Writing backwards : American fiction and the historical turn

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"Writing Backwards: American Fiction and the Historical Turn" documents the overwhelming reorganization of the American literary field over the last four decades around historical fiction and the cultural, pedagogical, and political value of historicity. While previous scholarship attributes the twentieth-century novel's fascination with history to a post-Cold War "absence of an overarching narrative, " "symbolic compensation" for a postmodern "crisis" in historical consciousness, and shifting theories of historiography, "Writing Backwards" contends that contemporary fiction's historical turn is the product of a series of phenomena far more local to the literary field itself. In the period since the 1980s, several key institutions of literary canon formation—from the National Endowment for the Arts to literary prize organizations, from university syllabi to literary criticism itself—transformed in ways that either expressly or implicitly promoted historical fiction as contemporary literature's most prestigious and politically potent genre. Modernizing the syllabus while endowing it with historicity, diversifying the canon while engaging canonical history, the historical novel not only stood at the intersection of literary disputes over methodology and multiculturalism in the 1980s and 1990s, but operated as those debates' central yet invisible term. As a result, the American novel's historical turn has been especially pronounced among minority writers, whose increasing recognition within both the academy and the prize economy has been almost exclusively in the idiom of historical fiction: a strategy of inclusion so successful that it may have inadvertently become an instrument of containment. Working comparatively across ethnic literary traditions, this project provides both an aesthetic and literary-sociological history of contemporary fiction, arguing for a new periodization that recognizes just how historical the contemporary has become.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2019; ©2019
Publication date 2019; 2019
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Manshel, Alexander
Degree supervisor McGurl, Mark, 1966-
Thesis advisor McGurl, Mark, 1966-
Thesis advisor Algee-Hewitt, Mark
Thesis advisor Moya, Paula M. L
Thesis advisor Saldívar, Ramón, 1949-
Degree committee member Algee-Hewitt, Mark
Degree committee member Moya, Paula M. L
Degree committee member Saldívar, Ramón, 1949-
Associated with Stanford University, English Department.


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Alexander D. Manshel.
Note Submitted to the English Department.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2019 by Alexander Manshel
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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