Summer 1995 • Vol. XVII No. 3/4 NonfictionJuly 1, 1995 |

Mary Butts: Lost… and Found

Literary history sometimes reads like archaeology, which, although another kind of historiography, presents some structural analogies to it. There are, for example, eras and epochs preserved from the past in earth and rock formations that reach back to beginnings; and those strata are often enough demarcated by disjunctions of the temporal continuity, which is seamless per se. Whether those "breaks" in the record are effected by mutations in climate, by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, or else by catastrophes arriving from space is part of the puzzle that scientists sift and decipher in order to write the history of the planet. By now, of course, one can assert it was a nineteenth-century error to associate the backward-glancing achievement by which history is written, and therefore history itself, with the notion of progress, and more dubiously with that of evolution as progress. This is the error Henry Adams questioned in the biography of himself written in old age, the very ti

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