Reading Historical Fiction: The Revenant and Remembered Past by Kate Mitchell, N. Parsons

By Kate Mitchell, N. Parsons

This assortment examines the intersection of historic recollection, thoughts of illustration, and interpreting practices in old fiction from the eighteenth century to this present day. In moving concentration to the organization of the reader and taking an extended old view, the gathering brings a brand new viewpoint to the sphere of ancient illustration.

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Ideologically, therefore, this temporal system lends itself to conservatism, as we are invited to look ironically on the strivings of individuals, and accept that the past could only have turned out as it did. An alternative temporal system, however, might violate temporal distance by failing to maintain the distinction between the bubble of contingency and its distanced historical setting. Were this to happen, contingency would spill into the discursive space occupied by the objectified past, undercutting teleological fixity and generating alternative historical possibilities.

This gesture associates the historical novel with more elevated genres while simultaneously suggesting that readers should read these narratives in the same way that they would read, for example, Shakespeare’s histories, distinguishing between the real Prince Hal and the invented Falstaff, the real Richard III and the speeches Shakespeare invents for him. Jane West’s preface to Alicia de Lacy (1814), a novel set in the reign of Edward II, contains a good example of this type of gesture. West defends her decision to make figures from the historical record the main characters in her novel: Whatever objections may be made (and certainly there are many) against the lawfulness of thus bringing out an old worthy in masquerade, it is presumed they will not be strongly urged by the admirers of Shakespeare’s historical plays; or of Marmion, the Lady of the Lake, and many other justly popular poems, or even of the epics of Homer and Virgil, which have delighted every age, by giving enlarged portraits of those whose miniatures only were exhibited by history.

G. Hirst 2005), I suggest that her elision of historical distance needs to be understood as a deliberate rejection of a temporal system that would normalise colonial violence as inevitable. What a comparison of Moorhouse’s and Grenville’s texts reveals is the complexity of temporal systems, and the impossibility of dividing history and fiction on the basis of simple dichotomies. The authenticity of distance: Frank Moorhouse’s Grand Days Moorhouse announces his fidelity to the documentary record in an author’s note that opens Grand Days: This book is, in part, based on the dramatic reconstruction of real people, identified by their actual names, and on fictional characters who sometimes embody features of people who existed at the time, but who are essentially fictional [ .

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