Metahistorical romance

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Metahistorical Romance is a term describing postmodern historical fiction, defined by Amy J. Elias in Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction. Elias defines metahistorical romance as a form of historical fiction continuing the legacy of historical romance inaugurated by Sir Walter Scott but also having ties to contemporary postmodern historiography. In particular, in metahistorical romance, poststructuralist play invokes the "historical sublime" as defined in the work of Hayden White. Metahistorical romance--such as Thomas Pynchon's novel Mason & Dixon--attempts to recuperate the sublime untouchability of the past, to reach History and know it, but paradoxically in the context of the political. As with the Kantian sublime, the postmodern historical sublime is not the grasp of the sublime object itself but a kind of ironic awareness of the inaccessibility of the sublime object. There is a yearning that resembles the yearning for mystical knowledge at the core of the search for the historical sublime, and thus the concept ties contemporary historical fiction to a literary history (that of the historical novel), a type of historiography (postmodern, post-Annales historiography), and a spiritual questing. Elias argues that the postmodern imagination confronts the historical sublime rather than represses it; confronts it as repetition and deferral; seeks sublime History but simultaneously has lost faith in the storytelling needed to do so; and consequently has ties to, but reverses the dominant of, the traditional Anglo-American historical novel. The term "metahistorical romance" also builds upon work by Linda Hutcheon, whose term "historiographic metafiction" described the ironic stance of contemporary historical fiction.

Further reading[edit]

  • Elias, Amy J. [1], Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • Hayden White. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990 rpt).