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Historical Fiction

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  • 1. Historical Fiction Definition: Historical fiction is stories set in the past and seeks to recreate the aura of a time past, reconstructing characters, events, movements, ways of life, and the spirit of a bygone day: The time period--and its portrayal--is at the core of the story. Historical fiction may overlap other genres, for example historical realism, historical fantasy, historical tall tales, historical mysteries. Historical fiction may be a domestic novel, a psychological novel, etc. Relationship to biography: Historical fiction and biography complement each other. Where historical fiction portrays the era, including mention of some specific individuals; biography portrays the individual, including mention of some of the features of the era. Historical fiction enriches the context for biographies from the same time; biography enriches understanding of specific individuals. Historical development: • Developed from the romantic movement of the early 19th century. • Appeals to the romantic desire to escape from the present. • Historical fiction before World War I tended to be idealized and filled with patriotic sentiment. • Historical fiction today attempts to reassess and understand the past rather than glorify it. • After World War I, historical fiction declined in popularity. During the 1930s to 1960s, historical fiction regained popularity. The youth rebellions of the 1970s brought a rejection of the past and a clamor for relevance in fiction. Characteristics of historical fiction: • Unobtrusive history o depends on a believable and reasonably accurate setting; often includes actual historical personages. o events in historical fiction are creations of the author¹s imagination; they are not history. o fills gaps for the reader, such as political and social history, customs, psychological attitudes, state of science and technology during the covered time period. o primary requirement of historical fiction is that it tells a good story. • Authenticity o conveys the flavor of the period--its sights, sounds, smells, characteristics. o uses language appropriate to the setting (time and place).
  • 2. o faithful to the facts of the period--this means the author reads history of and documents from the period covered. • Sensitivity o writer¹s of historical fiction must be sensitive to and balance the various intellectual views of an era. o ignorance and prejudice have no place in the author¹s telling of the story or perspective of the era. Good historical fiction: • tells a good story • conveys the flavor of the historical period • authentically captures the people of the period, their values, and their habits • uses dialogue to make the characters sound authentic but not artificial • faithfully uses historical knowledge to avoid distorting history • fairly and sensitively portrays different sides of the compelling issues of the period • gives us insight into contemporary problems as well as helps us understand the problems of the past Age and historical fiction: • children of any age can enjoy historical fiction. • very young children have little understanding of chronology or the existence of a past and may not realize the story is from another era. • around age 7 or 8 children become aware of the passage of time and the existence of a past From : http://www.southernct.edu/~brownm/Ghis.html