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Special Issue "Exploring Contemporary Historical Fiction"

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue is dedicated to a field that is currently experiencing a veritable explosion: contemporary historical fiction. In recent years the genre has been successful in securing coveted literary prizes and in attracting the efforts of some of the best contemporary writers of fiction. It also seems to have become the mode par excellence of addressing some of the most important issues faced in the present: climate change, war, dwindling notions of national identity in a globalised world, the ethical implications of scientific research, new understandings of sexual identity, and the redefinition of gender roles and gender relations, to name but a few, have all been addressed in contemporary historical fiction. This special issue invites contributions that reflect on the function of these imaginative returns to the past, and that consider what makes historical fiction seemingly the preferred mode for exploring these issues.

These questions are even more relevant at a time when the fallibility of historical narratives as means of representing the past – as well as the problems surrounding the notion of historical truth – are no longer under question. In addition, postmodern theory has also taught us to be distrustful of narratives that attempt to reproduce the real in a seemingly accurate fashion. Yet, contemporary historical fiction seems more intent than ever on doing just that: abandoning the overtly disruptive strategies of historiographic metafiction, it chooses instead traditional forms of narration that attempt to reproduce the past realistically. As a result, this new type of faux historical realism, also called ‘neo-historical’ fiction, runs the risk of pandering to the nostalgic desires of contemporary culture, apparently offering an easy escape into a refashioned past, away from the realities of an increasingly complex present. It also makes its… read more

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