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Title: Imagining the historical individual in works of historiographic metafiction
Author: Webb, Ryan.
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2005
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Historiographic metafiction - self-reflexive postmodernist fiction which incorporates historical events and personages, according to Linda Hutcheon's definition - offers a parodic critique of the epistemology and narrative forms of traditional historiography and historical fiction. Calling into question the totalising grand narratives of "official" history, it refigures the past into self-consciously fictional forms that problematise the ontological boundary between the "real" and "fictional" and challenges the predominant cultural sense of History as the public actions of the Great. Hutcheon's original study of the form, however, devotes little attention to works of historiographic metafiction centred on the fictionalised inner life and private experience of a real-world historical individual. My thesis is an attempt to at least partially rectify this oversight by offering readings of three such texts: Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang and Don DeLillo's Libra. By way of comparison, I also offer a reading of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, an influential historiographic metafiction in which the incorporation of historical personages is objective and peripheral, but in which the fictional refiguration of public history is nevertheless highly individualistic. This thesis contends that while postmodernist theory and fiction typically contest liberal humanist conceptions of the individual subject as autonomous and unified, these works of historiographic metafiction nevertheless use narratives of individual subjectivity - fragmented and socio-historically situated, interior and experiential, domestic and private - to challenge traditional historical discourse's pri vileging of the public and the momentous. I argue that Ondaatje' s, Carey's and DeLillo's texts both utilise and subvert the conventions of historical documentation and realist fiction in order to expose the artificiality of their own apparently authentic representation; by foregrounding their own authorial acts of narrative power, they ultimately reveal the irreducible absence of the "real" historical individual from both historical and fictional texts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available