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TitleAttempting to Situate Joseph Smith
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsUnderwood, Grant
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
KeywordsBushman, Richard L.; Histories; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Sources

Undergirding Richard Bushman's insightful paper is a profound recognition (and a reminder) that histories are the creations of authors, not photographs of the past. Every aspect of writing a history, from the selection of sources to the interpretation of those sources bears the imprint of the author. The profoundly precarious and contingent character of all reconstruction of the past led Roland Barthes to quip that biography is "a novel that dare not speak its name." Clearly, this is an overstatement, but it does warn us away from an unhealthy critical complacency when engaging in studying written histories.