One criticism of Freud still sometimes heard on the political Left is that his thinking is individualist - that he substitutes 'private' psychological causes and explanations for social and historical ones. This accusation reflects a radical misunderstanding of Freudian theory. There is indeed a real problem about how social and historical factors are related to the unconscious; but one point of Freud's work is that it makes it possible for us to think of the development of the human individual in social and historical terms. What Freud produces, indeed, is nothing less than a materialist theory of the making of the human subject. We come to be what we are by an interrelation of bodies - by the complex transactions which take place during infancy between our bodies and those which surround us. This is not a biological reductionism: Freud does not of course believe that we are nothing but our bodies, or that our minds are mere reflexes of them. Nor is it an asocial model of life, since the bodies which surround us, and our relations with them, are always socially specific.
Our historical experience teaches us that men imitate one another, that their attitudes are statistically calculable, their opinions manipulable, and that man is therefore less an individual (a subject) than an element in a mass.
Whether I like it or not, most of my images of what various historical periods feel, smell, or sound like were acquired well before I set foot in any history class. They came from Margaret Mitchell, from Anya Seton, from M.M. Kaye, and a host of other authors, in their crackly plastic library bindings. Whether historians acknowledge it or not, scholarly history's illegitimate cousin, the historical novel, plays a profound role in shaping widely held conceptions of historical realities.
In looking at our our individual classroom pedagogies and our isolated artistic endeavors, we must broaden the frame of analysis to consider historical, contextual and institutional assumptions. This means a constant awareness of how the micro-practices of interpersonal dialogue and embodied ways of knowing each other can provide an impetus fro structural change.
I frequently detect a hint of satisfaction in the accounts that manage to excavate moral and individual responsibility from the historical debris. Perhaps it is because of the unspoken belief that changing the people will change the outcome. 'No Hitler, no Holocaust.' If only a few individuals had resolved that it was unconscionable to be a bystander, then perhaps thousands would have been saved. I suppose there is some solace in recovering a history in which altering an isolated event transforms all that follows. But personalizing the story in this way can obscure how these were not isolated individuals operating on their own but rather were people situated in an organizational and historical context that profoundly shaped how they looked upon the world, what they believed they could do, and what they wanted to do. The UN staff and diplomats in New York, in the main, were highly decent, hard-working, and honorable individuals who believed that they were acting properly when they decided not to try to put an end to genocide. It is this history that stays with me.
If you study a historical episode and feel good about it, it probably means that you haven't had it explained very well. Historical conflict is usually the struggle of different conceptions of what is good.
The fact is: Jesus wrote not a solitary word that survives. Equally astounding is historical silence: not a single historical account refers to him during his lifetime from any source whatsoever, Roman or Jewish, official or personal.
Writing historical fiction has many common traits with writing sci-fi or fantasy books. The past is another country - a very different world - and historical readers want to see, smell and touch what it was like living there.
Because history became his (Keenan's) genuine passion, he tended to see the world in terms of deep historical forces that, in his mind, formed a nation's character in ways almost beyond the consciousness of the men who momentarily governed it, as if these historical impulses were more a part of them than they knew.