The Nineteenth Century Revis(it)ed : The New Historical Fiction book cover
1st Edition

The Nineteenth Century Revis(it)ed
The New Historical Fiction

ISBN 9780367634667
Published December 30, 2020 by Routledge
266 Pages

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Book Description

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

Theoretical Conceptions

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

Theoretical Groundwork

Valerie Martin's The Great Divorce (1994)

Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days (2005)

David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife (2008)

4. Historical Biofiction

Theoretical Foundations

Lauren Belfer's City of Light (1999)

Diane Glancy's Stone Heart (2003)

John May's Poe & Fanny (2004)

5. Reanimated Classics

Theoretical Framework

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

Works Cited


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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.