My Per­sonal Li­brary (30)

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Hay­den White’s The Con­tent of the Form (1987) is an ex­cel­lent, though high-brow, trea­tise on the prob­lems of mean­ing in dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal epochs. White’s ideas will be use­ful to fu­ture his­to­ri­ans when they write about Joseph Mus­cat’s po­lit­i­cal legacy.

(In­ci­den­tally, in Mal­tese, the word ‘legacy’ used in this sense should not be trans­lated as legat, but as wirt or ered­ità. We use legat as a tech­ni­cal term, in the con­text of suc­ces­sions, if we want to re­fer to a per­sonal be­quest, some­thing be­queathed in a will. When used in its ev­ery­day sense, not as le­gal jar­gon but to re­fer to po­lit­i­cal legacy, legacy is wirt not legat. This lin­guis­tic phe­nom­e­non is known as in­ter­fer­ence. One should ex­er­cise men­tal dis­ci­pline and avoid it.)

Dr Mus­cat’s po­lit­i­cal legacy will have a mean­ing which, if we ap­ply White’s ideas, will re­side in “the con­tent of the form”, in the way that fu­ture his­to­ri­ans will want their present to be the ful­fil­ment of a past from which they will wish to have de­scended. I’m sure it will be a dif­fer­ent past from the one Joseph Mus­cat is leav­ing them.

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