Reading the Present through the Past:
Forms and Trajectories of Neo-Historical Fiction
4 March 2016
The Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL)
University of Amsterdam
Organization: Daný van Dam
Ever since the turn of the twenty-first century, literary and cultural returns to earlier periods have become increasingly frequent and visible. Novels on past eras dominate the shortlists of literary prizes and the number of historical films and TV series has exploded. The popularity of Hilary Mantel’s books about Henry VIII’s court, the success of TV series like Sherlock and The Americans and of graphic novel series like Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are cases in point. Many of these works, however, seem to relate to the past in ways that are different from earlier historical novels and films. According to Elodie Rousselot, editor of the recent collection Exoticizing the Past in Neo-Historical Fiction (2014), literary contributions to this trend belong to a new subgenre of contemporary historical fiction, the ‘neo-historical novel’. Even though it is set in the past, ‘neo-historical’ fiction aims to discuss and mediate the concerns and occupations of our current age. In establishing overt connections to the present day, these works display an awareness of their own constructedness and open ways for a critical reflection on exoticizing approaches to the past.
For this one-day symposium, we invite contributions that take up the challenge to think about the continuities and specificities of contemporary (neo)historical fiction and explore it as a literary and cultural phenomenon.
The organizers explicitly encourage OSL RMA students to submit paper proposals for the symposium. RMA students can also earn 1 EC by participating in the symposium and writing an essay on the presentations given and reading materials collected in a conference reader.
- Dr Elodie Rousselot (University of Portsmouth)
- Prof Dr Elisabeth Wesseling (Maastricht University)
Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:
- the neo-historical imagination as a literary movement and/or broader cultural phenomenon (literature, film, TV, art, adaptations, etc.)
- comparisons between (re)constructions of different historical periods (neo-Victorian, neo-Gothic, neo-Tudor, neo-medieval, neo-Golden Age, neo-WWI/WWII, alternate history, etc.)
- theoretical and conceptual approaches to neo-historical fiction (postmodernism and post-postmodernism, mashup, cultural memory, affect, postcolonialism, posthumanism, utopia/dystopia, etc.)
- connections within and across national and linguistic borders and communities; world literature and cosmopolitan memory
Please submit abstracts of 250 words for 20-minute papers in English, together with a short biography, to Daný van Dam at firstname.lastname@example.org by 18 December 2015.