The historical novel is an enduringly popular genre that raises crucial questions about key literary concepts, fact and fiction, identity, history, reading, and writing. In this comprehensive, focused guide, Jerome de Groot offers an accessible introduction to the genre and critical debates that surround it, including: the development of the historical novel from early eighteenth-century works through to postmodern and contemporary historical fiction different genres, such as sensational or ‘low’ fiction, crime novels, literary works, counterfactual writing and related issues of audience, value, and authenticity the many functions of historical fiction, particularly the challenges it poses to accepted histories and postmodern questioning of ‘grand narratives’ the relationship of the historical novel to the wider cultural sphere with reference to historical theory, the internet, television, and film key theoretical concepts such as the authentic fallacy, postcolonialism, Marxism, queer and feminist reading. Drawing on a wide range of examples from across the centuries and around the globe The Historical Novel is essential reading for students exploring the interface of history and fiction.
Alessandro Manzoni was a giant of nineteenth-century European literature whose I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1928) is ranked with War and Peace as marking the summit of the historical novel. Manzoni wrote “Del romanzo storico” (“On the Historical Novel”) during the twenty years he spent revising I promessi sposi. This first English translation of On the Historical Novel reflects the insights of a great craftsman and the misgivings of a profound thinker. It brings up to the nineteenth century the long war between poetry and history, tracing the idea of the historical novel from its origins in classical antiquity. It declares the historical novel—and presumably I promessi sposi itself—dead as a genre. Or perhaps it justifies I promessi sposi as the climax of a genre and the end of a stage of human consciousness. Its importance lies both in its prospective and in its retrospective contributions to literary debate.
This book is an account of the ways the promise and threat of political revolution has informed historical novels from Walter Scott to the near present. Building off of the Marxist scholarly tradition of Georg Lukacs and Frederic Jameson, this book emphasizes the transformation of literary conventions to adapt to changing historical contexts.
Georg Lukács (1885–1971) is now recognized as one of the most innovative and best-informed literary critics of the twentieth century. Trained in the German philosophic tradition of Kant, Hegel, and Marx, he escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing to the Soviet Union in 1933. There he faced a new set of problems: Stalinist dogmatism about literature and literary criticism. Maneuvering between the obstacles of censorship, he wrote and published his longest work of literary criticism, The Historical Novel, in 1937. Beginning with the novels of Sir Walter Scott, The Historical Novel documents the evolution of a genre that came to dominate European fiction in the years after Napoleon. The novel had reached a point at which it could be socially and politically critical as well as psychologically insightful. Lukács devotes his final chapter to the anti-Nazi fiction of Germany and Austria.
Thinking About Fiction and History After Historiographic Metafiction
Author: Andrew James Johnston
Publisher: Universitatsverlag Winter
Until recently, the critical reception of historical fiction was dominated by two theoretical paradigms: Gyorgy Lukacs's Marxist view and Linda Hutcheon's concept of 'historiographic metafiction'. We are now entering a new phase as the discussion of the historical novel is rapidly becoming more inclusive, more tolerant and, above all, more diverse. It is before the backdrop of these changes in the critical debate that the contributions to this volume are meant to be read. Rather than seeing historical fiction as locked in a clear-cut scheme of teleological succession or assigning to the historical novel specific aesthetic purposes, the articles in this collection seek to probe deeply into the historical novel's potential for providing readers not simply with an understanding of how the image of the past is constructed but also of how attempts to chart forms of historical otherness constitute a specific mode of cultural experience mediated by literature. This desire for a literary experience of historical otherness has recently increased in urgency, even if the historical authenticity one might nostalgically associate with such a project must always elude us. Authors discussed include Walter Scott, John Fowles, Graham Swift, M. J. Vassanji, J. M. Coetzee, Peter Ackroyd, Alan Massie, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel and Jim Crace.
This volume explores the genre of the historical novel and the variety of ways in which writers choose to represent the past. How does an author’s nationality or gender impact their artistic choices? To what extent can historical novels appeal to a transnational audience? This study demonstrates how histories can communicate across national borders, often by invoking or deconstructing the very notion of nationhood. Furthermore, it traces how the concerns of the postmodern era, such as postmodern critiques of historiography, colonialism, identity, and the Enlightenment, have impacted the genre of the historical novel, and shows this impact has not been uniform throughout Western culture. Not all historical novels written during the postmodern era are postmodern. The historical novel as a genre occupies a problematic, yet significant space in Cold War literary currents, torn between claims of authenticity and the impossibility of accessing the past. Historical novels from England, America, Germany, and France are compared and contrasted with historical novels from Sweden, testing a variety of theoretical perspectives in the process. This pitting of a center against a periphery serves to highlight traits that historical novels from the West have in common, but also how they differ. The historical novel is not just a local, regional phenomenon, but has become, during the postmodern era, a transnational tool for exploring how we should think of nations and nationalism and what a society should, or should not, look like.