described). [23] It is important to notice that it is subordinated to the operative distinction made between the empirical time and space of the act of enunciation on one hand, and the temporality and discursive spatiality of the uttered enunciation, then of the narrative (if there is a narrative), on the other; the latter are the linguistic and discursive expression of the former, in the tension we have mentioned between the hic et nunc of the enunciation and the point of origin of a calendar time which is both linear and cyclical.

This complex combining of temporal and spatial lines is noticeable from the very first Greek historiography. At about the time of the Bacchylides poem already mentioned, we witness the passage by poets from ritual celebrations of a historic and legendary past of the community to reelaborations of the most recent past offered in prose by the first logographers, historiopoietes such as Herodotus and Thucydides. One can see in these different forms of historiography, from the point of view of narration and the scansion of time recounted, a mix analogous to that of poetry, between the linear temporal succession (still heterogeneous from a measurement point of view) and cyclical returns. If counting up the generations ensures for the history of the Persian Wars, as configured by Herodotus, a depth and measure articulated along several genealogical lines (often badly coordinated), the changing of the seasons gives to the Peloponnesian Wars, as Thucydides conceives them, a cyclical scansion. [24] Through the enunciative strategies incorporated by both of these historians, time recounted and time of narration converge toward the temporality of the uttered enunciation (“énonciation énoncée”); and, by this enunciative means, these three temporal lines open hic et nunc onto the extra-discursive time and space of this new writing of history, on the present place and time where the narrative configuration finds its effect. Calendar time (with its twofold dimension already discussed) and linguistic time are interlinked in the spatial and temporal development of the poetic and historiographic discourse itself.

The practical effects of the historians’ work of spatio-temporal configuration depend strongly on the enunciative dimension of the historiographic putting-into-discourse, in classical Greece as well as in hypermodernity.

2.5 Inescapable pragmatics

Any configuration of past time by a putting-into-discourse cannot help but reformulate a temporality already prefigured and partially configured in other forms of expression, before returning (as in any symbolic process and especially through the enunciative intermediary) to a reality already informed and from which it originates. [26] It is in this return that the fifth ambiguity is lodged, maintained by the attempt to situate the intervention of the historian and his “representance” in refiguration, and consequently to see it as mimēsis III. In making the writing of history coincide with this interpretive and generally critical moment, there is a risk of missing the important pragmatic dimension. One thus risks petrifying the historiographic discourse into an immutable text, interpretable only through biblical-type hermeneutics. Inscribed in the historic movement from which they spring, puttings-into-discourse which coincide with operations of configuration have in return an essential impact on the very direction and profile of this movement. Animated by the enunciative orientation imprinted on the putting-into-discourse in mimēsis II, this pragmatic return provoked by the procedures of historian configuration (configuration historienne) rightly belongs in mimēsis III. Refiguration does not consist only in interpretive readings of manifestations of historiopoiesis, but also in social practices. Particularly through the enunciative bias, the work of temporal (and spatial) configuration and reconfiguration of the past, combined with intellectual reelaborations, thus gives rise to what is no doubt hermeneutics, but a practical hermeneutics.

Above, between temporal and spatial prefiguration and configuration, it is essentially the linear and chronological aspect of calendar time which (on the order of “third time”) facilitates the passage from the extra- to the intra-discursive in the putting-into-discourse of the temporality and spatiality of historiopoiesis. Below, on the other hand, the practical impact of historiographic reformulations undoubtedly applies more to the cyclical aspect of calendar time, in recurrent celebrations of a memorial sort. Taking up the categories of cultural and social anthropology already mentioned, one could say that the first passage seems to belong more to the “myth” and the second to “ritual.” Whatever one may think of these questionable concepts, the arrow of social time is largely organized by the dialectical movement, divided between line and circle, which passes through puttings-into-discourse and spatio-temporal configurations whose practical and hermeneutic impact is animated especially by a strong enunciative orientation.

And so it is, for example, in classical Athens: the recuperation and reformulation of the exploits of Theseus as a founder of the Athenian synoecism and democracy manifest themselves in the creation of an epic poem; the writing of this poem in Homeric diction is accompanied by the ritualization of religious honors to the new Athenian hero, an annual celebration inscribed in the city’s calendar. The historiopoietic production of the Theseid corresponds to the creation and organization of the annual Festival of Theseus on the 8th day of Pyanopsion, at a heroic shrine whose space and iconographic decor are changed for the occasion. [27] This combination of linear depth and circular scansion through a recurrent “reenacted” discursive event is also found in our own calendar temporality. If its fundamental rhythm shows the weekly recurrence imposed by the economic and industrial organization of productive work thanks to the technical measurement of clock time, this rhythm originates from the cosmogonic narrative of the Creation in Genesis, reread in the ecclesiastical context. Modern calendar time is also accentuated both by celebrations linked to important episodes of the biography of the heroic founder of Christianity as they are recorded in New Testament narratives and by a series of variable anniversaries. These anniversaries generally celebrate in the same annual rhythm the “historic” events which marked the past and which continue to orient the present of communities which have become national, in the same dialectic between circle and line! [28]

3. Interlude: Between places and acts of memory

In ancient Greece as in many traditional cultures, moments of memory, moments ritualized and maintained by the configuring work of historiopoietes, are often attached to places of memory. By their ritually organized and often cyclic rhythm, these shared moments of memory contribute to the practical orientation of the flux of historic and social time in which they themselves are integrated. Undoubtedly for us, the rapid multiplication and the extreme segmentation of those traditions on which the polymorphic culture of (post)modernity rests are combined with the orientation toward an immediate future indicated by way of prelude. Polymorphic segmentation and immediacy have caused confusion which has changed the relationship between memory and history to a “radical break.” In this context, the structuralist stratagem of binary opposition can serve as explanation; it reduces the break to a dichotomy organized, in a rather heterogeneous way, by traits such as “plural/universal,” “spontaneous/critical,” “absolute/relative,” “lived relationship with the present/representation of the past,” “sacred/secular,” “emotional/intellectual,” etc. The conclusion drawn from this restoration of a sort of Grand Partage, as “structuralist dichotomy,” seems unavoidable: “Memory is rooted in the concrete, in space, gesture, image, and object. History is attached only to temporal continuities, evolutions, and the relationships among things. Memory is an absolute, and history knows only the relative.” But the same historian also reaffirms that “the need for memory is a need for history,” since we must recognize that, especially because of archiving operations made possible by writing, memory relies on history. [29]

If it is true that the places of memory, in antiquity as well as in (post)modernity, work only as signs, sēmeîa in Thucydides’ meaning of this term which we shall take up later (4.2), they are on the one hand the object of ritualized celebrations designed to reactivate regularly, in the present and communally, the history which they indicate and which they designate; in this, these monuments constitute spatial points of reference of the “third-time” which is calendar time, in its twofold linear and cyclical dimension, which places it between social temporalities and discursive temporalities. On the other hand, sites which evoke the past are themselves subject to a historicity which transforms them and replaces them as the memorial relationship with the group concerned with its own past is modified. In their geographic organization, places of memory bring a determining spatial and visual contribution to the temporary fixing of representations and configurations of the past from which history is made; and so these sites constitute the material traces of the practical relationship which the work of historians maintains with the present. Interest in history, individual and community sensitivity for the past, are no doubt nourished by the erudite and didactic practices of the historiopoietes. Regular ritual celebrations centered around the places of memory which in ancient Greece were, for example, the tombs of heroes, just as the commentaries punctuating the accounts displayed in the museums and monuments of our modernity are there to ensure, despite any dichotomy, the hermeneutic and practical relationship between plural representations of the past constructed by historians and a collective memory to maintain and adapt to the circumstances of an ever-changing present moment! That is the reason why the historian must also double as an anthropologist, especially when he turns his attention toward different communities.

4. From the time of historiopoiesis to historic space: Herodotus

Anyone who speaks of places of memory speaks also of memorial monuments, inscribed in a symbolic geography but also in calendar time and social time. Reciprocally, it goes without saying that constructed spaces are integrated into puttings-into-discourse done by historiopoietes. Indeed, our apprehension of the natural and cultural spaces which form our geographic-social ecology are obviously subject to the same procedures of representation and configuration as our individual and collective perceptions of physical time and social time, to be restored to the interpretive virtualities of refiguration.

4.1 A spatio-temporal investigation

At least in the European tradition, with Herodotus historiographic investigation is supposed to begin to offer itself as a joint exploration and putting-into-discourse of time and space. The discursive configuration proposed by historía is made up of the intercrossing of forays into the temporal depth of the past of different cities or cultural groups and of multidirectional travels in the field of the geography of the world inhabited by communities of men. In Herodotus, the spatial transgression of limits assigned by justice to the political power of sovereigns proves to be one of the essential motives of history; from that, the chronological progression exploring the causes, which are also wrongs, of the origin of conflicts confronting Persians and Greeks, feeds on incursions into space inhabited and civilized by the protagonists of the historic action. Far from being diverting digression, these “ethnographic” developments of the I nvestigation (Historía) by the historian of Halicarnassus are inserted organically into the timeline of narration which organizes and assumes narrated time.

4.2 Pragmatic aspects of enunciation

The operations of the deixis can thus establish a correspondence between the enunciative and textual position of the persona loquens (the “speaker”) and the biographic person who really pronounces the discourse. They can relate (intra-discursive) enunciated time with the (extra-discursive) moment of its enunciation; and concomitantly, they link space constructed in the discourse to the space of the very instant of communication. It is essential to take into account this system of spatio-temporal coordinates of the instance of enunciation with its deictic extra-discursive references, if we wish to follow the discursive development of practical concepts of time and space: spatio-temporal concepts which can only fulfill their pragmatic function on condition of outlining an enunciated and textual time and space related to the open space and time of their enunciation. It is exactly this movement that we witness in Herodotus’ Investigation, and whose spatio-temporal deployment ends at the very moment of the present geopolitical event which confronts his public: the extension of Athenian power throughout the Aegean basin.

5. A historiographic semiotics of indices: Thucydides

The simultaneously spatial and referential aspect of discursive temporalities has thus led us back to places of memory, which is to say downstream from the putting-into-discourse appropriate to historiopoiesis. If we go back upstream, we find ourselves confronted with prefigured natural and constructed spaces; they are configured in the historical discourse, to be shaped into and transformed by the putting-into-discourse of the historiopoietic operation. From this spatial point of view, the work of the historiopoiete is largely based on material indices which are conventionally understood as traces; by their concrete and tangible nature, the traces correspond to meaningful spaces, spaces on which interpretation of the indices confers a temporal dimension.

5.1 About traces

In modern historiography, the trace proves to have a special and paradoxical status. In the eyes of contemporary historians, the trace is that which permits imagining the document in its material aspect. This is the case for Marc Bloch: “Whether it is bones walled up in the ramparts in Syria, a word whose form or use reveals a custom, or a narrative written by a witness to an ancient or modern scene, what do we mean by ‘documents’ if not a ‘trace,’ that is to say a mark, perceptible to the senses, left by a phenomenon which is itself impossible to grasp?” Or, in a more positive definition, Michel Foucault: “To reconstitute from what the documents say—and sometimes just hint—the past from which they emanate and which has now disappeared far behind them; the document was always treated as the language of a voice now reduced to silence,—its fragile trace, fortunately decipherable.” As a discipline now charged with working out the documents themselves, history includes traces. By documentary work on their material nature, history transforms these different forms of social “persistence” into veritable “monuments.” [35] Thus it is that Ricoeur borrows the trace from historians to attribute to it a meaning (significance) and, from that, an indisputable capacity for return to the past. As a vestige, the trace would be an element of mediation between the hic et nunc and the reality of things past; as an index, it would constitute the material place of the semiotic reference to the past, and at the same time the operand of the historiographic research and deciphering that it prompts. [36]

Once again, Ricoeur’s return to the dull ideological and rhetorical heaviness of Heideggerian phenomenology should demonstrate its emptiness, or at least point out the enormous misunderstanding maintained by the philosophical hermeneutics which is heir to it, especially through Hans-Georg Gadamer . . .

Certainly, in Being and Time one reads with interest that “signs are something ontically at hand which as this definite useful thing functions at the same time as something which indicates the ontological structure of handiness, referential totality, and worldliness.” Putting aside the vague etymological redundancies and extravagances of this questionable translation, the thought could well be worth taking up and clarifying. But the Dasein, the “being-there” fundamental to the human condition, will prove to be marked from a spatial point of view by a constituent “de-distancing” (Entfernung). In the relationship of man to the world, this ontological condition of “de-distancing” would abolish all meaningful distance! This is why the Dasein, in its temporal essence, can realize its being-in-the-world only in the ecstatic mode. Animated constitutively and ontologically by the concern already mentioned, the Dasein can only be projected into the future assigned to it by its being-toward-death. Without pretending to dissipate the obscurantist cloud which surrounds such a phrase as “ecstatic and horizontal temporality temporizes itself primarily from the future,” one can understand why historiography is condemned to follow the destiny assigned to Dasein and to its historicity; understood as “having-been” (Gewesen[heit]), historiography proves to be projected constitutively toward the future. This is the reason asserted by Heidegger to explain that “historiography by no means takes its point of departure from the ‘present’ and from what is ‘real’ only today, any more than does the historicity of unhistorical Da-sein, and then grope its way back to the past. Rather, even historiographical disclosure temporalizes itself out of the future.” [37]

This is another way of saying that the signifying role glimpsed in the document apprehended as an index, even as a trace, is completely evaded by the phenomenological metaphysics of time. The ontological philosophy of Heidegger is so careful to stick closely to the essence of a man entirely devoted to Dasein and thrown into the world, that it is not ready to grant the least semantic dimension either to human beings or to their productions. Phenomenological ontology is inspired by such an obsession with essence that it is incapable of grasping man in a symbolic and discursive creation, which is one of the things that makes him human. This failure to take verbal creation into account is paradoxical in a philosophy developed almost entirely by creating concepts founded on etymological games evocative of opera librettos written by Richard Wagner.

5.2 Greek prefigurations of time: The sēmeîa

For exploring these “ancient times” (tà palaiá), we have, according to Thucydides, tekmḗria, or marks of recognition. These identification indices can be transformed into proofs (písteis) by the argumentation of their interpreter. Among these marks and indices, most are verbal. But, as the very etymology of the word tékmar indicates in referring to vision, some are also visual. This is the case, for example, with the present (nûn) size of Mycenae, which could not be used as an “exact index” (akribès sēmeîon) of the size of the city at the time of the Trojan War. These few visual and spatial references can corroborate or invalidate, for this distant past, what the verses of epic poets such as Homer are likely to “reveal” (hōs Hóḗmēros toûto dè dedḗlōken); so it is also for the example of the role played by the maritime power of Agamemnon in the conduct of the expedition to Troy.

In the often contradictory combination of present visual indices and verbal indices transmitted by tradition (ho lógos), the work of observation (skopeîn) and of evaluation (nomízein) on the part of the writer are essential. The mistrust (apistía) which sight generally arouses, in contrast to the confidence (pisteúein) accorded to information given in Homer’s epic verses, depends on him. These considerations certainly seem to reverse the terms of relationships of confidence which link a historiographer like Herodotus to sight rather than to hearing! We note nonetheless in Thucydides the consciousness that indices of the past offered by a Homer came from the poet’s work of fabrication (poíēsis), and that in this respect the narrated actions are certainly, in their organization, the object of a definite embellishment (kosmêsai). For the arkhaîa, the search for the truth (alḗtheia) consists of evaluating the actions of mortals, starting from indices whose semiotic and poetic dimension, designed to charm an audience, must lead to an attitude of critical mistrust. In view of the muthôdes, in view of the fictional element of poetry, it is appropriate, for speeches pronounced by men as well as for their deeds, to reformulate these “sayings” and these “deeds” based on the often divergent memory of the protagonists of the war itself. [40] Thus not an objective history, not a purely referential history, but a form of configuration which “collects through writing”: “he has collected through writing” (sunégrapse) says Thucydides in the initial signature of his treatise about the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians.

Because it is constructed and because it belongs to the fictional, the visual and auditory trace, raised to the rank of a recognition index, is the object of a work of rewriting. Because it is enunciatively oriented, the account, which is based on memory (mnḗmē), requires the historiographer to intervene with a demand for accuracy (akribeía). And so after all these centuries there is a lesson to be drawn from the methodological remarks formulated by Thucydides on the profession of historiographer: it is impossible for the man who sees the marks of the past in their disparity, not as a philosopher but as a practitioner reformulating it as history, to avoid a semiotic putting-into-form. Between prefiguration and configuration, this fabrication transforms every trace into an index or, to use a term sacred to the discipline, into a document calling for reading and interpretation. In this context, speaking of trace proves a misleading metaphor, even if one agrees to endow the trace with a vague significance (“signifying”). Foucault reminded us that constituting the traces of the past in documents is an integral part of the work of elaborating history, of its poieîn.

Thucydides himself does not hesitate to rehabilitate sight (as related to lógos) as soon as the spatial disposition of the history’s scene furnishes an index which is not misleading, but direct from earlier times. When from Mycenae and from the time of the Trojan War we pass on to Athens and the beginnings of the Peloponnesian War, the sanctuaries raised at that time on the Acropolis do not represent a simple index, but a true mark of recognition: no longer a sēmeîon, but a tekmḗrion. But a proof of what? These sanctuaries in fact recall the action of Theseus which goes back to the most ancient times (apò toû pánu arkhaíou). After the first legendary kings who ruled over the territory of Attica, it is indeed Theseus who founded the city of Athens; there he regrouped the inhabitants of Attica around a single council and a single prytany. In this political act of founding, the statesman of the age of heroes also demonstrates his quality of discernment (súnesis) which he shares with the nearly contemporary historians, Themistocles and Pericles. As for the relationship between past and present whose establishment the tekmḗrion allows, it is ensured by ritual celebration. Indeed, just as the synoecism of Theseus is reactualized in the popular feast of xunoíkia organized for Athena “still now” (éti kaì nûn), so also the permanence of ritual cults and practices which take place in the witness-edifices adjoining the Acropolis, ensures the relationship between ancient times and the present, between the arkhaîa or palaiá and the nûn with its space of realization. [41]

These are thus rites which, through their recurrent and cyclic rhythm, institute the sanctuaries of the gods and the heroes as places of memory; they are religious acts which add to the linear unfolding of calendar time the cyclical dimension which makes of them a true “third-time”; and they are rites which weave the historic relationship between the founding of an institution and its reenactment into a continuity which extends to the present. For Thucydides, this is the case for the Anthesteria celebrated in the sanctuary of Dionysus in the marsh, “as is the custom even still” (éti kaì nûn), as well as for the Ionians, themselves natives of Athens; so it is also for the ritual of lustral water which one goes to get at the fountain to prepare for a marriage ceremony, a custom practiced “still now and since ancient times” (kaì nûn éti apò toû arkhaíou). [42] A cyclical rhythm in the one case, a linear succession of steps in the individual life in the other. In this context, the index of spatio-temporal deixis which the pronoun hóde represents is capable of actualizing Bühler’s twofold, intra- and extradiscursive reference which we described, and of sending us back not only to that which has just been uttered in the discourse, but also to the very place and moment of enunciation, of communication. Thus, because of the synoecism begun under the intelligent initiative of Theseus, the Athenians designated the Acropolis with the simple noun pólis, maintaining the custom up to the present day (éti mékhri toûde): the moment and place of enunciation. In a clearly etiological perspective, it is the combination of the linear dimension and the cyclical or occasional dimension of calendar time which is at the base of the index value of a tekmḗrion which is both spatial and temporal, offered as a witness to the hermeneutic historian!

5.3 Sight and hearing: Recent history

In the case of a tekmḗrion which goes beyond visual index value to become proof, sight seems once again to prevail over hearing. That in any case is affirmed by the Athenians sent as ambassadors to Sparta, in a speech recreated by Thucydides, in the hope of turning the Lacedaemonians away from war with their rhetorical arguments (ek tôn lógon): “Events of truly ancient times (tà mèn pánu palaiá), what good is it to evoke them, those events whose witnesses (mártures) are accounts entrusted to the hearing (akoḗ) rather than to the sight (ópsis) of the listeners(!)? But for the Persian Wars and everything that you yourselves have seen and lived (xúniste)…it must be spoken of.” In the context of a search for guarantees implied by the word mártus and its derivatives, in a context where sight is again favored over hearing, it is the barbarians who must bring proof (tekmḗrion) of the new maritime power held by the Athenians; a proof delivered by the defection and flight of the Persians at the end of the Battle of Salamis. In confrontation with the Spartans, the lógos of the Athenians offers itself as testimony (martúrion) and revelation (dḗlōsis) of the merit of their own city! The intention of their speech is indeed to “signify” (sēmênai) their strength. Attributed both to the oracle at Delphi by Heraclitus and to his own discourse by Herodotus, this information function must both contribute to reminding (hupómnēsis) the oldest what they knew from having seen it and to telling the youngest what they cannot have experienced. When the more recent past is involved, one must have recourse to the testimony of those who experienced the event visually. But for the sophist Thrasymachus, when it is a question of constituting the fathers, we must be satisfied, for what is outside our experience, with hearing the older narratives (lógoi palaióteroi); later, one can have recourse to information given by the elders, and based on sight. [43]

The first Greek historiography can throw some light on this point concerning a preliminary putting-into-form of indices of the past by way of prefiguration. The index aspect of the past is particularly visible thanks to the distinction that Greek historians of the classical period made between ancient acts (tà palaiá) and “new” acts (tà kainá). Let us go back with Herodotus to the moment when the Athenians, facing the Tegeans, claim the place of honor in the battle order for the future Battle of Plataea, in 479. To the ancient wars fought against the Heraclids, against the Amazons, or during the expedition to the Troad, the Athenians add the great deeds done at the very recent Battle of Marathon. Sharing between the distant past and recent past in defining the field of history is coupled with a distinction between its actors: individual heroes such as Minos, Agamemnon, or Theseus in the “archaeology” of Thucydides on the one hand, civic communities of Athenians, Peloponnesians, and barbarians on the other. But more than a century after the end of the Persian Wars, when Demosthenes again takes up the same distinction between ancient events (arkhaîa kaì palaiá) and recent events (kainá), the temporal limit separating the latter from the former has naturally moved. And so, in the argument on the necessity for Athens to maintain a fleet, the Battle of Salamis, at the time of the Persian Wars, is moved to the palaiá side while the very recent surrender of the Thebans thanks to the intervention of Athenian triremes in Euboea obviously belongs to the kainá. Moreover, one must add that for Demosthenes the distinction between distant past – glorious though it may be – and recent past, redraws the line of demarcation which Herodotus himself traced, concerning the methods of his inquiry, between hearing and sight. Among the orator’s audience, if knowledge of the city’s past “which time itself cannot efface from memory (mnḗmē)” is based on akoḗ, hearing, their knowledge of the recent event is based on “what all of you have seen (heōrákate).” [45]

5.4 The historía and the role of images

What this ancient concept of historic time suggests to us is thus a permeable division between a past distant enough that we know it through lógoi, by accounts transmitted through the (generally oral) tradition, and a recent past to which the historiographer and public have been eye witnesses. Verbal formulations on the one side, images evoked on the other. When the written tradition becomes the guarantor of the city’s memory, prefiguration of the distant past will depend on the putting-into-discourse implied by the verbal document, while the prefiguration of more recent history will continue to rest on eyewitnesses, who will take it upon themselves to translate into verbal and oral form the images supplied by their memories. In regard to this division between ancient history and recent history, the increase in the number of media has placed modern historiography in a delicate position.

This is the case especially in the debate on the extermination camps and their sinister political premises. For the moment, this point of no return in European history belongs to what the Greek historians would call a kainón. The determining role is played by eyewitnesses and, through intervening images, by visual witnessing. But what will happen when the kainón becomes palaión? The new intervention of photography, of filmed archive and the recording of oral testimony, allows us to suppose that the role of the visual will continue beyond the deaths of the last survivors of this plan of annihilation, conceived in a manner all the more systematic and cynical in that it took advantage of the new technologies of the industrial era. Some of those same technologies have subsequently permitted us to maintain visual and aural memory.

Despite its orientation toward the place where it was conceived and established, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington provides an illustration of a new form of practical history, mixing material traces, archival documents, oral and visual testimony fixed in image and writing, or animated by films and recordings. The convergence and metamorphosis of different index marks into a historiographic configuration is done not only by the commentaries which clarify them, while also situating it all in a chronology and in the logic of a political and social movement, but also through their spatial organization within the architecture of a museum. Conceived as a sort of initiatory trip into historic and moral awareness, since each visitor carries the identification card of a victim of the Nazi camps, this three-dimensional historical configuration increases the pragmatic element of any historiographic operation. The path down which the visitor proceeds, whatever his speed and his reading, can only lead to a refiguration into individual memories, strengthened by a collective memory. [46] But this refiguration is even more oriented by the hic et nunc of this hermeneutic visit, in that it is not accompanied in Washington by a comparable museographic reading about African slavery or the genocide of North American Indians. In any case, the analogical relationship of equivalence that the Greek historiopoietes establish between the distant past and oral narrative on the one hand, the recent past and visual witnessing on the other, finds its terms largely blurred. This is because still and animated images can now be transmitted over time, but also because of a historic memory which, individually and collectively, in both its configurations and its refigurations, is constantly fed and animated visually by the images selected and disseminated by means of extremely powerful media: daily papers, magazines, television news, internet sites…Largely integrated into the document-testimony, the visual is now included in the “museographic putting-into-discourse.”

Whatever the semiotic status (perhaps the cognitive and neuronal status) of images often expressed in verbal terms, the strategic moment is indeed the moment of passage from the different ways of prefiguration (through sight and hearing) of painful episodes of the past, to its pragmatic configuration by configurational procedures used by historiographers and historiopoietes. In thinking about this transition, we can once again take inspiration from Greek terms and concepts. Thucydides—as mentioned—bases his research of indices which are intended to become proof (tekmḗria) on witnesses and testimony: mártures and martúria understood as guarantees. But Herodotus sees his own work of narrative re-elaboration and descriptive rewriting based on the discourses (lógoi) of others as a work of investigation (historía). Often questioned, the meaning of the term hístōr refers to the idea of guarantee offered by the one who collects the testimonies rather than that of eyewitnesses which the root of the word would seem to imply. We know that the etymological basis for history, through the root *vid-, evokes Latin videre as well as French voir. If the mártus-witness is indeed the guarantor of what he has seen, the hístōr-scholar is capable of arbitrating between several testimonies that he guarantees. Such is the enunciative status of Herodotus in his own discourse: often reporting several narrative versions (lógoi), the historian of Halicarnassus rarely takes a position on them. [47] Herodotus is an investigator and a guarantor before being a judge. This is why, while assigning to his investigation the memorial objectives which are those of epic poetry, he gives up on presenting a discourse on truth inspired by the Muse, as the Homeric singer would have done. In most cases, he prefers to hide his enunciative authority behind the generally anonymous or plural third-person “one” of accounts by others. Herodotus thus leaves it to his listeners to take care of the (moral) judgment of veridiction, in the hermeneutic moment of refiguration!

5.5 Return to “poietics”

With putting-into-discourse through the witness of visual memories and their understanding, as well as their discursive reformulation by the guarantor and arbiter, we have gone from prefiguration to configuration, from mimēsis I to mimēsis II, to return to concepts borrowed from Aristotle and developed by Ricoeur. And it is Aristotle who in his Poetics shows which aspects of fabrication belong to any narrative representation, whether dramatized or not. The poet is thus conceived of as an artisan of “plots” (mûthoi). Is there not in this a contradiction with the well-known and often-cited distinction between poet and historian, outlined in the same chapter of the Poetics? At the beginning of an important development dedicated to po(i)etic art, Aristotle draws a clear line between poieîn and légein, between “creating” and “relating.” In contrast to the mimetic and representational aspect of the poet’s art, doesn’t the author of the Poetics give to the investigator (ho historikós) the duty of simply “telling” what happened (tà genómena)? Quite apart from the rhythmic or non-rhythmic form of diction, it would thus fall to the historian to say what happened, but to the poet to tell things “as they might happen.” The former would be reserved for the particular (kath’ hekástou), and the latter for the general (kathólou). To the historian the actions of men, identified by proper name, who really acted or suffered by the acts, such as Alcibiades; to the poet human actions which, though sometimes attributed to individuals, are more on the order of verisimilitude or necessity. [48]

Without claiming to add a proper commentary to a chapter so frequently commented on, one cannot help but recognize that Aristotle’s concluding remark is rarely mentioned. This omission is hardly surprising, since such an affirmation tends to erase the hackneyed distinction between historic investigation and poetic creation, between relating the singular and representing the general. Whether or not one shares Aristotle’s opinion on the relationship between what really happened on the one hand, and the possible, plausible, and necessary on the other, the past too can be the object of a poetic elaboration, in the etymological sense of the term. Herodotus and Thucydides are there to show us that logographers are also historiopoietes. The “poietic” creation of a possible world from prefigured reality in the necessary sequence, leading to the construction of a verisimilitude (vraisemblance), corresponds all in all to the modern concept of the “fictional.” Not in the sense of creating a fictive world provided with an autonomous semantic existence (corresponding to the American meaning of fictional), but in the sense of fabricating a possible world from tangible and shared experience of the natural and social world, by exploiting the semantic potential of any language, to return to this world of social practice. Let us remember that Thucydides himself states that the speeches with which he punctuates his narrative are reconstructed according to the words probably required by the situation of the moment, and with respect for the words really pronounced, as far as the opinions expressed are concerned. [50]

We must add that because of their operative nature, these notions situated between the figured and the abstract constitute precious instruments of translation between cultures—translation between the past and the present, as far as the historian’s profession is concerned.

So the modern historian brings into play motives, intentions, goals, and circumstances to place into sequence selected actions, schematized using semi-empirical concepts and categories. Inscribed in spaces which are themselves schematized, these actions are returned to intelligibility in the present. Thus the historiographer abandons the singular to make himself both the poiētḗs and the interpreter of the past. This is one of the essential goals of the work of historiographic configuration. Beginning from a past referent, already prefigured, from prefigurations materialized in indices, the pragmatic impact of historical writing of time and space and the discussion it causes within human systems of temporality depends on the ability to manage these different procedures of mimetic and poietic schematization.

6. For an anthropological historiography

6.1 Interfering temporalities, converging approaches

If tradition may be considered a form of (discursive and figurative) argumentation based on a shared cultural memory, it seems that anthropologists and historians too should share their approaches. The very nature of their subject invites them to collaborate in the comparative understanding of configurations and discursive representations of the past which prove to be less heterogeneous than one would have liked to think. From the outset, in exotic cultures as well as in the Western tradition, the configurations of past time which attract the attention of scholars all present a number of common narrative, descriptive, argumentative, and pragmatic characteristics. These analogies lead to a comparatist attitude and to an exchange where anthropologists and historians are naturally called to critical dialogue. This is especially true for the eye that we can cast beyond the centuries, in an academic comparison with our own ways of writing history, on the historiopoietic practices of a Herodotus or a Thucydides.

Plural representations of time and the past from traditional societies and those of Western societies may also mix together, often brought together because of the progressive integration of traditional societies into calendar time and Christian biblical time, and later into the market economy. [56] Temporal intermingling and integration into a single spatial context can replace competition between representations of time which depend on different cultural paradigms. It may be that the time shared by the native community opens onto the civilized political time of a society organized along Western lines, as is, for example, the case in the (auto-)biography of Papua-New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare (even the combination of an indigenous last name with an Anglo-Saxon first name is significant and anticipatory…). Or it may be the other way around, and the spatial intervention of western temporality can reorient native time: the return to Papua of an American anthropologist contributed, for instance, to a millenarian reversal of ancestor worship, after the “wasp” was first integrated into traditional time by assimilation with Baingap, the cultural hero of the Arapesh community of Ilahita. Or it may even be that the local and universal (Islamic) genealogical temporality relies on a purely fictional written document; on such a fictive chronicle depends, for example, the identity of the El Ksar oasis in the south of Tunisia; it finds its identity confirmed in the procedural time of research by the Swiss-Tunisian anthropologist working on site. [57]

Adding to these different modes of real integration, through spatial coincidence, of native temporalities into the Western temporality which is that of the research historian or anthropological investigator, shared ways of writing add another invitation to collaborate. The convergence of historians’ and anthropologists’ views of temporal configurations intersecting in space is often reflected in the ways of putting-into-discourse proper to both fields, and consequently in the monographs they produce. The historical (re)configuration undertaken by both groups readily takes on a holistic aim, like novelistic fiction. This desire for narrative coherence brings together, for example, Marcel Griaule’s Dieu d’eau (Paris: Chêne, 1948) and Georges Duby’s Dimanche de Bouvines (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), especially in the rhetorical and novel-like relationship with the narratives of the sage Ogotemmêli in the one and the chronicles of Guillaume le Breton in the other. [58] But in the prefiguration phase, a precondition for any putting-into-discourse whether historiographic or anthropological, practitioners in the field of history and explorers of ethnology have similar contingencies regarding accounts and witnesses. Both are confronted with the dialectic between sight and hearing. Despite the specific opportunity of “participatory” observation granted him, the anthropologist’s eye is oriented by his intellectual training and his academic preconstructs, in his spatial distance. The historian adopts a point of view just as oriented by his academic context, and besides, because of his temporal distance, his perspective depends on the conceptual and discursive intermediaries to which sight images and the visual memory of witnesses and accounts are always subject. In both cases, in direct observation as well as in the apprehension of traces and accounts, prefiguration depends on a rhetoric of the eye. Along with its own characteristics and in the perspective of the enárgeia already mentioned, it implies a prior putting-into-form of significant “material” to reelaborate. [59] But above all, historians through time and anthropologists through space are confronted, as was Herodotus, by lógoi, statements and narrations by native informants for anthropologists, by verbal forms of the documents for historians; both of them imply the schematizing effects, polysemic depth, and enunciative orientation which is the result of any putting-into-discourse. [60] Prefigurations are involved for both the historian and the anthropologist, but configured prefigurations!

For that matter, practitioners of history and masters of the field of anthropology came together when cultural and social anthropology agreed to abandon its structure of working in pure synchrony. Not only are historians and anthropologists from that point on confronted with the historicity of the object they are building and which they must rebuild every time they return to the field, but among the representations which form the foundation (prefigured but also already configured by their own procedures for putting-into-discourse), a choice position is indeed held by the community’s different conceptions and often narrative representations, of the past and more generally of time and space.

These convergences invite historiographers to embark on a comprehensive historía, inspired by the semiotic modes of understanding cultural and social anthropology. Centered on symbolic manifestations and on meaningful practices, anthropology is always quick to fit a particular spatio-temporal situation into the system of representations relative to the culture concerned. But these convergences also invite historians to adopt the new critical consciousness of anthropology regarding configuring procedures inherent both in its own operating concepts, its own peculiar discursive modes, and in its academic rhetoric. Finally, these convergences outline a commitment to do as I shall try to do here in a limited way, to confront several practical concepts of time and space within a particular culture comparatively, in the course of the history of one civilized community, or in the contact of one civilization with other cultural systems and models.

6.2 Possible worlds and historicity of belief communities

Through anthropological procedures of putting-into-discourse, the work of temporal configuration thus implies procedures of poíēsis, of mimetic crafting in the sense Aristotle uses in his Poetics. To this extent, the possible world thus created may indeed be inscribed within the logical coherence implied by the necessary, or of the moral verisimilitude which underlies the believable. So it is that the discourses of historians presents themselves to us as configuring representations of space and time by means of selection, conceptual schematization, spatial focalization, chronological sequencing, emplotment, and modeling description, causal and argumentative logic which place the event in a multi-faceted situation, discursive rhetoric, and, finally, in a “showing” (faire voir) which probably coincides with the images evoked by individual and collective memory. From this observation, the wish would be that the writing of history could adopt the ways of an anthropology anxious to explore the most symbolic aspects of the situation, marked as it is by the cultural actions of men.

This awareness of concomitancy between on the one hand the community’s configurations and conceptions of time and space in their practical aspect, and on the other hand the individual refigurations and representations which flow from them in a cultural context which is itself subject to history, corresponds to what Maurice Halbwachs said so well nearly a century ago: “We can remember only by finding the place of the events that interest us in the framework of collective memory…But the forgetting or deformation of certain of our memories is explained also in part by the fact that these frameworks change from one period to another. Society, depending on circumstances and according to the time, imagines the past in various ways: it modifies its conventions.” [62] We must add that the social and individual impact of configurations of time and space which are collectively accepted in the moment of refiguration (thanks especially to the historian’s job of putting-into-discourse) contributes in turn to modifying those representations, in a dialectic and dynamic movement, which we can hope is critical. Thus, if we consider the refiguration of time which takes place at the moment of reception (in mimēsis III), the act of historiopoietic putting-into-discourse and its discursive and configuring results show some striking analogies to the operations of repatriation of knowledge and native cultural practices which anthropological putting-into-discourse definitely does: integration of distant perceptions and knowledge, beyond temporal distance, into the norms of Western academic knowledge, a parallel to adapting geographic distance to the same norms. In each case, through time as well as across space, we witness a transcultural translation which in turn has an impact on both systems of representations thus brought together. [63]

From this point of view, the several studies proposed here can be considered as representations of Greek configurations of time in their practical aspect! These studies are an attempt at transcultural translation of poetic and practical concepts and configurations of temporality and spatiality, across temporal and spatial distances. They are thus an attempt at transposing indigenous ways of conceiving, speaking, and practicing organic space and cosmic time in its social prefigurations, into categories generally recognized by the French-speaking academic community, and if possible the Anglo-Saxon as well. If the historian’s work is located within mimēsis II (to take up once again the categories re-elaborated by Ricoeur) in efforts to (re)-configure the past, then the efforts offered here belong more properly among the refigurations of mimēsis III, in their perspective of critical readaptation! [64] But these readings of Greek configurations of temporality are themselves inscribed, obviously, in a temporal and hermeneutic flux marked by a singular (academic) culture. That is to say their relative character as regards a cultural paradigm situated in a precise history and geopolitical space, their reference to a changing time and place in the academic community. To this extent, these readings can only lead to other readings, brought about by the polysemy of any symbolic manifestation, as well as by the necessity for constant critical and interpretive readaptation to the paradigms of a present in the flux of time and the mobility of space!

6.3 Regimes of historicity and logics of temporality

It is within this dynamic dialectic of configuration and refiguration, and of hermeneutic readaptation to constantly changing paradigms, that the notion of “regimes of historicity” becomes fully pertinent. This recent semi-empirical category was devised in a rare collaboration between a historian and an anthropologist. It allows us to focus less attention on the obvious fact that communities of men and their cultures are inscribed in the flux of (cosmic and social) time, or on their manner of living a historicity independent of the oral or written nature of their tradition, and more on the representations that these men create of it for themselves. To this extent, “the regime of historicity would define a culturally limited and conventional form of relating to the past”; so “historiography would be one of these forms and, as a genre, one symptomatic element of an inclusive regime of historicity.” [65] This means that the operational category of the regime of historicity would include both communitary and cultural prefigurations of time, and their configurations by the more specialized crafting of historiopoietes, finally becoming an agent of comparison. So it would probably be suitable to substitute “temporality” for “historicity,” and “logic” for “regime,” since it is true that the thought of history refers communally and restrictively to the configuration of the unique past, especially since the past is reformulated only in tension toward the future, through the hic et nunc of elaboration and the enunciation of a symbolic manifestation, usually assumed more or less collectively because of its internal logic. The obvious correlation of the nunc with the hic warns us that every regime of temporality is interwoven with a “regime (or logic) of spatiality”; it localizes the corresponding configuration of time, pinpointing it in a space which is also shared between natural and cultural ecology and symbolic construction.

And so, between prefigurations and configurations of physical, organic, and social time, regimes and logics of temporality spring from a singular factual and cultural situation and in turn act upon this situation, in combination with a regime and logic of spatiality. If one perceives the event and its contingent nature clearly from the first, through the inherited categories of one’s own background and one’s own culture, suggests Marshall Sahlins in discussing what he calls “mythopraxis,” in turn “every reproduction of culture is a change, to the extent that the categories which organize the world at a given moment acquire a new empirical content when in action.” [66] We must add that the work of the symbolic process which takes place especially through the (semi-empirical) categories of the culture produces new configurations. Because of their pragmatic aspect and because they are accepted by a given belief community and inscribed in a collective memory, these configurations not only condition the social reading of the past into different configurations, they also orient action in the past and in the immediate future, and determine the very apprehension of the present and the future. One can see from President Clinton’s statements in the introduction that for a free enterprise society, constantly worried about the renewal of perpetual youth, historiopoietic models have largely been replaced by the incitements of advertising in all its forms, in postmodern communities: incitements to action and to appearance, in management and in economic behavior, as well as in symbolic manifestations and consequently in cultural orientation.

6.4 Enunciation and regimes of identity

The institution of a logic of temporality and spatiality which corresponds to a particular regime of truth passes through a semiotic putting-into-form which is generally discursive. Founded on the resources of fictional creation proper to any langue (“natural language”), if not to any langage (“semiotic system”), temporal and spatial configuration is thus a semantic construction, through the procedures of putting-into-discourse already mentioned. This means that it is normally formulated in polysemic terms which call for the multiple readings, the multiple refigurations which its pragmatic aspect gives rise to in both time and space. [68] But to speak of a putting-into-discourse implies accepting enunciative responsibility for the various utterances (énoncés) which configure time and space. While contributing to emphasizing the polysemy of the spatio-temporal world constructed in the text and to attracting the hermeneutic and critical activity attached to reading and to refiguration, the utterance of the enunciation (énoncé de l’énonciation) organizes and orients this possible world from a focal point represented by the “instance of enunciation,” an instance already mentioned when discussing the axial point of the narrative putting-into-discourse, with its pronominal and spatio-temporal coordinates: I, hic, nunc. [69] It is especially through this enunciative bias, whose impact on the narrative and discursive organization of temporality and spatiality we have seen, that the pragmatic dimension of verbal and textual production becomes apparent. The I/we can be constructed enunciatively in the time/space configured in the discourse only in relation to the discursive thou/you which refers to the actors and actresses of hermeneutic reading and of critical refiguration, both intellectual and practical.

From a temporal point of view, projection into the future of the discursive construction of past time, with its practical aims, rests precisely on these enunciative procedures.

After all is said and done, it is an identity being built, through represented and uttered time and space, as well as in the spatio-temporal process of the placing-into-discourse and of the enunciation themselves. This enunciative identity is based on the interlacing of a configuring representation (narrative, descriptive, or argumentative) of time and space with the temporal and spatial logic which organizes the progression of the discourse. This enunciative identity is thus built first in the putting-into-discourse, and later acquires through collective memory the (provisional) stability which is the condition of its being instituted as a regime of truth. But because of its very discursive (and consequently polysemic) nature, this configured identity contains within itself, within its temporal and spatial parameters and in its enunciative element, the premises for new transformations. To state it once again in a reformulation of Ricoeur’s terms, used in the intermediate step of his twofold study of time: from a core of idem-identity, this psychosocial “sameness” (mêmeté) with its spatio-temporal reference changes to an ipse-identity. By progressively acquiring consistency through discourse, this “ipse-ity” (ipséité) ends up reaching the appearance of a new “sameness” (mêmeté); but because of its very discursive and enunciative nature, the identity of this new idem is ready to change into new metamorphoses, through intervening ipse refigurations in interaction with others. [70]

7. Comparative triangles

The few exercises in refigurative reading offered here concerning different regimes of temporality and spatiality in ancient Greece are intended as exercises in transcultural translation, both transcultural and transhistorical translation. In cultural and social anthropology as well as in comprehensive history, the approach to and understanding of manifestations of a different culture and a distant past can be achieved only through repatriation of an indigenous knowledge which is itself the result of prefigurations and configurations, perhaps even refigurations! Glimpsed in some of these practical and discursive exercises, this knowledge is reconstructed on the basis of our own cultural prefigurations and preconstructs. It is thus transformed by the process of schematization and rhetoric which are proper to the academic discourse discussed earlier, designed to be read by an academic audience which refigures it: when all is said and done a fictional and polysemic knowledge because of the mimetic and semantic procedure of putting-into-discourse. A knowledge which shows the enunciative orientation of any discourse, especially when instituted as a regime of truth; knowledge built and founded on a relationship to the object which is constitutionally marked by asymmetry. Just like knowledge produced by anthropologists, the knowledge of cultural historians of Greek knowledge is determined by the thematic and epistemological interests of the moment, situated in academic time and space. Its placing into a configuring and discursive form depends on the questions that we ask the documents and the accounts we have built and on which it is based. [74]

In the anthropology of the ancient world, temporal distance apparently forbids any form of direct apprehension of the ethnographic context by a “participant observation” (observation participante). Since one cannot respond to the requirements of a dialogic anthropology facing Greeks whom the irreversible flow of time has reduced to silence, comparison may in some measure fill the documentary gaps. Marked by their semantic putting-into-form and by their own enunciative perspective, neither texts, nor figured representations, nor even archaeological vestiges can directly answer the questions we would like to ask them…

Discursive and poetic representations of time and space instituted as spatio-temporal logics and as regimes of truth. And so it is not a question of claiming to explore and determine, through some genealogy of interpretations, “the” meaning of a few discursive practices of temporality and spatiality located in ancient Greece. But it is right to clarify those aspects which seem pertinent to our preoccupations of the moment, by contrast with and as an echo of analogous regimes occasionally found in other cultures—fully conscious of the transitory nature of explorations subject to preconstructions and transformations, in the flux of the history of our own cultural space and of our own academic interests. Since time and space are two of the conditions at the foundation of communication itself, the historicity and spatial orientation of our refigurations of the configurations and spatio-temporal logics of other cultures and other eras offer all in all a guarantee of their pertinence for the present. What makes it interesting, when all is said and done, is not just the possible semantic core which allows one, through the different procedures of simplification, schematization, and abstraction which are part of refiguration, to ensure stability and coherence of a meaning across cultural milieux and generations. Interest is not aroused solely by (supposed) universals, nor by archetypes, but rather by the effects of specific meanings in particular natural, cultural, and historical contexts. Within the dynamic dialectic and irreversible temporal flux of configuration and refiguration, these continue to produce highly semantically dense manifestations and symbolic and discursive practices.

Each of the four studies which follow will thus have as its object a discursive representation of time as related to the space where it developed. Each of them will be about a particular textual configuration. In addition, each of the proposed readings will attempt to combine a wide anthropological perspective with an enunciative sensitivity that relates back to the context of enunciation. This will provide an opportunity to bring forth each time something about method relative to transcultural translation. In each case, we will also conduct a limited contrastive comparison with one or two analogous regimes of temporality and spatiality. Finally, we will proceed—as already mentioned—to a brief return to one of the paradigms which, in human sciences, have strongly influenced research on the ancient Greek world in the course of the past four or five decades: structuralism, gender studies, new philosophical idealism, neo-mysticism.


[ back ] 1. This five-year work of historiographic inquiry has just been completed and published as La Suisse, le national-socialisme et la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Rapport final de la Commission indépendante d’experts Suisse-Seconde Guerre mondiale, ou rapport Bergier, Zürich (Pendo) 2002; on this Rapport Bergier, see Boschetti 2004.

[ back ] 2. Regarding the remarkable work by Y.H. Yershlami, Zakhor: Histoire juive et mémoire juive , Paris: (La Découverte) 1984, Vidal-Naquet 1994:54 concludes an urgent call to integrate memory with history in the following words: “Of course, this does not mean that we must separate the true from the false; it simply means that man does not identify himself with the moment when he is alive, and that he must from now on integrate himself into historical discourse as a temporal being with the gift of memory. Zakhor, ‘remember,’ must be the watchword of today.”

[ back ] 3. See his address to the American people published in the New York Times 2 Jan. 2000.

[ back ] 4. The notion of “regimes of historicity” is taken up by Hartog 2003:26-30, and will be discussed and defined in §5.3 below. In analyzing the parameters of the temporality of modernity, Chesneaux 1996:7 and 84-85 (see also 27-41) speaks of “time crushed into the immediate,” and of “presentist regression.” See also Hartog 2003:127-133 especially, on “the rise of presentism.”

[ back ] 5. Saint Augustine, Confessions 11.14.17; see also 11.20.26, 27, 36, and 28, 38. Ricoeur 1983:19-53, and 1985:1936, bases his own concept of narrative time on the reflections of Saint Augustine, whose theological implications and practical inadequacies he shows; on this, see Gilbert 1996:42-52.

[ back ] 6. Bacchylides 11, with the commentary formulated in the study of 2000c: 399-412; also specifics on the temporal levels of a discursive order mentioned here. See also Borutti 1996:250-252. Without taking into consideration the extra-discursive time of the situation of enunciation, Drew Griffith 1993 presents an analysis of the temporality of Pindar’s Epinikia which distinguishes the levels of story (approximately equivalent to erzählte Zeit), account (equivalent to Erzählzeit), and text or narrative (which seems to relate to the énonciation énonce “uttered enunciation”).

[ back ] 7. Ricoeur 1985:147-182, attempting to resolve the aporia with which Heidegger 1996 (1927):373-398 (§407-437) finds himself confronted in his scornful rejection of everyday time; concerning these troubling pages, see also Ricoeur 1983:125-9, and 1985:90-144.

[ back ] 8. Heidegger 1996 (1927): 389 (§424) (trans. Stambaugh); cf. also n. 31 below. Bourdieu 1982:167-205, showed and denounced the misleading inconsistency of such sophistic formulations. See also, in the same sense, the excellent critical remarks by Meschonnic 1990: 258-345.

[ back ] 9. Ricoeur 1983:86-87 (1985:147). The three moments of mimēsis which are the basis of hermeneutics are described by Ricoeur 1983:87-100, 101-109, and 109-129, respectively.

[ back ] 10. Ricoeur 2000:302-307, and 307-320, (for the quotation, 319).

[ back ] 11. Ricoeur 1985: and 153.

[ back ] 12. An historian of historiography, Prost 1996:247-252, sees the “founding act” of plot construction as a work of configuration. In 1996b:15-68, I tried to show the practical and social impact inherent in any symbolic putting-into-discourse.

[ back ] 13. On several of these operations of historiographic configuration, see the recent contribution of Revel 2001:62-74. Ricoeur 2000:320-328 recognizes the existence of “rhetorical resources of verbal attestation,” most notably in movements of attestation and protestation given in the narratives of the Shoah.

[ back ] 14. Ricoeur 2000: 302-307 and 359-369. The reference in the lengthy note 77 (367-369) to the concept of “Vertretung” developed by H.-G. Gadamer in Wahrheit und Methode reveals a philosophical hermeneutics which, ignoring the linguistic turn, is incapable of grasping the effects of the poietics distinctive to the verbal putting-into-discourse; cf. Calame 2002b:67-77.

[ back ] 15. Cf. especially Chartier 1998:91-99; for evidence in ancient historiography, see Hartog 2005: 61-74.

[ back ] 16. Ricoeur, 1985: pp. 154-160, from Benveniste, 1974, pp. 67-78 (a chapter which corresponds to a study entitled “Language and Human Experience,” and originally published in Diogène 51, 1965, pp. 3-13.)

[ back ] 17. Ricoeur 1985:154-156. Relative and operative anthropological concepts, often naturalized and changed to the universals which myth and rite have become, have been the object of several critiques to which I returned in 1996a:12-25 and 1996b:15-19.

[ back ] 18. On history as discourse and practice, see de Certeau 1975:27-30.

[ back ] 19. The role of rhetorical devices in historiographic putting-into-discourse was finally recognized by Ricoeur 2000: 320-328 (cf. n. 8 above); see Chartier 1998:108-125. He tells not only of its argumentative functions, but also of its figurative power, producing images (2000:249-258).

[ back ] 20. On the effects of modelization brought about by any putting-into-discourse, cf. Borutti 1999:136-147, and on history see Revel 2001:68-74. I have tried to clarify this fundamental trait of Greek poietics, whose fabrication function one can try to render by using the term “fictional,” in 2000b:38-51; the work of several Greek historiopoietes is sketched in the work of 1996b:30-46; cf. also 2000b:145-161, with the details given below in section 4.5 and n. 50. On the “as if” procedures in human sciences in general, see the references I gave in 2002:67-77.

[ back ] 21. Ricoeur 2000:231-238 and 241-277; Koselleck 1990:141, in a contribution entitled “Darstellung, Ereignis und Struktur,” published by R. Koselleck and W. D. Stempel (edd.), Geschichte, Ereignis une Erzählung (Poetik und Hermeneutik V), Munich (Fink) 1973:560-577. Borutti 1999:136-137, shows that in human sciences in general we work less under the system of the “object-class” than under that of the “object-example,” which tends to show its own rule of construction, and thus of possibility.

[ back ] 22. Benveniste 1974:71 and 76-78; “formal apparatus of the enunciation:” 79-88. See on this the reflections of Culioli 1999:166-173, who insists not only that we construct verbally from the absolute spatio-temporal origin an “origin of locution,” but also that “the ‘I’ enunciatory subject as origin of the referential can present itself (and be presented as) mobile and current over time.” On the relationship between “discourse” (as distinct from “history”) for the “formal apparatus of enunciation,” see the critical remarks by Adam, Revaz, and Lugrin 1998 and Calame 2005b:122-128. On references to different types of comput based on a moment of origin, see Molet 1990:257-261.

[ back ] 23. On this distinction, see Muller 1968:269-286, Genette 1972:71-78 and 128-130, Benveniste 1966:237-250 and 251-257. On the constituent effects of the “discursive time” in the writing of history, see also Certeau 1975:104-109.

[ back ] 24. On this kind of narrative scansion, see Bouvier 2000. On social and configurational effects in the constituting of a “third time,” and the fundamental biological idea underlying the sequence of generations, see Ricoeur 1985:160-171, as well as 331-332 and 337.

[ back ] 25. On Herodotus as arbiter and judge, see Darbo-Peschanski 1998:172-175, and on Thucydides, Loraux 1980. On Herodotus as father of history, see the references given by Calame 2000a: 112-114; for historiopoiesis, see above, section 2.3 with n. 20.

[ back ] 26. As is natural for any manifestation which depends on the processes of construction and symbolic representation; see the remarks that I set forth in 1996b:15-68 (especially 49-54).

[ back ] 27. For details on the process of epic and religious intervention surrounding the heroic figure of Theseus in Athens at the beginning of the fifth century, see Calame 1996b:153-156 and 398-443.

[ back ] 28. Crosby 1997, in dating around 1250 Western Europe’s passage from a qualitative perception of temporal reality to a quantitative perception, showed the impact of new technical means of measurement on the calendar organization of social time. Molet 1990:190-238, offers a series of examples of calendar structures whose cycle is devised either according to the changing of the seasons or by astronomical measurements.

[ back ] 29. The recent “break” between history and memory was traced by Nora 1984 (XIX and XXIV); it has been reaffirmed by Prost 1996:298-303, and replaced into its ideological context by Chesneaux 1996:125-132.

[ back ] 30. Halbwachs 1925:40-82; Assmann 1992:177-185.

[ back ] 31. See especially research by Payen 1997:249-280, and additional references to be found in Bichler and Rollinger 2000:27-42, 158-159, and 165-169.

[ back ] 32. Plutarch Theseus 1.105. See Calame 1996a:44-46.

[ back ] 33. Herodotus 1.5.3-4; on the utterance of the famous programmatic enunciation, see my references in 2000b:151-153, and on the enunciative position of the judge, see n. 25 above. On the “formal apparatus of the enunciation,” see n. 22 above.

[ back ] 34. Bühler 1934:79-82, 107-140, and 385-392, with the refinement, as it applies to Pindar’s poetry, offered by Felson 1999:1-12; see now Calame 2005b: 122-128.

[ back ] 35. Bloch 1964:21; Foucault 1969:14-15.

[ back ] 36. Ricoeur 1985:171-183; see also 1998:18-27. On this mediating position of the vestige, see Kitani 1999:25-27.

[ back ] 37. I have intentionally summarized very schematically a few considerations offered by Heidegger 1996 (1927):77 (§83), 97-105 (§104-114), 292-297 (§317-323), 391 (§427), and 360-361 (§395); see on this Ricoeur’s inadequately critical commentaries, 1983:93-100, 1985:95-143 and 177-182, as well as 1998:20-21. I would add that it is useless to substitute an “open phenomenology of futurity” for a “closed phenomenology of being-toward-death.”

[ back ] 38. See on this the excellent study by Borutti 1996.

[ back ] 39. Thucydides 1.1.1-1.2.1 and 1.23.4-1.23.6. Note the circular development, complemented by chiasmus, which evokes in the initial passage and once again in the concluding passage of the “archaeology” (according to the expression used by the scholiast) the conflict between the Peloponnesians and Athenians. On the oral tradition concerning the thalassocracy of Minos, see Hornblower 1991:18-20. Murari Pires 2003:84-92 has shown that the inaugural signature of Greek historiographers, as well as the prelude to great epic poems, included information that is axiological (elements worthy to be narrated), teleological (the utility of the narrative), onomasiological (the enunciative position of the speaker), methodological (relating to the truth of the discourse), and archaeo-etiological (the role of origin as an explicative principle).

[ back ] 40. Thucydides 1.1.2; 1.9.2-1.10.3; 1.20.1-1.21.2 and 1.22.4; for the hermeneutic relationship which the Greek historiographer maintains with the palaiá and consequently with the past of his own community, see the references I gave in 1996a:38-41. For the dialectic of sight and hearing (ópsis and akoḗ) in Herodotus, see Hartog 2000:5-7, and 2001:23-29 and 395-411, as well as Calame 2000a:120-121.

[ back ] 41. Thucydides 2.15.2-3; cf. Hornblower 1991:261-269 as well as 25 with references to several passages where sēmeîon is practically used as a synonym of tekmḗrion. Cf. also n. 43 below.

[ back ] 42. Thucydides 2.15.4-6.

[ back ] 43. Thucydides 1.72,.1-1.73.5; Thrasymachus fr. 85 B 1 Diels-Kranz. The meaning of mártus as guarantor is clarified by Hartog 2000:6-7. On the meaning of sēmaínein, see Heraclitus fr. 22 B 93 Diels-Kranz and Herodotus 1.5.3 (see also n. 41 above).

[ back ] 44. Ricoeur 1985:176-177 and 182-183.

[ back ] 45. Herodotus 9.27.1-6 and Demosthenes Against Androtion 12-15: see Calame 1996a:39-43. After a passage of “archaeology” which Thucydides devotes to the synoecism of Athens (1.16.1; see also n. 41 above), the historiographer himself is led to divide into three periods the temporal space extending from the moment of Athens’ founding as a city to the present war: tà arkhaîa, tà hústeron, mékhri toûde (!) toû polémou.

[ back ] 46. These refigurations underlying visitors’ reactions to the Washington mnêma are probably the best response one could provide about the pragmatic aspect of any historiographic configuration, to the ethical and philosophical contortions regarding the Shoah recently taken up by both J.-L. Nancy, “La représentation interdite,” and by J. Rancière, “S’il y a de l’irreprésentable,” in Le Genre Humain 36, 2001:13-40 and 81-102. “The forbidden representation of the camp is exactly that representation which I have attempted to call ‘forbidden,’ to understand the putting-into-presence which divides presence and opens it to its own absence (…): suspension of the ‘being-there’ to allow sense and ab-sense (absens) to get through,” or “to claim the existence of the unpresentable in art, on the scale of the unthinkable of the event, one must first make this unthinkable completely thinkable, completely necessary according to thought. The logic of the unrepresentable is supported only by a hyperbole which finally destroys it…”; antidotes to this especially in Vidal-Naquet 1995:271-291. On the different kinds of museographic configuration as historic memory, see Maffi 2008:125-157.

[ back ] 47. The meaning of historía and the enunciative positions which stem from discussion of it are taken up by Marincola 1997:3-10, Calame 2000b:115-125, and Hartog 2001:24-35 and 407-411 (see also 2000:6-7, on the semantic difference between mártus and hístōr); on the meaning of historía in general, see Nagy 1990:255-262 and 303-316. Judicial aspects of Greek historiographic discourse have been clarified by Darbo-Peschanski 1998 (cf. n. 25 above), and Prost 1996:288-293, extended the reflection to the writing of history in general.

[ back ] 48. Aristotle Poetics 9.1451a36-b 11, as reread by Ricoeur 1983:57-84.

[ back ] 49. Aristotle, Poetics 9.1451b27-32 (adapted from the translation by R. Dupont-Roc & J. Lallot), where the expression kaì dunatà genésthai is sometimes athetized by modern editors.

[ back ] 50. Thucydides 1.22.1. The difference between a “fictional world” and a possible world created by poetic means is very well redefined by Edmunds 2001:95-107; see also the remarks and references which I attempted to give on this subject in the studies cited in n. 20; concerning history, we must add the observations of Borutti 1996:240-248.

[ back ] 51. Veyne 1971:75-76, partly reprised by Prost 1996:237-262 (256 for the quotation) in a good chapter entitled “Emplotment and narrativity.”

[ back ] 52. Koselleck 1990:133-144 (quotation translated from 141). To say intelligibility is also to say knowledge (connaissance); on this subject, see for example Chartier 1998:87-107. On the role of semi-figured concepts in comparison as well as in translation between cultures, see the references given in section 6 below.

[ back ] 53. Thucydides 1.9.1-1.10.1; cf. n. 40 above. Modern readers of Thucydides think that the historian bases his work mostly on the works of his contemporary Hellanikos of Lesbos: cf. FGrHist 4 F 157, and Hornblower 1991:31-32.

[ back ] 54. The words of Lenclud 1994:43, in a study which tries to lessen the great divide between societies of “orality,” attached to a fluid tradition constantly modified, and writing societies invited to set down a tradition from which they may distance themselves; this as an indirect response to the “break” sketched by Nora; see n. 29 above and Kilani 2003:231-238.

[ back ] 55. On the “apotheosis of Captain Cook,” whose death is recorded by the English chronicles on February 14, 1779, see the documents and narratives mentioned by Sahlins 1979, as well as 1981:9-32, with commentary by Marcus and Fischer 1986:103-105.

[ back ] 56. Different ways of integrating whites and their economic system into Papua temporalities through biblical time and the story of the sons of Noah are discussed by Kilani 1994:119-136.

[ back ] 57. On the syncretic temporality which flows through and organizes Michael Somare’s autobiographic odyssey from his native village to the Port Moresby palace, see my study from 1998:342-349; for a very nearly opposite route by a Western anthropologist, see Tuzin 1997:126-156; the example of reformulation of Muslim political temporality through contact with an anthropologist is studied by Kilani 1992:21-48, 95-126, and 261-317.

[ back ] 58. On the novel-like aspects of anthropological monographs, see the numerous studies mentioned by Kilani 1994:27-39 and 46-62, and on the narrative dimension of monographs produced under the “Ecole des Annales,” see Carrard 1998:62-79 and 207-214.

[ back ] 59. On observation and the rhetoric of the eye, refer to Affergan 1987:137-162, and to Fabietti 1999:33-71.

[ back ] 60. Criticism of anthropological discourse, even sharper in the Anglo-Saxon world than in France, as well as attempts to found a dialogic anthropology created by the interaction between two cultures which any ethnological study must necessarily confront, have marked research in the past three decades: see the summary chapter in Marcus and Fischer 1986:45-76, referring to the work of Vincent Crapanzano, Clifford Geertz, and Paul Rabinow, among others; see also information on this given by Malighetti 1998, and by Fabietti 1999:41-46 and 232-238.

[ back ] 61. Fabian 1983:30-35, 156-165, insisted on the historicity of simultaneity presumed by research on other cultures; he criticizes “a persistent and systematic tendency to place the referent(s) of anthropology in a Time other than the present of the producer of anthropological discourse.”(31)

[ back ] 62. Halbwachs 1925:278-279.

[ back ] 63. On cultural repatriation and the critical attitude it requires, especially in its meaning for “cultural studies,” see for example reflections by Marcus and Fischer 1986:133-157, Kilani 1992:311-317, and 1994:11-26, as well as Remotti 1990. Prost 1996:444-453, describes very well what is at stake academically in the repatriement of the past by historians. On the question of transcultural translation, see references given in Calame 2002:67-77 and n. 74 below.

[ back ] 64. See above, section 2.5.

[ back ] 65. Definition given by Hartog & Lenclud 1993:26, with comments by Hartog 2003:17-22 and 26-30; see also, on an ancient Greece immersed in modernity, Detienne 2000:61-80.

[ back ] 66. Sahlins 1985:50-84 and 142-161 (149 for the quotation), especially as reread by Hartog & Lenclud 1993:34-36, and by Hartog 2003:38-47. On the social effects of symbolic social representations, especially through what we call rites, see Calame 1996b:49-54 and 165-173.

[ back ] 67. Between reliability and suspicion, Ricoeur 1998:17 is aware that “truth in history thus remains unresolved, plausible, probable, questionable, always in the process of re-writing.”

[ back ] 68. Let us remember that Benveniste 1974:222-227, while attributing to the linguistic function a double modality of (semiotic) meaning and (semantic) communicating, asserts that polysemy “is only the institutionalized sum, so to speak, of contextual values which are always instantaneous, continually capable of being enriched, of disappearing, in short without permanence, without consistent value.”

[ back ] 69. I will limit myself to reaffirming here the essential operative distinction between situation and (extra-discursive) process of communication, (intra-discursive) textual traces of this process (enunciation uttered by means of the “formal apparatus of enunciation”), and the enunciation itself (assertion, narrative, description, etc.): see n. 22 above and Calame 2000a:18-34 for reflections based on an ample bibliography; on anthropological discourse, see also Affergan 1987:213-223.

[ back ] 70. See Ricoeur 1985:352-358, and 1990:11-35 and 60-72, relying on “personal identity,” on the Cartesian cogito, but also on the “subject of enunciation.”

[ back ] 71. De Certeau 1975:49-50. The transition from an individual identity to a collective identity through historical and cultural tradition is well described by Assmann 1998:130-144.

[ back ] 72. Cf. Calame 1996a:25-55 and 2000b:47-51.

[ back ] 73. The notion of “identity-related polysemy” (polysémie identitaire) could serve as an answer to the well-founded objections that Lloyd 1990:135-145 presents, concerning the notion of “mentality”: the impossibility of realizing several mentalities in a single individual and the lack of any principle to explain sudden changes in a mentality.

[ back ] 74. What is at stake in transcultural translation is well explained by Borutti 1999:170-202 (interactive research, interpretive construction and possible world through the fictional workings of writing), and also by Fabietti 1999:227-260 (indigenous categories, cultural hermeneutics, prototypes and forms of lives, metaphorization); see also Malighetti 1998:205-215 and Calame 2002:67-77.

[ back ] 75. See especially Loraux 1996, and Detienne 2000:9-13 and 41-59.

[ back ] 76. See the introduction to Grossberg, Nelson and Treichler (eds.) 1992:1-16; “Academic disciplines often decontextualize both their methods and their objects of study; cultural studies properly conceives both relationally.”

[ back ] 77. See Calame 2002:69-72.