History and the Contemporary Novel

History and the Contemporary Novel

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Cowart presents a study of international historical fiction since World War II, with reflections on the affinities between historical and fictional narrative, analysis of the basic modes of historical fiction, and readings of a number of historical novels, including John Bartha€™s The Sot-Weed Factor, Marguerite Yourcenara€™s Memoirs of Hadrian, Russell Hobana€™s Riddley Walker, Margaret Atwooda€™s The Handmaida€™s Tale, Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusaa€™s The Leopard, D. M. Thomasa€™s The White Hotel, William Faulknera€™s Go Down, Moses, and Umberto Ecoa€™s The Name of the Rose. He proposes recognizing four modes of the historical novel: the past as a qdistant mirrorq of the present, fictions whose authors seek to pinpoint the precise historical moment when the modern age or some prominent feature of it came into existence, fictions whose authors aspire purely or largely to historical verisimilitude, and fictions whose authors reverse history to contemplate utopia and dystopia in the future. Thus, historical fiction can be organized under the rubrics: The Distant Mirror; The Turning Point; The Way It Was; and The Way It Will Be. This fourfold schema and his focus on postwar novels set Cowarta€™s work apart from previous studies, which have not devoted adequate space to the contemporary historical novel. Cowart argues that postwar historical fiction merits more extensive treatment because it is the product of an age unique in the annals of historya€”an age in which history itself may end.Atwood opts for a childa#39;s story as her subtext (rather than, say, something out of Greek tragedy) because she sees the ... One finds an intertextual and broadly historical dimension to this feminism in the novela#39;s rich Chaucerian echoes, notably those that invoke the Wife of Bath. ... The rapist in the Wifea#39;s Tale becomes a sympathetic figure at the end, and The Way It Will Be similarly there is a movement 114.

Title:History and the Contemporary Novel
Author:David Cowart
Publisher:SIU Press - 1989


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