Literary critics and grammarians have said that the historical present has the effect of making past events more vivid. More recently, analysts of its use in conversation have argued that it functions, not by making an event present, but by marking segments of a narrative, foregrounding events (that is, signalling that one event is particularly important, relevant to others) and marking a shift to evaluation (Brinton 1992: 221).
If the funeral had been yesterday, I could not recollect it better. The very air of the best parlour, when I went in at the door, the bright condition of the fire, the shining of the wine in the decanters, the patterns of the glasses and plates, the faint sweet smell of cake, the odour of Miss Murdstone’s dress, and our black clothes. Mr. Chillip is in the room, and comes to speak to me.
'And how is Master David?' he says, kindly.
I cannot tell him very well. I give him my hand, which he holds in his. (Chapter IX)
I don't understand why historians on In Our Time speak of past events in what sounds to me like a form of the present tense, for example: "Aristotle thinks that reason isn't located in space and time". Does anyone else find this annoying ? What's wrong with "Aristotle thought that reason wasn't located in space and time" ? What am I missing ? They all do it every week.