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What Makes a Narrative? Understanding the Portrayals of Hermenegild's Rebellion


Schmidt, William Charles (2018) What Makes a Narrative? Understanding the Portrayals of Hermenegild's Rebellion. Senior thesis (Major), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/R6G8-3B60.


When one studies an event through the perspectives of multiple accounts, one’s first instinct might be to reconcile the sources into a single cohesive narrative. One can try to assign a likelihood that various portions of each story are factually correct, and then reconstruct what happened based upon which parts seem the most trustworthy.However, in doing so, one cannot be certain of the results. Each of us has our own subjectivity and biases, as our experiences can implicitly shape the decisions we make about what is reliable or plausible and what is not. Moreover, when one tries to compile the “truth” of an event from multiple sources, such "truth" comes at the cost of understanding what made the sources different in the first place. An account is not written in a vacuum, and the way that an author chooses to portray an event is determined by their own personal background, circumstances, and purposes for crafting their narratives. In condensing a host of different accounts into a single internally consistent version, one loses sight of how the authors themselves viewed the events. Keeping different accounts of the same event separate, and investigating each individually in its own context, may not provide a simple solution to the question of “what happened?”, but it will teach us more about the authors’ motivations and what they understood to be important about an event. Such an understanding provides more substantial and reliable information than trying to reconcile the accounts would be able to provide.

Item Type:Thesis (Senior thesis (Major))
Subject Keywords:Medieval History; Hermenegild; Early Medieval Spain; Visigoth
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Biology and Biological Engineering
Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Bioengineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Brown, Warren C.
Thesis Committee:
  • None, None
Defense Date:9 June 2018
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:09252018-124342094
Persistent URL:
Schmidt, William Charles0000-0001-9780-9495
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11198
Deposited By: William Schmidt
Deposited On:25 Sep 2018 21:34
Last Modified:29 May 2024 18:10

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