The Nineteenth Century Revis(it)ed: The New Historical Fiction explores the renaissance of the American historical novel at the turn of the twenty-first century. The study examines the revision of nineteenth-century historical events in cultural products against the background of recent theoretical trends in American studies. It combines insights of literary studies with scholarship on popular culture. The focus of representation is the long nineteenth century – a period from the early republic to World War I – as a key epoch of the nation-building project of the United States. The study explores the constructedness of historical tradition and the cultural resonance of historical events within the discourse on the contemporary novel and the theory formation surrounding it. At the center of the discussion are the unprecedented literary output and critical as well as popular success of historical fiction in the USA since 1995. An additional postcolonial and transatlantic perspective is provided by the incorporation of texts by British and Australian authors and especially by the inclusion of insights from neo-Victorian studies. The book provides a critical comment on current and topical developments in American literature, culture, and historiography.
Table of Contents
1. History, Fiction, and the USA
The New American Historical Fiction
A Brief History of the Historical Novel
Nineteenth-Century Historical Romance as National Literature
The Fact/Fiction Dichotomy
Master Narrative vs. Micro Narrative
Academic History vs. Pop History
The Illusion of Veracity
Nostalgia, Escapism, or Historical Lesson?
The Appeal of the Nineteenth Century
Historical Fiction, Memory, and Genre
The Neoconservative, the Liberal, the Identitarian, and the Postmodern
Is All New Historical Fiction Historiographic Metafiction?
How Neo-Victorian is It?
Revis(it)ing the Past
2. Historical Crime Fiction
Caleb Carr's The Alienist (1994)
Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club (2003)
Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (2003)
3. Multi-time-level Historical Fiction
Valerie Martin's The Great Divorce (1994)
Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days (2005)
David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife (2008)
4. Historical Biofiction
Lauren Belfer's City of Light (1999)
Diane Glancy's Stone Heart (2003)
John May's Poe & Fanny (2004)
5. Reanimated Classics
Christopher Bigsby's Hester (1994)
Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone (2001)
Geraldine Brooks's March (2005)
6. Revis(it)ing History and Fiction
Ina Bergmann is associate professor of American studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany. She is the author of one monograph, And Then the Child Becomes a Woman: Weibliche Initiation in der amerikanischen Kurzgeschichte 1865-1970 (2003); the (co)editor of nine volumes of essays and special sections of journals, among them Liminality and the Short Story: Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian, and British Writing (2015), Cultures of Solitude: Loneliness – Limitation – Liberation (2017), and Intermediality, Life Writing, and American Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2018); and a frequent contributor to peer-reviewed journals and international book projects. She has held fellowhips with the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin, and the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, USA.