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Fictionalizing Fact

Fictionalizing Fact FICTIONALIZING FACT Lilian R. Fürst The impetus for this essay comes from two quite disparate sources: from my work on realist fiction, and my more recent reading in medical history. Common to both these fields is the imbrication of fact and fiction. I want to explore how the interplay of these seemingly opposite elements functions in fictive and in historical writing. The theoretical foundation for such an enterprise stems from Hayden White's Metahistory (1973) which wrought a significant change in the understanding of the relationship of fact and fiction. Previously it had been assumed that they were opposites; Levin, for instance, in The Gates ofHorn, asserts: "Fact, not truth, is the opposite of fiction" (26). By contrast, White argued in effect for their essential complementarity by insisting that all historical images partake of the fictional insofar as narrative history, far from being a dispassionate chronicle of stable occurrences in the past, is a reconstructive and interpretative act filtered through the historian's perception. Fact and fiction become thus not just coextensive but also porous, potentially cross-fertilizing each other in ways that prove decisive for the writing of fiction and history alike. I will address the interdependence of fact and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

Fictionalizing Fact

The Comparatist , Volume 21 (1) – Oct 3, 1997

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © the Southern Comparative Literature Association.
ISSN
1559-0887
Publisher site
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Abstract

FICTIONALIZING FACT Lilian R. Fürst The impetus for this essay comes from two quite disparate sources: from my work on realist fiction, and my more recent reading in medical history. Common to both these fields is the imbrication of fact and fiction. I want to explore how the interplay of these seemingly opposite elements functions in fictive and in historical writing. The theoretical foundation for such an enterprise stems from Hayden White's Metahistory (1973) which wrought a significant change in the understanding of the relationship of fact and fiction. Previously it had been assumed that they were opposites; Levin, for instance, in The Gates ofHorn, asserts: "Fact, not truth, is the opposite of fiction" (26). By contrast, White argued in effect for their essential complementarity by insisting that all historical images partake of the fictional insofar as narrative history, far from being a dispassionate chronicle of stable occurrences in the past, is a reconstructive and interpretative act filtered through the historian's perception. Fact and fiction become thus not just coextensive but also porous, potentially cross-fertilizing each other in ways that prove decisive for the writing of fiction and history alike. I will address the interdependence of fact and

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Oct 3, 1997

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