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Sonderdrucke aus der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg


History and metafiction
Experientiality, causality, and myth

Originalbeitrag erschienen in:
Bernd Engler (Hrsg.): Historiographic metafiction in modern American and Canadian literature.
Paderborn [u.a.]: Schöningh, 1994, S. [81] - 101


History and Metafiction:
Experientiality, Causality, and Myth

Historical Metafiction at first sight appears to be a contradiction in terms. History
is supposed to refer to the Real, fiction to the Imaginary; and metafiction signify-
ing the self-reflexive strain, the postmodernist mode of writing, in turn suggests
playful invention and rampant irreferentality and therefore seems to conflict with
the realist connotations of the histori(ographOcal. All the same, in recent critical
work a connection has repeatedly been drawn between historical and fictional
modes of writing, proposing by way of argument that history is nothing but a
fiction with no immediate claims to a representation of the Real.' "Thus historians
can write only by combining within their practice the 'other' that moves and
misleads them and the real that they can represent only through fiction.' This
argument has been supported by reference to fictional techniques which are
observably employed in historiography. Histories, particularly those composed in
the nineteenth century, not only concentrate on major political figures and their
motives, decisions and personal weaknesses, they additionally use invented
dialogues, free indirect discourse and sometimes even interior monologue, re-
shuffle the chronology for artistic effect 3 and cast their narratives into recognizable

The supposed factuality of history is presented as a mimetic reality-effect, an illusion of the Real,
by Roland Barthes, among others; Roland Barthes, "Le discours de l'histoire," Poitique, 49 (1982),
15-21. The fictionality of historical writing has been propounded forcefully in the following works:
Paul Veyne, Comment on icrit l'histoire (Paris, 1971); most of the essays in Geschichte — Ereignis
— Erzahlung, ed. Reinhart Koselleck and Wolf-Dieter Stempel (Munich, 1973); Michel de Certeau, The
Writing of History (New York, 1988, 1 1975); Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural
Criticism (Baltimore, 1978); Robert F. Berkhofer, "The Challenge of Poetics to (Normal) Historical
Practice," Poetics Today, 9/2 (1988), 435-452. The revolutionary insights of Droysen are noted in
Lionel Gossman, "History and Literature: Reproduction or Signification," The Writing of History:
Literary Forms and Historical Understanding, ed. Robert H. Canary and Henry Kozicki (Madison, WI,
1978), 3-39.
2 de Certeau, The Writing of History, 14.
3 See, e.g., the excellent study by Ann Rigney, The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three

Narrative Histories of the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1990), as well as her earlier "Du recit histo-
rique: La prise de la Bastille selon Michelet (1847)," Poitique, 75 (Sept. 1988), 267-278. More recent-
ly, Philippe Carrard has undertaken to examine the workings of Annales school historiography in
Poetics of the New History: French Historical Discourse from Braudel to Chartier (Baltimore, 1992).

. cannot be partitioned off into historical data without a prior conceptualization. in history data may have a basis in a reality beyond the text but are nevertheless constructed entities since the flow of events. On the contrary. indeed. 6 See Veyne. the thesis of history's entirely fictional nature has come precisely from critics interested in the linguistic make-up of historical writing. They include the historical piecing together of what must have happened from a frequently daunting amount of so-called historical evidence: witnesses' reports. 1983). 82 Monika Fludernik generic modes of literary origin: satire. Narrative Logic: A Semantic Analysis of the Historian's Language (The Hague." The Writing of History. tragedy or comedy. Ankersmit. ibid. I should hasten to add. 6 Nevertheless. it seems to me. and de Certeau's incisive discussion of the very fictional effect of historical reliability which is the consequence of history's narrativization: "It [i. ergo propter hoc). of happenings (Geschehen)..] 5 les 'faits' n'existent pas a l'etat isole: l'historien les trouve tout organises en ensembles oil ils jouent le role de causes. "For our understanding of fiction needs the contrast with history as much as our understanding of history needs the contrast with fiction. 4 See Paul Veyne's enlightening remarks on the constructedness of historical data or facts: S. occasions. necessarily eliminating. Mink." The Writing of History. 7 Louis 0. It takes relations of coexistence as coherence. 8 In particular see the work of Anne Rigney and F. fins. 93-94. restructuring and recon- stituting events in order to transform them into historical data. 45. . 148f. in so far as historians are telling a story (and not all historians do these days). and so forth. one can exaggerate the fictionality of historiog- raphy. Tropics of Discourse."' These differences. the inherent metaphorical slippage of historical discourse in its narrativized shape] carries causality off in the direction of successivity (post hoc.' Another argument that is frequently adduced in support of the 'fictionality thesis' is the reference to the constructedness of both fictional and historical discourse. archival registers and documents. they are attempting to achieve storytelling effects which are comparable to those of literary fiction." Comment on kilt l'histoire. The distinctions which one needs to draw between history and fiction are to be situated not on the textual plane (at least not necessarily so) but on the levels of production and reception. The teleology of historical writing. and the fictionality markers which they have disclosed in the discourse of historiography do indeed bespeak a heavy reliance on literary devices and techniques. such that a causal or at least contributory function can be assigned to them. It is for these reasons that history can so easily be read as literature and vice versa. Whence the authority which historical discourse needs in order to uphold itself: what it loses in rigor must be compensated for by an increase in reliability. etc. Whereas the story is pure invention in the case of literature. pretextes. hasards. previous historical See Hayden White. do not primarily derive from the textual surface of such writing. "Narrative Form as a Cognitive Instrument. is generally acknowl- edged to be an imposition by the historian.e.R. failing to observe the very important differences between historical and fictional writing. 5 Historical data become significant only once they acquire a position in a chain of sequentiality or a chain of argument. The likelihood of statements is constantly substituted for their verifiability.' It is also true that.

meanings. 781. Such texts can.!. Nineteenth-century histories frequently no longer provide historically adequate evidence and engage in historiographically suspect kinds of argument. Fictional reinterpretations of this kind occur with particular insistence 9 Cf. titles and author's names significantly determine the reader's latitude of interpretation''. to name just a few obvious examples. particularly by generic elements in the (sub)title. humorous asides. the knotty question of causality. Likewise. teleology. Comment on icrit l'histoire. be enjoyed as narrative versions of 'proper' histories with an indeterminate claim to historical accuracy and truth. focalization. Compare Dorrit Cohn's "Fictional versus Historical Lives: Borderlines and Borderline Cases. The historian's fabu/a is thus a fabula which he has in turn elicited from previous texts and which he now textualizes into an 'ordinary' narrative (sjuzhet) by means of the well-known discourse operations of narrativization: emplotment. 3-30. Factual Narrative. however. 744-755." Poetics Today.. vol. There are. 775-804. presenting character's conciousness.) Once a historian has pieced together a chronology of events and has found a logically (and psychologically) consistent explanation for the succession and causal depend- ency between them. Joyce's Ulysses.' The first job of the historian is therefore one that bears an uncanny resemblance to the puzzle game in which a reader of the typical (post)modernist grand narrative has to engage when trying to resurrect a simple chronology. archaeological and biological evidence. History and Metafiction 83 presentations. reader-oriented entertainment value. (I am thinking of novels such as Proust's Recherche." and Dorrit Cohn's remarks in her "Signposts of Fictionali- ty.e. scenic dialogues. some fictions deliberately display their fictionality (although to entirely different effect) and they therefore intentionally undermine the realist illusion which most fictional and historical narrative relies on. etc. a connection between events. especially those of an austere academic per- suasion. and her "Signposts of Fictionality" with Gerard Genette's "Fictional Narrative. or Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow." The Journal of Narrative Technique. 11/4 (1990). as both Cohn and Genette have recently proposed. 11/4 (1990). il l'est toujours incomplêtement et lateralement. i. Cortazar's Cambio de pie!. 19/1 (1989). 1984). Some histories." Poetics Today. 14: "[. can in many cases transform texts into a referential or fictional genre which contradicts that of their original conception. these insights are then due to be retextualized in story form. Veyne. also explicitly discuss their methodology — the sources used.1 en aucun cas ce que les historiens appellent un evenement n'est saisi directement et entierement. etc. referential. . transl. an interpretation of motivation and causality from what at first appears to be an opaque chaotic mass of unrelated details in textualized shape. additional explicit markers which quite openly constrain interpretation in the direction of historical. by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago.). esp.. Time and Narrative. though constrained by such textual markers. Thus. a travers des documents ou des temoignages. the problems which these presented for interpretation. however. The reader's interpretation of a text. Paul Ricoeur has likewise emphasized the deri- vational and intertextual nature of historical writing. causal explication and (non-obligatorily) stylistic and aesthetic literarization (reshuffling of the chronology.

which we recognize as having been pressed into the service of ideological simplifications whose fictionality is all too apparent. and will suggest that historical writing lacks experientiality and hence narrativity. a pastime that has become increasingly popular as the general reader finds historiographic discourse less and less 'read- able. whereas. 84 Monika Fludernik in those texts which employ what are now perceived to be dated explicatory techniques. it is argued. serves to underline the historiographer's cautious and circumspect treatment of available evidence and therefore enhances the realist illusion. in the fictional realm. the creative inventiveness of the writer is foregrounded much to the detriment of the realist illusion. . It is therefore no coincidence that the great historiographic metafictionists are writing precisely during that period. A third argument that is reiterated in support of the fictionality of histori- ographic discourse feeds from our experience of the actual world as a chaotic plethora of unrelated details.' The recent genres of the nonfiction novel and the new journalism" in fact cater to exactly this kind of readership. History and fiction can therefore be argued to share a textual narrative pattern which lends itself to reinterpretation but reposes on entirely different writing techniques which may each implant a textual meta- narrative trace in the discourse. relying on perceivably nineteenth-century psychological or philo- sophical and indeed moral persuasions. 1986). For the moment I would like to briefly clarify some aspects and indeed subcategories of the conceptions of 'history' as well as present a discussion of the concepts of narrativity and causality. "Who is to say what is fact and what is fiction?" It is this situation which critics have postulated to be at the root of historiographic metafiction. 1977) and Barbara Foley. Vonnegut' s Slaughterhouse Five. and which is argued to reflect the climate of the American 60s and 70s. an entirely different interpretative renegotiation of a text than would be the read- ing of (historical) novels as history. In the post-modern world. In the course of this argument I will maintain that fictional narrativity is based on the quality of narrative experience (experientiality). one's worst fantasies are becoming true. As Raven Quickskill says in Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada. actual events exceed fictional scenarios in their grotesqueness. NC. in fact. To read Macaulay as fiction is. Pynchon' s Gravity's . NY. Fact and Fiction: The New Journalism and the Nonfiction Novel (Chapel Hill. paradoxicality and incomprehensibility. in historical writing. Telling the Truth: The Theory and Practice of Documentary Fiction (Ithaca. or in the work of Hawkes and DeLillo. however. Metanarrative discourse. producing representations of a chaotic world such as those found in Heller' s Catch 22. paying particular attention to the range of historical models used and to the cross-fertilization between the new history of the mentalites and private life schools on the one hand and the concerns of the novel (traditional and postmodern) on the other. - Rainbow. I will then return to historiographic metafictioiind analyze some of its most prominent features as "For these genres see John Hollowell. I will return to this posimodernist mode shortly.

' and the origin." de Certeau. and the bankruptcy of empirical historiography can nowhere be recognized more thoroughly than in the disappearance of the age-old question of historical cause and effect. paying particular attention to the parodic reinstatement of the mythic prototype of historiography in some contemporary novels. casting a surreptitious eye across the Atlantic to briefly include Adam Thorpe's Ulverton (1992) in the discussion. It combines what can be thought. 39 (1942). I will suggest that the term his- toriographic metafiction has to be limited in its application.' 4 Historical enquiry of the Annales school type has tended to somewhat blur this basic failure of historical science as an empirical discipline by shifting the empha- 12 "History is probabally our myth. Indeed. the 'thinkable. 35-48. starting with Hempel" — according to which the sequence of historical events should be explained on the basis of generally valid historical rules. esp. and the reconstruction of such a chain of events is undertaken in accordance with firm institutional guidelines designed to ensure a maximum of objectivity. That such rules have never been unearthed is by now a critical commonplace. History and Metafiction 85 they relate to the models of historical discourse types. I. Even more than sociology. 13 Karl Hempel. Latin-Amer- ican magic realism. I will conclude this essay with what I believe to be one of the most fascinating historiographic fictions of recent times. Time and Narrative. the nonfiction novel and autobio- graphical new journalism. On the covering-law model see also Ricoeur. in conformity with the way in which a society can understand its own working. 121-143. remaining fmally trapped in singular events and their motivated but not rule- governed successivity. one can argue that an entirely new genre has been born from a confluence of fabulation. noting the specificity (if not singularity) of historical events (73-75) and the "sublunar" kind of causality operative in historical argument (176-209. a new genre that has allowed itself to accommodate a new historical mythology' 2 and also subscribes to metafictional writing techniques. is quite frank about this. that is. 21. "The Function of General Laws of History. the subject matter of history has resisted the attempt at empirical explanatory analysis. Not even the statistical method has managed to document a sufficient number of recurrent statistical tendencies to vouchsafe for causal explanatory models. What is History? Causality and the Everyday Concept of Historical Explanation In contemporary criticism the concept of the historical has come to be defined largely in terms of the referential or the institutional." The Journal of Philosophy. Such an account of current his- torical practice frequently leaves out of sight the earlier causal preoccupations of the historical profession — those. . George Garett's The Succession (1989). 178f. Veyne. 14 Compare the earlier passage from de Certeau quoted in fn. History appears to be that which we reconstruct to have happened in the past. Comment on ecrit Phis- wire. The Writing of History.). 5. the metafictional genre. since one now finds too many very different works classed in the category.

resulting in the famous histoire de mentalites and the history of the longue duree. boys will be boys. Ricoeur in Time and Narrative. In fact. such as they emerge in historical writing. are very much post-factum rationalizations based on common sense (not to say commonplace) insights into human nature: power will be abused. to processes and developments whose historical development quite obviously cannot be explained on the basis of concerted human action. is not a real cause and effect argument. However. which seemed to be more immediately determined by human agency. history deals in the accumulation and combination of contingencies which happen to result in certain changes and developments!' Contingency and chance.e. Even this limited causal pattern. climatological. Such reorientations towards the complex entities of natural and man-made forces shift the focus from historical events. In fact. Historical laws. empirically valid causality cannot be postulated in this realm. 96f. plausible reasons) and a plethora of contingencies which all apparently contributed to pushing a certain constellation of circumstances into one direction rather than another." On contingency see esp. 86 Monika Fludernik sis away from historical events and major protagonists in the political realm to the questions of long-term historical developments as they emerge from the geograph- ical. the processes of economic development or of shifting beliefs among people resist causal determina- tion even more forcefully than do the historiopolitical 'events' of traditional his- tory. 17 Such truisms can fruitfully be compared to novelistic 'rules of life' such as the ones studied by . as should have been clear from the start. but conjectures that are supported by a mass of detail." 24. one needs to note. as far as the explanation of historical data goes. although historians are able to provide very good possible reasons (i. 15 That the nineteenth-century discourse of historical destiny and of impeccable objectivity owes 16 no slight debt to the omniscient narrator convention of nineteenth-century novelistic discourse and its invocation of reliability is noted in Gossman's excellent "History and Literature. Such an enquiry therefore backgrounds the question of causality in the actantial sense and instead appears to allow for a causal model that is closer to that of the natural sciences. explanations in history after all remain conjectures. either. cannot be eliminated from history (and only imperfectly suppressed in historiographic discourse) precisely because historical destiny (a fictional strategy in some kinds of traditional histories 16) is no longer admissible as a last-ditch resource. Historiography never manages to explain in an empirical fashion why certain events took place or why institutions developed into new directions. laws which can be tested since they recur in determinable environments. Historians who are frank about their discipline will probably argue that their aim is to collect as much information about synchronic states and to develop theses about which of the changes occurring in such states may have resulted in more complex historical shifts. which are such crucial factors also in fictional plots. institutional and ideological realms. The model for such explanatory theses is not that of an empirical science in which unchangeable laws can be observed to apply.

Dorian Tiffeneau (Paris. Hence the recurring need to re-evaluate historical knowledge in the light of present-day developments. interes — — - siert uns nicht darum. The continual rewriting of history therefore not only reinterprets the significance of historical events for present-day concerns° but also helps to explain present circumstances as resulting from a series of non- teleological developments.h. was war. Comment on icrit l'histoire. even though few historians would confess to these 'low' origins. "This can be explained from history. 2° The folk theory of historical explanation under the catch phrase "Das kann man nur historisch . leading from the Counter-Reformation to the Reformation and back to the abuses within the Catholic Church (in so far as these are perceived to have triggered the Reformation). and the 'meaning' which today allows it to be understood as such" (34)— a distinction which reflects that between meaning (as denotation) and significance. from there back through the history of State/Church relations (the Investiture conflict) to the origins of the Christian State religion and the origins of Christianity and the origins of these origins." — "Why did people emigrate for religious reasons. indem es noch wirkt. weil es war. If somebody says. den sittlichen Kosmos nennen. in fact. sondern weil es in gewisseth Sinn noch ist." Compare also de Certeau's distinction between "the 'meaning' which has become an object." Geschichte Ereignis Erzahlung. History and Metafiction 87 A second crucial aspect of historical writing concerns the necessarily retrodictive character of historical explanation' and the intrinsic exposure of the historical past to the reconceptualizations of recent and present-day shifts in interest. Teleology. 23: S." 19 See de Certeau. "Geschichte der Kunst und Historic."2° the implication is that there is precisely such a chain of develop- Michael Riffaterre in his Fictional Truth (Baltimore. 1990).." — One immediately notices how this series of apparent cause and effect arguments allows itself to be extended indefinitely. d." — "Because of the Counter-Reformation.] any reading of the past — however much it is controlled by the analysis of documents — is driven by a reading of current events. The folk model of historical explanation can best be illustrated from everyday usage: "Why are there German-speaking communities in Minnesota?" — Answer: "Because of large-scale immigration. Causality as it surfaces in historiography therefore frequently reposes on the folk model of historical explanation rather than the scientific notion of causality. welche wir die geschichtliche. The term "origin" is of course fully appropriate in this connection and should replace cause and effect patterns. 193 and 199. Compare as well the quotation from Droysen in Hans-Robert Jauss. weil es in dem ganzen Zusammenhang der Dinge steht. sittliche Welt. 1980). See also von Wright's remarks quoted in Jean-Luc Petit's "La narrativiti et le concept de l'explication en histoire." La Narrativite. 18 Veyne. ed. 189: "Das. The Writing of History. is what we obtrude on the historical evidence on the basis of our informed hindsight of how things happened to turn out. 176-209." — "Why was there large-scale emigration?" — "Because people went into exile for economic and religious reasons. ideology and mentalities.

attempted to fill the vacuum of meaning left gaping by the loss of theologically validated meaning. "History and Literature. usually the birth of the protagonist. History does not prove any necessary sequences of events. 24 Ibid. Liibbe's examination of the folk theory of historical explanations relies on the existence of perceivable irregularity. 23 In truly para- doxical fashion. 1979). "Was heiBt. 544." Theorie und Erzahlung in der Geschichte. 22 Unlike history. but once events have occurred one can usually trace them through a series of stages which have suc- ceeded chronologically and therefore contributed to the present net effect. 65-84. that which only can be explained historically is precisely some- thing that resists explanation in the first place 24 because it cannot be referred to a meaning (Sinn) or causal necessity (Gesetzmafligkeit) but merely to a series of coincidences. however." 25 However. however. Such (artificial) end points where discordant elements are harmonized do not occur in real life which continues un- abated with no mental resting place or resolution point in sight. attempting in proper scholarly fashion to test a number of hypotheses about the distribution and extent of determining factors. Jiirgen Kocka and Thomas Nipperday (Munich. 542-554. Comment on icrit l'histoire. ed. That nineteenth- century histories attempted to provide master narratives to make human life mean- ingful in no way proves that history as a real-life entity is like that at all. 63-65." Geschichte — Ereignis — Erzahlung. 21 This folk model of historical explanation. The example of the German-speaking population in Minnesota illustrates just such a synchronic difference which history naturalizes by an account of a diachronic series of developmental stages. . fictional narrative can afford to start with a clean slate. chaos scenario that one finds in so many metafictional texts from Pynchon to DeLillo and Coover. and the construction of historical explanation has resulted in precisely the kind of paranoia vs. Veyne also erklaren" has been the subject of two stimulating papers by Hermann Liibbe." 544f. 22 As Gossman. "Was heiBt: 'Das kann man nur historisch erklaren. 88 Monika Fludernik ments which are bound together by a narrative logic of motivated sequentiality and in which coincidence plays a crucial role. History in its nineteenth-century manifestations indeed. as it does in the Realist novel. needs to be kept separate from the discourse of historiography which negates such a loose 'one thing after another' approach. of present-day phenomena which require a reference to a (retrospective) series of developments which happened to result in their synchronic oddity. and "Wieso es keine Theorie der Geschichte gibt. points out. 23 Compare especially Liibbe. 21 In this respect historical explanation indeed resembles fictional narrative which traces largely coincidental developments to their fmal resolution. and its fascination may derive in part from the entirely unreal- istic promise of eventual resolution of the plot.. 25 See Veyne. Ltibbe here concurs with Paul Veyne's illuminating remarks on the fundamental utterance of the historian: "That's interesting. Aristotle defined history precisely in terms of contiguity and made this to be one of his criteria for the superiority of (unified) poetry over (patchwork) history." 8-10. like art.

operates by means of emplotment and is based not on empirical cause-and-effect causality but on motivated sequentiality. philosophical vantage point and constitutes an analysis of the human predicament. has to concentrate on the larger context of processes affecting entire classes and populations 27 and therefore treats only secondarily of individuals. . entirely different in their conceptual make-up. "Fictional versus Historical Lives. Fiction is therefore tradi- tionally much closer to evoking for the reader the experience of being in the world. like fiction. on the other hand. whereas history. whereas Liibbe tries to raise the folk model of 'That can only be ex- plained historically' to the one and only theoretical model. History and fiction are. Instead of following the presence of Germans in Minnesota in the naive and sweeping manner of folk theory. however. which interacts with the argumentative presentation of explanatory theses. with a super- added level of teleological significance which is (in the case of historiography) explanatory of an eventually known. and (in the case of fiction) aesthetically or morally-philosophically motivated. but they also interpret human experience from complementary points of view. who moved and who stayed at home. concentrates on individual human experience even if that experience is viewed from the perspective of a general. even in the life of kings and statesmen. History relies on the validation of historical evidence. etc. Present-day singulari- ties may of course alert the historian to interesting outcomes of historical pro- cesses. A historian would therefore tend to produce a history of German emigration rather than a concatenation of (very suspect) causal stages in a series of explanatory steps. expectation. from what social and reli- gious backgrounds they came. Fiction. where they tended to settle in North America. From the previous remarks I would like to draw the following conclusions. an imagined past. 177." 26 History and fiction therefore both concern themselves with the tensions between an actual vs. What I am trying to suggest is that there is a necessary functional difference between the fictional and the historical mode." 3. History. but that this difference cannot be resolved in terms of the traditional dichot- 26 Time and Narrative. and _circumspection of individual agents. outcome. but no historian resolves such oddities by reference to a loose series of contingencies per se but will necessarily ask a number of much more complex questions. with history describing human interaction on a transindividual plane (reaching into the realms of the institutional and economic) and fiction depicting the typically human on the basis of an individual's transpersonal relations. It no longer seems to refer to the living present of a subjective consciousness. the historian will outline precisely when what specific groups of Germans crossed the Atlantic. Ricoeur says in reference to historical temporality: "[the epistemological status of historical time] appears to have no direct connection to the tim_e_of the memory. History and Metafiction 89 gives their due to the historical documents and to the sifting and weighing of evidence. ' Compare Cohn's initial statement that history usually deals with a plural subject.

But all this means is that the Real cannot be grasped on the historical plane. Berldiofer. on the other hand. Historical writing. This reference has instead been somewhat displaced. we cannot conclude that the reference to the real is obliterated. is not only made up of prior writings and evidence. limits them. or if the narrative of facts takes on the allure of a "fiction" belonging to a given type of discourse. 3° History therefore needs to be consistent externally as well as internally. the real. 43. finally. " Ibid. It is implied by the creation of "models" (destined to make objects "thinkable") proportioned to practices through their confrontation with what resists them.. 28 The fabricatedness of historical narrative in no way elides the existence of a Real even if it fails to circumscribe it.. like fiction. I may have seemed to suggest that history and fiction are radically and incom- mensurably different from each other. Fiction therefore needs to cohere with our understanding of human nature and only secondarily with our historical knowledge. creates an imaginative narrative. "The Challenge. just as it certainly cannot be grasped in physics without the intermediary discourse of theoretical models describing and thereby constituting the Real even in the present. Perhaps. Recent accounts of the 'fictionality' of historical writing have been correct in pointing out that historiography. The Writing of History. It is because fiction attempts to propose that which has always been true about the human predicament that it chooses the example of individual experience to make its case. If therefore the story of "what happened" disappears from scientific history (in order. and makes appeal to other models. by inserting it within a particular (or historical) economy of social production. configures a plot and does not directly represent a historical given which would pre-exist the historical discourse as a categorizable entity without always already owing its conceptualization to a prior historiographic discourse. a flow of events and an inter- active contiguity with other known historical subjects. It is no longer immediately given by narrated or "re- constituted" objects. in contrast. In this fashion. by holding to the idea of discogrse and to its fabrication. but that real is a historically specific real in the case of history and an imaginary singular of ideal truth in fictional writing.90 Monika Fludernik omy between the Real and the Imaginary. to appear in popular history). through the clarification of what has made this activity possible. That the above basic dichotomy is not an 2' De Certeau." 439-441. . as posit it as that which is other than itself?" Both history and fiction therefore need to employ an illusionist discourse which pretends to refer to the Real. or sketches it only imperfectly. if only that of the witness report. we can better apprehend the nature of the relations that it holds with its other. 3° Cf. and it is precisely this contiguity with other historical accounts that allows for the falsification of historical explanations. 21. too. it also needs to cohere with these writings and project a continuum. doesn't language not so much implicate the status of the reality of which it speaks. for instance.

however. reproducing on an entirely fictional level what historians like Le Roy Ladurie performed for medieval com- munities such as Montaillou. 34 See Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. 1981). suffice it to note how crucial was the importance of the autobiography in the early struggle for the truth claim of fiction. ' Foley. fiction starts to adopt the present-thy concerns of the mentalites school. "See. choosing to write personal histories of current events (the nonfiction novel. did not bring about the functional differentiation that began to emerge in the second half of the sixteenth century. but the crucial concepts of historical evidence. history shows up in the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century novel primarily in two disguises — in the subgenre of the historical novel. factual parameters. exploits this very generic indeterminacy. 1987). . 1600 1740 (Baltimore. in its turn. 36f. where Foley first retracts her earlier either or position. 32 See ibid. 34 H. and in the general referential factor within the narrative text. by Barbara Bray (Harmondsworth. meta- fictional texts may adopt the very shape of historical genres. I would like to insist that the reader keeps utilizing prior conceptions of the historical and the fictional which initially appear to be irreconcilable attitudes towards the authenticity of a specific text." Genre. Turner. however. As regards the beginnings of the novel. The Novel and History At this point we may well ask what the relation between the novel and history has been within the fictional text itself. The Origins of the English Novel. 335. Telling the Truth." In this respect. As regards the late medieval and early sixteenth-century periods. 31 The historical novel and the (histori- cal) biography. 1983). transl. And it is no coincidence that (auto)biogra- phy is precisely that subgenre of history which most closely resembles the experientiality of narrative presentation. the new journalism) or inventing the memoirs of a historical figure. Like Barb= Foley. 1294 - 1324. and historiographic metafiction. See also Lennard J. even if only on the basis of personal witness reports. History and Metafiction 91 absolute. need to be situated precisely in the intermediate realm between history and fiction. 107-112. and the self- reflexive play with. allowing for the ironic (ab)use of. After this initial period. especially the ground-breaking study of Michael McKeon.. Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village. "The Kinds of Historical Fiction: An Essay in Definition and Methodology. - " Joseph W. which claims to be coextensive with historiographic presentations of a specific period. the epic - and the romance were opposed to the history and the vita. 32 Like the historical novel. The mere fact that the novel has traditionally taken history as one of its most favorite themes illustrates that — after the initial period of differentiation between the two genres in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" — novels and histories have after all remained different genres even if they cross-fertilized one another. should require no insistence on my part. 12 (1979). Davis's Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (New York.

Ogg. If postmodernist works of fiction as well as the non-fiction novel therefore 'feel' different from our prototypical concept of the historial novel. As Scott's work demonstrates very forcefully. Charles Brockden Brown's tale of Edgar Huntly's adventures in the American wilds at least pretend to a realistically conceived location of their unbelievable and fantastic plots. for instance in George Eliot's Mill on the Floss. Thus Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow includes 'snatches' from the 'history' of World War II which are very specific. Even the most fabulous romances such as Hawthorne's The Marble Faun or. generically discrete concept of the historical novel except with regard to form. 15. 8 (1991- 1992). particularly of the nineteenth century. yet closer to the history of private life than to the traditional schoolbook history texts pur- 36 There are numerous references in Mill to the good old times as well as to a village chronicle with the town's legend of the Holy Virgin appearing to St. Such history as a background may be of a variety of shapes and may reach well into the recent past. Historical reference in the historical novel appears to be a matter of proportion: emphasis on the real historical events with secondary emphasis on the merely fictional protagonists." who proposes instead three types of histori- cal novel based on the texts' relation to documentary evidence. 164 fn. pastness or remoteness from the audience's geographical and temporal location. earlier. 92 Monika Fludernik To start with the latter. and that only in the sense that twentieth-century self-styled historical novels usually imitate the realist novel (and therefore also the nineteenth-century historical novel) as well as complying with a definition of the historical-real that has become outmoded in both professional historiography and progressive fiction. situates itself in the realm of real geography and real history — with very few utopian exceptions.' The so-called historical novel therefore constitutes only an intensification of such hybridization of real and fictional reference within the ordinary run-of-the- mill tale of the nineteenth century. Much of the concept of the historical novel remains a matter of taste or expedien- cy. and 168. 37 The definition of the historical novel is taken for granted in many studies. Compare my "Subversive Irony: Reflectorization. War and Peace is much less of a historical novel than Thornton Wilder's The Ides of March. and George Eliot's Romola much less so than Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. even if that knowledge may be of the vaguest. the distinctions between the historical novel on the one hand and the romance or tale of contemporary life on the other are fluid in the extreme. this is because historical 'reality' itself is now conceived of as fantastic and chaotic and because the writing styles employed in postmodernist writing deliberately mirror this pre- dicament of general disorientation. a failing pointed out persuasively by Turner." REAL. "The Kinds of Historical Fiction. Trustworthy Narration and Dead-Pan Narrative in Mill on the Floss. . To choose a fictional location in the dim past is always at the same time to invoke historical knowledge. a topic that is in fact thematized in many Victorian novels. all fiction. 37 Present-day historiographic metafiction therefore cannot be fruitfully opposed to a unified.

the illusions and prejudices of medieval or present-day witches. for instance. appears to be simply the updated late-twentieth-century version of precisely the same genre (the historical novel) which has meanwhile adapted to twentieth- century conceptualizations of the novel and of the historical. fantasy or madness are slowly regaining recognition as historically significant phenomena whose 'reality' consists primarily in the authenticity and presentness of these phenomena for their 'experi- encers. Not only is real life demonstra- bly more fantastic and grotesque than enlightenment culture would have vouched for. even if they are not proclaimed to be "historiographic. and the like. Thus presentations of black community life are frequently told from the inside perspective of a few protagonists who help the non-black reader to empathize with black attitudes. and so on. postmodernist fiction has already been informed by the most recent developments in historiography. from Beckett's fictional personae to 38 These authentic experiences cannot. History and Metafiction 93 porting to deal with our recent past. the insane. on the crucial notion of praxis as disjoined from consciousness. Whereas.' as Pynchon calls them. in the classic type of the historical novel. or 'the preterite. Such presentations of black community life very closely resemble the techniques of historians attempting to resurrect the 'feel' of private life in the Middle Ages. political events and major political figures were responsible for the historic- ity or authenticity index of these writings. whether in the shape of the exotic past or the present-day unknown. They are necessarily predicated on the presupposition that the subject of (hi)story is the Other. however. faith healers. The history of private life. 212-249. be treated historically as insights into the psyches of historical subjects — the interiority of experience remains irretrievable. . Comment on icrit l'histoire. especially the example of human sacrifice (216). quoting internal evidence only as the direct discourse of the Other which remains 'framed' by the naturalizing historical discourse.' 38 Historians and fiction writers alike suspend disbelief. In this manner historiography has in fact repeated developments perceivable already in the great novels of this century which have notoriously chosen to present the psyches of 'marginal' individuals — the criminal. the experience of 'heretical' communities. See Veyne. from this perspective. A brief survey of other postmodern writings yields a similar convergence. religious fanatics. From the Tin Drum to Gravity's Rainbow. Many recent developments in fictional writing. as a genre seems to converge easily with writing strategies observable in minority literature." nevertheless reproduce or re-enact new forms of histori- ography. It is therefore not really fruitful to exclude such metafictional novels from the genre of the historical novel since their departure from nineteenth-century models is due to a reconceptu- alization of the historical and of historiography as much as to a difference in fictional styles and techniques. taking seriously the mentalites. an interlacing of the fictional and the historical-real. Historiography can discuss such experiences only in an external fashion as practices and routines and rituals. to submerge herself within a culture that initially seemed foreign and therefore incomprehensible. Areas of what used to be called superstition. Historiographic metafiction. the homeless.

myths frequently become major reading models that require operative assent . although they share a human rather than divine texture. religious ecstatic mystical experience) remains off limits as that which cannot be checked against 'facts. 94 Monika Fludernik Marilinne Robinson's Housekeeping. seems to be the reinvention of myth as a viable attitude in relation to the past. It is no news that the battle between these dichotomies lies at the heart of the fiction of Pynchon or Heller. so that serious treatments of middle class life appear to have retreated to the popular novel. fiction has increasingly come to assert the exceptional and hitherto marginal over and against the American or European default value of the WASP family. the mythic and the occult parallels the writings of the so-called Magic realists which are precisely of a postcolonial provenance. In the absence of accepted parameters for verification. restructure and rewrite historical conciousness. and they display a quite intentional disregard for rationality and social con- formity. from the portrayal of communes and social rebel groups to the depiction of the harsh reality of immigrants and guest workers' lives. If history is no longer experienced as a rational process. With the disappearance of causality as the ordering myth of historiography and with the demise of both causality and teleolo- gy in the realm of fiction. by con- trast. otherwordly and mythic have come to replace the position of control. then the competing genres of oral storytelling. objectivity and order. One of the most noticeable developments in recent fiction. seep in to replace. of a large variety of forms and contents. The unplanned. These myths are. Indeed. Rushdie' s Midnight's Children. particularly in what is here called historiographic metafiction. and the realm of the purely expe- riential (visions. the random. historical 'truth' can no longer be invoked for such accounts — although their subversive force is decisively restricted within historiography due to its institutional framing: heretics' experiences keep being opposed to the views of their antagonists. Coover or DeLino. of family history retailed in ever more fabulous shape. has a nightmarish quality of chaos. the paradoxical. the explicit rejection of the Western humanist and technological tradition is here being carried out in fictional terms. This resurrection of the fabulous. mythic accounts have again taken over. and TV and film culture. the uncanny. but this resistance to order and rationality is more than offset by the imaginative exuberance and playfulness of the exercise (a feature prevalent also in the Latin American novel) and by the reinvention of the mythic. of the tall tale. Such choices on the part of historians and novelists alike to concentrate on ethnic identity or societal marginality and on the precariousness of human exis- tence obviously reflect both ideological and aesthetic preoccupations if not agen- das. That type of history is taken so much for granted that it can now only be parodied. however.' In historiographic metafiction. or of the accounts of otherwordly ex- periences. like Pyn- chon's scenarios. feeding not merely from a political 60s' culture mentality but also from the more intellectual attitudes of anti- colonialism and anti-logocentrism. the fabulous as well as the irrational. British fiction. the bourgeois middle-class household.

memories and thoughts) and of the selection. Others are "historical" only in the sense that they lend themselves to being read as an implicit presentation of current historical events even though. or of the various accounts of the Rosenberg case (Doctorow's The Book of Daniel. Coover's The Public Burning. As with the more traditional fantastic.g. as I will argue. they do not refer to present-day concerns (Heller's Catch 22 or Mailer's Why are we in Vietnam?). Before turning to George Garrett's The Succession a perfect example of the — successful merging of historical and fictional concerns — let me briefly point to the scale of techniques employed in such mergings and inter-correlations between 'reality. Some of these texts concentrate on a major historical (i. Turner's category of the "disguised historical novel. a model for a new historical novel which reflects more recent theoretical interest in the past for its own sake. Garrett's text can be regarded as indicative of a new historical consciousness within the realm of fiction." but also the fictional prerogative of invention (of minor characters. and the replacement of protagonists' names (thereby creating a kind of roman a clef). rearrangement and "falsification" of the historical evidence. This is the case of the non- fiction novel. Turner. History and Metafiction 95 within the fictional world even if this suspension of disbelief is soon counteracted by the audience's 'real world' experience. in oral history collections such as Studs Terkel's The Good War)." '° Cf. - like Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. from more historiographical or at least biographical novels all the way to texts which merely play with the presence of historical characters and situations. ° Other postmodernist novels merely include historiographic episodes (Doctorow's Rag Time). Fictionalizing techniques here include not only the inevitably fictional insight into the psyche of the various protagonists. 4 ' 39 Cf." "The Kinds of Historical Fiction. 'real') event and relate it by means of fictional techniques. 41 The allusion is to the New Historicism and to cultural criticism in its analysis of sixteenth . and therefore resembles a view of history close to that propounded in people's stories about their wartime experiences (e. ibid.e. I will now turn to George Garrett's The Succession (1983) as an instance of the use of metafictional techniques in the service of the fullest possible evocation of historical circumstances.' 'history' and 'fiction' as they appear in a number of historiographic metafictions. and that even in quite prominently self-reflexive texts such as Midnight's Children. Evanier's Red Love). and these may be fantastically distorted as well (Cohen's Beautiful Losers or Reed's Flight to Canada). and — at the same time — as an example of a post- modernist novel of indeterminacy in which its historical chronology superficially helps to anchor some of the disparate events within an order of sorts. Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. and of course of protagonists' dialogue. One may come across a wide spectrum of such alternative 'handlings' of history. of events and scenes. presents historical events from the perspective of individual experience. . the postmodern magic realist text requires sympathetic agreement. for instance Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. literally. In fact. and to reflections on historical and mythical knowledge with little 'real' historical background.

96 Monika Fludernik III. 1991). The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James (New York. or it does so at least superficially. The nobility's behavior is also motivated by the prospects of the queen's demise and the necessi- ty to inform the heir of this event. 475-481. nevertheless manages to keep individuals and their motives. failings. This is the closest Garrett gets to a mythology of the so-called "golden" Elizabethan age which is otherwise presented in some of its harsher and darker colors. Garrett goes out of his way to evoke a historical flavor rather than a fantastic-fictional one. The Succession centres on the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and James VI of Scotland. The succession of the queen. Nor is Garrett tempted by great remythologizations. a topic on which she refuses to' pronounce until the very last. ambitions and desires at the center of attention. her successor. The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James: History as Fiction and Fiction as History George Garrett's two novels The Death of the Fox (1971) and The Succession (1983) combine fictional techniques and historical or historiographical preoccupa- tions in a manner that initially appears to be very different from that of the historiographic metafictionalists. The Succes - sion providing an overview of the reign of Elizabeth I from a few chosen per- spectives.' or to be on the correct person's side ("Secre- tary: 1603. is the central thematic unit of the novel. Both novels deal with the Elizabethan-Jacobean period. a merry lad whose career was turned into that of a spy in the service of Lord William Cecil (the father of Sir Robert). Although much of the novel has no specific historical back- ground. . where we get extracts from their correspondence. who is after all dealing with the efficient intelligence service during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. with noblemen's rebellions and the entire secret service engineered by Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Robert Cecil trying to ensure the queen's safety (a major risk because no successor has been named). their patrons and through nineteenth-century literary and non-literary discourses. Whereas Pynchon and others emphasize people's subjection to external forces of political or ideological provenance. hinting at the queen's intuition of her own death and portraying Christmastide as merry even for the poor of her realm. all engulfed by the political whirlpool. inventing minor characters and their personal affairs. rubbing shoulders as he does with innkeepers. There are three of them. The messenger. The novel opens and closes with a scene from 1603. The Death of the Fox describing Sir Walter Ralegh's life and death. 42 See the "Courtier" section. and that in spite of treating subjects that would easily lend themselves to a fantastic and mythologizing treatment. provides the reader with an insight into ordinary people's concerns. The relationship between Elizabeth and James also occupies the very center of the novel. In this net of political intrigue minor characters are swallowed up." 51-55). Garrett.

with much monologizing by the protagonist in what needs to be defined as present-tense free indirect discourse. the narrative is third person omniscient present tense. and he is the only one (except for the reivers of section seven) who is not harassed into sycophancy and opportunism. but his writings also display a naive childlike trust and belief in God which illuminates the entire novel with a spiritual light. As it turns out in the final section. and in these five sec- tions. the uncanny visitor who attends a performance of the player and then goes on a drinking spree with him before he finally gets down to his real purpose. For fmancial reward the player has acted as a spy and is now nearly killed because he might know too much. the priest is a rather naive and unstable person. this section is a major tour de force since it is written in the second person form. History and Metafiction 97 scullery wenches. who opted out of a career at court and was unable to reach a reconciliation with his father. the interlude of Bloody Mary. and so he even receives some more money. of his trip south to London (a tour de force which introduces a geographically determined line of development — from the Scottish border to London) and of a series of reminiscences which provide a crash course in early Elizabethan history: the history of the queen's accession to the throne. The "Player" section also com- plements the novel's picture of the Elizabethan world by the locales of the theatre and the tavern. Luckily. The second person who is swallowed up by the manipulations engineered by the story's 'doers' is the priest. which consists of the papers found on him at his arrest. Sir William Cecil's ability to choose the right party. The third unimportant character is that of the player. the discomforts of being a spy and the meagre financial rewards of such work are all detailed compassionately through these supposed memories. Elizabeth's. . The priest is portrayed as an all too human person. The priest's documents are followed by a letter to Lord Walsingham which apologizes to him that the priest has died under torture without giving away any names. rocked with doubts at his own ability to withstand temptation and torture. By the end of the priest's section one has conceived a great respect for this man in spite of his obtrusive naivety. " That is to say. which narrate a kind of 'interior monologue. 43 Actually. Narratologically speaking. The weakest character in the book has therefore proved the most courageous. and who is in turn addressed as you (in the dialogue) by the player. this trip to London is yet to be performed.' 43 one gets a description of his indirect presence at the birth of James VI. The precariousness of court life and the dangers of exile. from the per- spective44 of the secret agent who comes to get the documents. the you refers to the protagonist. the documents also shed a substantial light on the eventual strength of his faith. the documents which he gathered turn out to be harmless. On the other hand. particularly for his humanity and humility. The messenger comes on stage five times. the reward (including a bath) still far ahead in the uncertain future. As we learn from the priest's section.

but the events appear to be manipulated through others to whom she succumbs and behind whom she hides. one of the main political figures of the 'story. . however. the death of the Queen. This is apparent from the start on the basis of fictional technique. Instead of a retelling. Elizabeth here merely provides a frame which is also the horizon of her life. an ordering of historical events. communicating with her by proxy. 45 On the other hand. Garrett's Succession therefore pro- duces a 'history' very close to the Annales style.' As one can already gather from this summary. thriving as they do on the political differences between Scotland and England. thus lending a more precise meaning to its definition as a historical novel: it deals with a specific historical period and it writes history in a recognizably historiographic mode." Scottish cattle thieves who engage in large-scale plunder across the English border. the Earl of Essex rebellion. excepting a few documents and the reference to actual historical figures. 45 That historiographic mode. One of the Queen's successes is that James allows his mother to be executed. does not comprise the linguistic and particularly narra- tological aspects of the novel which quite decisively put the text into the fiction category of writing. although a major protagonist in principle. The reivers are courageous people who live by their skill. of course. Likewise James. described in the intimacy of their minds in a reconstruction of their character and their musings which can hardly claim his- torical validity. The effect is an implicit histoire de mentalites of these people which also allows us a glimpse at their customs. The "Reivers" section consists of a storytelling session at which tall tales and ghost stories are related. and beyond this — through the charac- ters' involvement with political events — open themselves to a larger historical perspective from the people's vantage point. swayed by the hazy prospect of his own succession to Elizabeth. and Secretary Sir Robert Cecil. 98 Monika Fludernik Besides these three minor characters the reader is also introduced to the "Reivers. who was the first to tell James VI of his succession to the English throne but fell into disgrace and recovered preference under Charles I. Sir Robert Carey. Unlike most histories of the Elizabethan period in which the queen takes the center position and every- thing revolves around her. The remaining sections of the book deal with two more prominent characters: the above-mentioned courtier. life style and professional risks. the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (watched with disbelief by the priest). there is no real unitary plot to this novel. These historical figures are. by letter. it is a fragmented collection of vignettes which are linked by the reader's knowledge of historical events — Queen Elizabeth's accession. is somebody with very little substance and riddled with great doubts. her death. The Succession can also be described as a venture in meta- fiction. He apparently succumbs to the wiles of the Queen without ever having met her. For one thing. the birth of James VI. and are as yet little affected by the political events which impinge on the other characters. one gets a series of personal experiences which allow an insight into the Elizabethan mentalite. the presentation is a fictional one in most parts of the book.

Although Ulverton appears to be less of a historical novel than Garrett's ' The various sections center on the Queen's death in 1603 but are arranged in seemingly haphazard fashion. 1626. also incorporating many reminiscences: 1603-1566-1603-1587-1626 (1575). Such a contradictory technique immediately emphasizes the fictional nature of the text and it also constitutes a first metafictional element. This refusal of mythological signification and the reverting to authentic agents and events can be linked also with the inception of the novel as a genre where myths. the multi-perspectivism can be said to realistically reflect the absence of unitary meaning. Unlike The Succession. in a manifestation of a new paradigm or genre. Ulverton has a chronological structure. 1566. The Succession therefore combines both the historical and the metafictional in what one could describe as a modern history in the shape of fiction or a novel in the shape of Annales historiography. . Moreover. Particularly with regard to the chronological reahn46 this fractured discourse acquires a metafictional tone — after all. a film script. additionally. Such a new non-fabulous historical novel will have profited from the experiments of earlier postmodernist writing techniques and will resist the old historical novel's implica- tion with outmoded historical paradigms. This technique recalls both the oral style of an interventive narrator (the third person present tense narrative is colloquial) and at the same time allows for a trans- personal presentation of Elizabethan England. consisting as they do in a series of tales by former villagers or even internal monologues. The Succession is metafictional. too. 1603. needed to be opposed (both in the shape of the epic and in that of the prose romance). the lack of historical interpretation. 1566. 1602. on account of its fragmented structure which foregrounds selection and juxtapositon. 1626 (1603). stringing together episodes from successive stages of the history of Ulverton. 1566. 1602-1603. 1566. a village in Berkshire. it also makes possible the typologically impossible: an external inside view of characters' minds. The Succession there- fore appears to me to link the historiographic and the (meta)fictional in a truly remarkable manner. History and Metafiction 99 Although most sections are written in a third person omniscient present tense mode. they keep shifting into the third person character's interior monologue or free indirect discourse and have longish sections of pure internal focalization. written diary accounts and. These vignettes are highly fictional. a traditional historiographic concern. IV. too. 1602. Adam Thorpe's Ulverton (1992). 1602-1603. finally. It is on this paradoxical middleground that the experientiality of the 'new' history and the standard experientiality of narrative meet to produce a text that is bare of traditional causality (earlier a defining property for both history and fiction) and which keeps myth in abeyance — that. Concluding Remarks That The Succession is not the only such star on the horizon has recently been documented by a British novel.

fiction and history appear to differ in their paradigmatic emphasis on the experience of a restricted group of individuals on the one hand. the illusion of referentiality. social. but only historical writing sifts (prior documentary) sources and comments on the establishment of one plot outline or one explanation rather than the other. lending itself to be read as the documentation of the evolution of mentalities of English village folk from the Civil War to the present. on the other.' The historical novel. and it has more recent- ly taken account of ever more private areas of life which had before this been reserved to (auto)biography and fiction. Ulverton therefore demonstrates what fiction at its very best can do in the historical realm. 100 Monika Fludernik piece since it does not confine itself to a recognizable historical period. the so- called historical novel. on the trans- personal experience of a specific social group. Both fiction and history are discourses that reconfigure plots and therefore construct (alternative) realities rather than — as their rhetoric pretends — mimetically representing them. Whereas the subject of fiction therefore typically concerns the experience of frequently one specific human being and— across this medium — the quality of general human experience. and rely on. mores and ethics. yielding a number of different types and constellations which to no negligible extent depend on the different meanings of 'history' and 'the historical' that operate in them. Having said this much. it can be read as fiction (Michelet. and. class or nation in their synchronic or diachronic but in any case systematic relation to institutions and political. joining hands with the best of historiography in an evocation of lived human experience resurrected from the past. that particular era or township. that society. Besides Turner's three types of the historical . Historical writing not only relies on fictional techniques. it is in fact more of a history. in particular. On the contrary. there have always been numer- ous genres and writing modes situated on the borderline of fiction and history: all the biographical and autobiographical literature (including travellogues). Both deploy. ideological and religious settings with which this group of historical sub- jects is implicated. one needs to then point out that history and fiction easily overlap in all possible sorts of ways. is much less uniform a genre than one would initially suppose. Secondly. I have argued in this essay for a basic difference between fiction and historical writing. a difference that does not necessarily appear from the actual shape of the text. It is now time to pull the threads together. Macaulay). and within the novel itself the well-known intermixing of historical material which constitutes part of its 'reality effect. historical subjects remain specific to precise historical locations and points in time and their study serves to explain not human nature in general (a knowledge of which is presupposed and enters by way of establishing motivation) but a specific society's or group of people's historical situatedness with a view towards generalizing towards the historical specificity of that group. This basic distinction between history and fiction needs to be opposed to the many similarities that exist between the two realms of writing.

that which disguises a documented past and that which recreates a documented past). Not only are different conceptions of history at play (the historical as the diachronic. Adam Thorpe's Ulverton or Graham Swift's Waterland (as well as his more recent novels). more recent historiographic metafiction has been increasingly concerned with the life of 'the people' in former ages or with diachronic development of people's attitudes and beliefs. be noted in the direction of a renewed interest in the past for its own sake which can now be approached with the sophisticated toolbox of postmodernist writing techniques and embarked on in the light of state-of-the-art historiographic methodology. history as that which can be looked up in official history books. and so forth.). more specifically concerned with 'history' (in different ways) and less simplis- tically and dichotomously mythological than most of the historiographic meta- fictions of the 1960s and 1970s. history as that which concerns people and events of historical factuality. mode of historiographic metafiction seems to be hatching. exploding instead the received historical mythology of great men and History with a capital H. I Mist.. Historiographic metafiction for these reasons straddles the fiction/history boundary in triple and quadruple manner. radicalizing the hybridization which was already the key note of the historical novel and gleefully subverting any genre features of traditional fiction or historiography. the fictional family chronicle. Whereas much of the exuberant and rebellious spirit of the 60s and 70s went into a debunking of serious historical questions. or of Lawrence Norfolk's Lampriere's Dictionary and Patrick Stiskind's The Perfume." . I am think- ing of Toni Morrison's Beloved and Jazz. 47 See "The Kinds of Historical Fiction. A new. however. This is not the place to provide a categorization of the many texts which belong to historiographic metafiction (a definition that would prove even harder to come by than for the 'traditional' historical novel). but similar attempts can be observed in several contemporary kinds of writing — always provided that one is willing to apply a particular conception of the historical to these texts. History and Metafiction 101 nover (that which creates a past. one that is less playful. history will tell. works which deal with major political events or have major political figures among their cast.. I have chosen The Succession for my central example of such a concern. and it should therefore come as no surprise that postmodernist attempts at the historical novel imitate both fictional innovations and historiographic developments. as I have suggested. desist from calling such texts historiographic metafictions and talk instead of "the new historical novel"? That. Should one therefore. one can go on to catalogue fictional histories of an entire era. historical novels also imitate ways of writing history. One development can. novels that recreate a historical period by way of genre painting (Eco's Name of the Rose). more serious.