History at UCDavis

On April 11 I will be at the University of California at Davis, to deliver the annual Eugene Lunn Memorial Address in History. The title of the adress is Transformations of History in Fiction, a topic close to my heart and mind. My own books will get a mention, This is the precis of the address I have submitted (it mght change):


The imaginative enterprise of historical fiction is largely a matter of making a past time vivid for readers by accurate description, established facts, and characters who, even if invented, are convincingly of their period. A transformative historical fiction might construct the thought-world of a period of the past, and yet present that past – say, one in which supernatural beings or ancient science are central to the behaviors and choices made by historical actors – as actually obtaining at the time. The means available to the writer aiming for such a transformation of history can range from subtle rhetorical devices and ambiguities to the frank insertion into fact-based tales of events that couldn’t have happened or things that surely never existed. The pitfalls are absurdity or fantasy. Yet living in a thought-world different from the reader’s own — even more, a physical or spiritual world different from her own, with a different cosmology, different bodies, different sorts of animate beings, monuments and relics with different origins and different meanings, may illuminate the richness and strangeness of all human life.


I hope some few of the readers of this blog can make it to the reading. For those who can’t, watch this space — I’ll post the address in parts here after the event.

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