Canadian Historical Writing: Reading the Remains by Renée Hulan (auth.)

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By Renée Hulan (auth.)

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FROM ROMANCE TO REVISION 15 On the other, national history is believed to serve as an oppressive master narrative in need of revision and demythologizing. In making this case, critics tend to emphasize, and sometimes exaggerate, the restorative, if not redemptive, role that literature is believed to play in society. One critique seeks to weaken the vestiges of nationalism while the other tries to shore them up. One believes there should be a national master narrative but that it has been lost in the crowd of alternative histories; the other does not doubt the existence and power of a solid, even formidable national master narrative that marginalizes others.

In Canada, the apparent rise of the historical novel seems to support de Groot’s suggestion that its popularity may be due to a highly successful marketing strategy. ”124 This is not to say that individual authors choose to write historical fiction because they think it will sell; indeed, there is no evidence that the authors studied in this book have made such a calculation or that they have been encouraged to do so by publishers. Nevertheless, writers and their works are subject to a consumer culture in which even the tensions between the higher mind of literature and the grubby hands of the market can be exploited by the industry.

At the same time, theoretical arguments that work by detaching, instrumentalizing, and applying categories found in critical works without regard for their intellectual setting further a critical practice that is ahistorical in nature. These tendencies may account for the absence of the kind of comparative studies of historical fiction that would shed a different light on the preoccupations of literary scholarship. While risking presentism over historical approaches, the contemporary reception of historical fiction has only begun to recognize and accept change in other disciplines, especially history.

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