Discerning the Initial Arrival of Historicism and its Importance for the History/Fiction Intersection in the Telling of Lives Lived

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Nick Overduin

Abstract

A modern sense of historicism developed over time, bringing different texture to the intersection between history and fiction. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, prolifically researched after Herman Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768) right until today – a phenomenon broadly known as The Quest for the Historical Jesus – provides an instructive case study for a wider discussion about the intersection between history and fiction in biography and autobiography. As a result of these centuries of Jesuanic research, a set of predictable challenges life-writing may need to confront can be identified. Nevertheless, the depth of disagreement about a well-researched narrative such as the Jesuanic chronicle can eventually feel almost insurmountable. Pessimism, in fact, has become widespread in this entire field of Jesuanic research. Thus, this article raises the question: Is it but a vain attempt, this wish to search for truth that draws a sharp line between history and fiction? More importantly: When did this obsessive search for credible veracity first emerge? A modern sense of historicism developed over time, bringing different texture to the intersection between history and fiction. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, prolifically researched after Herman Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768) right until today – a phenomenon broadly known as The Quest for the Historical Jesus – provides an instructive case study for a wider discussion about the intersection between history and fiction in biography and autobiography. As a result of these centuries of Jesuanic research, a set of predictable challenges life-writing may need to confront can be identified. Nevertheless, the depth of disagreement about a well-researched narrative such as the Jesuanic chronicle can eventually feel almost insurmountable. Pessimism, in fact, has become widespread in this entire field of Jesuanic research. Thus, this article raises the question: Is it but a vain attempt, this wish to search for truth that draws a sharp line between history and fiction? More importantly: When did this obsessive search for credible veracity first emerge?

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