Historiographic Metafiction

Topics: Postmodernism, Fiction, History Pages: 17 (6073 words) Published: May 27, 2013
Historiographic metafiction is a term originally coined by literary theorist Linda Hutcheon. The term “historiographic metafiction” was coined by Linda Hutcheon in her essay “Beginning to Theorize the Postmodern” in 1987 and then further developed in her seminal study A Poetics of Postmodernism ( 1988 ) to describe “those well-known and popular novels which are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically also lay claim to historical events and personages.”  According to Hutcheon, in "A Poetics of Postmodernism", works of historiographic metafiction are "those well-known and popular novels which are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically also lay claim to historical events and personages". Historiographic metafiction is a quintessentially postmodern art form, with a reliance upon textual play, parody and historical re-conceptualization. One author often associated with historiographic metafiction is Michael Ondaatje, in works such as Running in the Family, In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient and Coming Through Slaughter. Salman Rushdie's novels Shameand Midnight's Children can also be regarded as historiographic metafiction in their re-writing of the history of Pakistan and India in the early- and mid-twentieth century. An example of historiographic metafiction is Daphne Marlatt's novel Ana Historic. It is the process of re-writing history through a work of fiction in a way that has not been previously recorded. In Marlatt's novel, this is achieved through journal entries of a fictional character who represents a form of reality for women both in the past and in the present. Often, historiographic metafiction refers to the loss of the feminine voice in history. Erin Mouré's poetry broaches this subject. Linda Hutcheon: Reading Notes, Chapters 7 and 8

Reading Notes for Chapter Seven: “Historiographic Metafiction: ‘The Pastime of Past Time’” from A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction by Linda Hutcheon Section I
Hutcheon begins this section by discussing the relationship between literature and history in the nineteenth century and the postmodern objection to their separation into two disciplines.  Recent critical viewpoints tend to focus more on the similarities between history and fiction, and Hutcheon discusses the parallels. She writes: “They have both been seen to derive their force more from verisimilitude than from any objective truth; they are both identified as linguistic constructs, highly conventionalized in their narrative forms, and not at all transparent either in terms of language or structure; and they appear to be equally intertextual, deploying the texts of the past within their own complex textuality” (105).  She connects these characteristics to the “implied teachings” (105) of historiographic metafiction, reminding readers that this genre asserts that history and fiction are historical terms that change in meaning as quickly as history itself (105). Further examining the contradictions of postmodernism, Hutcheon suggests that historiographic metafiction “keeps distinct its formal auto-representation and its historical context, and in so doing problematizes the very possibility of historical knowledge, because there is no reconciliation, no dialectic here – just unresolved contradiction” (106). Hutcheon elaborates on the relationship between art and historiography. She references Aristotle’s belief that a historian can only focus on events from the past, while a poet can focus on what might happen, allowing he or she to deal with more “universals” (106).  Thus, many historians have incorporated “fictional representations”  (106) into their works, allowing them to “create imaginative versions of their historical, real worlds” (106). Hutcheon states that the postmodern novel has also taken these opportunities. She writes: “It is part of the postmodernist stand to confront the paradoxes of fictive/historical representation, the particular/the general, and the...
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