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Biographical and Historical Writing in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Sabina Loriga

For a long time, historians believed that their task was to snatch human actions from oblivion (1). That idea was rooted in an immortal image of Nature – being eternal, natural elements didn't need memory to continue existing; but human beings, marked by mortality (« we pass it all by like an exchange of breath »…, wrote Rainer Maria Rilke (2), can become almost the same as nature because of History. From this perspective, the historical writing ought to focus on the great actions and works of which mortals are capable – those terrifying creations that Sophocles talked about (3).

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