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Penetrating Historical Discourse’s Truth Matrix: A Corpus Analysis of Oral History Testimonies

Author:

Christopher Fitzgerald

University of Limerick, IE
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Abstract

Historical Discourse’s Truth Matrix was first posited by Michel Foucault to describe the emergence of a discourse of historical events subsequent to the cessation of war and established by the most powerful arbiters of those events. This paper adapts the implements of Foucault’s toolbox to conceptualise the dimensions of subjectivity that historical events pass through from the original event to the subsequent depictions of those events in historical writing or other media. The Corpus of Irish Historical Narratives (COIHN) is a one-million-word representative corpus of oral-history witness testimonies taken from the Bureau of Military History Archive (BMH) which depict the events surrounding the Irish struggle for independence from the lead up to the 1916 rising to the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921. The archive provides a rich source of both historical, social and cultural data and has been the source of many publications pertaining to events of this pivotal time in Irish history. This study takes a hybrid corpus-driven and corpus-based approach to the analysis of epistemic modality in these statements through hedged expressions using mental process verbs and, in doing so, offers a framework for the analysis of a core dimension of historical discourse’s truth matrix. The notion of ‘paradoxical authority’ is proposed, stating that the authority of a witness is boosted rather than mitigated by expressing weak commitment to the truth of a proposition.
How to Cite: Fitzgerald, C. (2020). Penetrating Historical Discourse’s Truth Matrix: A Corpus Analysis of Oral History Testimonies. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 3, 75–95. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/jcads.47
Published on 09 Nov 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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