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Å bemektige seg fortiden - Jens Arup Seips metodologiske modernisme

f. 1965, dr. philos. 2006, professor ved Senter for profesjonsstudier ved Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus.
SammendragEngelsk sammendrag
Artikkelen drøfter Jens Arup Seips bestemmelse av kildekritikken som historieforskningens sentrale metode. Som et alternativ til ‘kritisk empirisme’, lanseres begrepet modernisme som et redskap til å historisere Seips forståelse av historieforskningens oppgave. Felles for modernismen i historievitenskapen og i den estetiske sfære var opplevelsen av et radikalt historisk oppbrudd. Historien fremstod ikke lenger som en organisk utviklingsprosess, men som radikalt kontingent. Kildekritikkens oppgave ble å «dekonstruere» tradisjon for å kunne «konstruere» historie. Seips metodiske refleksjoner foregikk i et spenningsfelt mellom denne modernismen og et hermeneutisk krav om innforlivelse med og ydmykhet for fortiden. Studien trekker veksler på et omfattende upublisert og tidligere uutnyttet materiale.

To Conquer the Past: Jens Arup Seip’s methodological modernism

Jens Arup Seip (1905–1992) was one of the most influential Norwegian historians of the 20th century. This article is about Seip’s definition of source criticism, which he saw as the essential method of historical inquiry. The concept of modernism is introduced in an effort to historicize Seip’s understanding of history as a science. In historiography, much as in art, literature, and architecture, modernism emerged from the early 20th-century experience of a radical break with the past. History no longer appeared as organic, progressive, and meaningful, but rather as radically contingent. Source criticism was redefined and radicalized accordingly. Its task was now to deconstruct tradition, as conveyed in the source material as well as in historiography, in order to prepare for a fresh construction of history on distinctly modernist presuppositions. The program called for a systematic confrontation and ‘correction’ of the historical sources from the standpoint of the disillusioned modern subject. The historian’s authority to construct history became in this sense «autonomous» (R. C. Collingwood) – emancipated from the embrace of tradition. The article traces modernism as a tradition in Scandinavian historiography, beginning with Kristian Erslev and Erik Arup in Denmark, Lauritz and Curt Weibull in Sweden, and Seip’s teacher Edvard Bull Sr. in Norway. In conclusion, Seip’s methodological doctrines, while reflecting strong modernist assumptions, remained in a fundamental sense committed to a more hermeneutical definition of the historian’s métier: In order to execute his modernist authority, the historian must have familiarized himself with the past through long-lasting acquaintance with its traces. The ambivalent coexistence of modernism and hermeneutics in Seip’s thought seems to give a clue to his identity as a historian.

Keywords: Jens Arup Seip, history of historiography, source criticism, modernism.
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