1887

Writing History as a Prophet

Postmodernist innovations of the historical novel

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This is a postmodernist history of the historical novel with special attention to the political implications of the postmodernist attitude toward the past.<br />Beginning with the poetics of Sir Walter Scott, Wesseling moves via a global survey of 19th century historical fiction to modernist innovations in the genre.<br />Noting how the self-reflexive strategy enables a novelist to represent an episode from the past alongside the process of gathering and formulating historical knowledge, the author discusses the elaboration of this strategy, introduced by novelists such as Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, in the work of, among others, Julian Barnes, Jay Cantor, Robert Coover and Graham Swift.Wesseling also shows how postmodernist writers attempt to envisage alternative sequences for historical events. Deliberately distorting historical facts, authors of such uchronian fiction, like Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael R. Read, Salman Rushdie and Gunter Grass, imagine what history looks like from the perspective of the losers, rather than the winners.

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