Historical fiction . . . and mice (or, well, rats)!
ELE 616 Research in Children’s Literature Spring 2011 Historical Fiction… and Mice (or, well, rats, really)!
2Define historicalfiction? • historical fiction – A narrative in the form of a novel set in a specific place and period in history, or based on an event or sequence of events that actually happened. The characters may be completely fictional, but if they are known to have existed, their feelings, words, and actions are reconstructed and to some degree imagined by the author. The presence of dialogue in a historical work is usually a clue that the account is fictionalized. – For more information, connect to the Historical Novel Society. Click here to connect to the Google list of historical fiction Web sites. Compare with nonfiction. See also: Scott ODell Award.
3But, what isHistoricalFiction, forsooth? been a•―The historical novel has alwaysliterary form at war with itself. The veryterm, implying a fiction somehow groundedin fact – a lie with obscure obligations to thetruth – is suggestive of the contradictions ofthe genre.‖ –Quote from a review, cited in “History is but a fable agreed upon: the problem of truth in history and fiction,” speech by Richard Lee to Romantic Novelists Association
4What is History, though? • Whatever else it may be – it is NOT truth – Each decade throws up new approaches to history, finds new or previously overlooked sources and gives entirely new weight to the facts they do agree on. – History, in other words, is tailored for its audience. – The facts that survive are absurdly inadequate. The interpretation that is put on them is a huge distortion even of those few facts. • History is but a fable agreed upon
5What is History, then?• History is not quite the out and out truth that it seems – At its best it is only one historian’s selection of what he or she BELIEVES, at any particular time, is most relevant from the body of material that survives. At worst – well at worst, it is no more than the sort of bigoted opinion and blatant manipulation of sources that we’ve recently seen exposed in the work of holocaust denier, DAVID IRVING. • History is but a fable agreed upon
6Where does that leaveHistorical is the most primal, the most NATURAL• Historical fiction Fiction? of literary forms – Historical fiction . . . is the artistic form that springs from this impulse to give a shape to the past. But it’s not JUST to give a shape to the past. It is to bring part of the past ALIVE into the present. – . . . all historical fiction . . . makes us feel, as a protagonist, what otherwise would be dead and lost to us. It transports us into the past. And the very best historical fiction presents to us a TRUTH of the past that is NOT the truth of the history books, but a bigger truth, a more important truth – a truth of the HEART. • History is but a fable agreed upon
7Differences between history andhistorical fiction • Andrew M. Greeley – History and historical fiction are necessarily not the same thing. The purpose of history is to narrate events as accurately as one can. The purpose of historical fiction is to enable a reader through the perspective of characters in the story to feel that she or he is present at the events. Such a goal obviously requires some modification of the events. • Quoted by Cindy Vallar in Historical Fiction vs. History • See her selected Articles on Historical Fiction vs. History (scroll down page)
8Problems with writing HistoricalFiction Problem of Definition • The – just how “past” is “past”? • The Problem of ―Truth‖ Fall 1998 – Historical Fiction or Fictional History? Historical Fiction or • The Problem of Balance Fictionalized History? – How much “authentic” detail? Problems for • The Problem of Accuracy Writers of Historical – How do you avoid errors or Novels for anachronisms? Young Adults • The Problem of Provenance Joanne Brown – Where does the story come from?
9How do these authors do it?• Making it real: bringing historical fiction alive – The challenge for me in writing historical fiction is this: How can I see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and know what my main character experienced? I have always done this through a combination of book research, exploring original records, searching for artifacts, doing interviews, and reenactment. I am an experiential learner. I am also somewhat dyslexic, so the book research can take me just so far. Touching real original records and artifacts can often transport my imagination back in time in ways that no microfilm ever could. • Carbone, E. (2007, June). making it real: bringing historical fiction alive. Teacher Librarian, 34(5), 27-30. Retrieved October 27, 2007, from Academic
10Teaching HistoricalFiction• – To help you build good fiction into your social studies program, you’ll find: • Seven Reasons I Teach with Historical Fiction • Tips for Choosing Good Historical Fiction • Fifteen Fabulous New Historical Fiction Books • Is Pocahontas Real? Discovering Where History Stops and the Story Starts
11Mice in historical fiction?• Not many mice—a few rats, though!
12 Historical fiction based in legend • What Happened in Hamelinhttp://dogeardiary.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-happened-in-hamelin.html
13An Australian story• Ratface and Snake Eyes – A rat plague begins at the height of the depression in Gladstone, Qld. Snake Eyes and his primary school friends go into business snake catching and Ratface and his gang go into business as rat catchers. Together, the two gangs uncover an important opal smuggling operation using both rats and snakes. For those aged between 10 and 14.