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Fiction and History - ENGL234

This unit explores the relationship between fiction and history. It looks at the rise of the historical novel from the 18th century onwards, and it asks: How is history used in fiction today? Is historical fiction a form or history or historiography? We will examine contemporary literature as well as popular genre fiction - crime, romance and fantasy novels - to analyse how historical novels engage with "medievalism", "neo-Victorianism’" and the representation of problematic pasts such as settler-indigenous relations in Australia, slavery in the United States, or the Holocaust. We will also evaluate: the claim that women’s historical novels represent a significant intervention by women writers into male-dominated historical narratives; the longstanding historiographical debate about the relative truth-status and relationship between fiction and history; and the development of what Canadian critic Linda Hutcheon has called "postmodern historiographic metafiction" – historical fiction that points self-reflexively and self-consciously to its own artifice as historical discourse. Novels to be studied include A.S. Byatt's "Possession", Ian McEwan's "Atonement", Kate Grenville's "The Secret River" and Marcus Zusak's "The Book Thief" as well as other genre fiction.

Credit Points: 3
When Offered:

S1 Day - Session 1, North Ryde, Day

Staff Contact(s): Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo

ENGL120 Prerequisite Information


Unit Designation(s):
Unit Type:
Assessed As: Graded
Offered By:

Department of English

Faculty of Arts

Course structures, including unit offerings, are subject to change.
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