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The latest issue of French History includes an article I wrote on the role of silence during the French Revolution, titled

Le silence du peuple: The Rhetoric of Silence during the French Revolution

French History, 31, Issue 4 (2017), p. 440–469.

https://doi.org/10.1093/fh/crx062

Abstract

In July 1789, a phrase was introduced into French political discourse that would quickly become a standing expression: le silence du peuple est la leçon des rois. Taking this political bon mot as a starting point, the article traces the uses of and responses to collective silences during the French Revolution. It is argued that silence cannot be reduced to just the lack of ‘voice’ indicating suppression or political impotence. Rather, it must be understood as a mode of political action with a rhetoric of its own. Sketching this rhetoric not only highlights the nature and functions of a mode of political communication too often disregarded. It also shows how the controversies surrounding these silences reflected some of the major political questions of the day, playing a key role in the renegotiations of the communicative spaces of politics set off by the Revolution.

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The journal Traverse: Zeitschrift für Geschichte has just published a special issue on the topic of Temporal Experiences: Acceleration and Plural Temporalities (Zeiterfahrungen: Beschleunigung und plurale Temporalitäten). The table of contents may be found here.

In it, I have published a contribution on the concept of acceleration under the title:

Beschleunigung im langen 19. Jahrhundert: Einheit und Vielfalt einer Epochenkategorie

[Acceleration in the Long 19th Century: Unity and Plurality of a Temporal Category]

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The essay starts by contrasting the influential theories of acceleration formulated by Reinhart Koselleck and Hartmut Rosa. On this basis, it argues for a new approach to the history of acceleration based in the methodical tradition of Historical Semantics.

From this point of view, the usual interpretation of acceleration as the distinguishing and dominant temporal mode of the modern era is left behind in favor of a more empirical approach. Taking German debates on the topic during the 19th century as a case study, the article shows how acceleration was not a singular phenomenon (defining the modern era) at all. Rather, it could have many different meanings according to the perspective and interests of various groups as well as the changing historical contexts. In this manner, the article argues for a differentiated focus on the ways in which ‘modern’ people interpreted their own temporality instead of the sweeping, but ultimately oversimplified identification of modernity as the ‘era of acceleration’.

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A review I wrote on the volume

Matthias Kroß, Rüdiger Zill (ed.): Metapherngeschichten. Perspektiven einer Theorie der Unbegrifflichkeit. Berlin: Parerga 2011.

was published in the journal Contributions to the History of Concepts. In sum, this volume contains some very interesting and well-researched articles on the theory of the history of metaphor as well as on its practice: an important contribution to a field of research in which a lot of progress is yet to be made.

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