How shall we relate to ‘reality’ of the recent biomedical past? Is there a ‘real’ past or a narratively constructed past? And which past is most ‘real’? Or is the concept ‘real’ out of of question here? Fredric Jameson indirectly makes a nice point with reference to Hegelian dialectics in his recent review (in the last issue of London Review of Books, 7 September 2006, p.7) of Slavoj Zizek’s The Parallax View (MIT Press, 2006) when he says that
There is a tripartite movement in the Hegelian dialectic, and in fact, Zizek goes on, he has just illustrated it: stupid stereotype, or the ‘appearance’; ingenious correction, the underlying reality or ‘essence’; finally, after all, the return to the reality of the appearance, so that it was the appearance that was ‘true’ after all.
The argument, as transferred to the problem of historical past, then goes:
1) ‘thesis’: there used to be a stupid stereotype about the ‘past’, namely that it appears as ‘real’.
2) ‘antithesis’: then new historicist ingenious corrction is that the underlying reality/essence of history is that it is a non-essentialist cultural construct
3) ‘synthesis’: finally, after all, we return to the reality of the appearance, which is: what the historical past appears like, (i.e., real) was true after all.