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Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction (Johns Hopkins, Poetry and Fiction)

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The final chapter draws from trauma theory in Holocaust studies to define how fiction can pose an ethical alternative to aestheticized history while remaining open to pluralism and democratic values. In its range and sophistication, the book should be a valuable addition to postmodernist studies as well as to studies of the historical romance novel.

Synopsis:

Has twentieth-century political violence destroyed faith in historical knowledge? What happens to historical fiction when history is seen as either a form of Western imperialism or a form of postmodern simulation?

In Sublime Desire, Amy Elias examines our changing relationship to history and how fiction since 1960 reflects that change. She contends that postmodernism is a post-traumatic imagination that is pulled between two desires: the political desire to acknowledge the physical violence of twentieth-century history, and the yearning for an escape from that history into a ravishing realm of historical certainty. Torn between these desires, both historical fiction and historiography after 1960 redefine history as the sublime, a territory beyond lived experience that is both unknowable and seductive. In the face of a failure of Enlightenment ideals about knowledge and the West's own history of violence, post-World War II history becomes a desire for the secular sacred sublime — for awe, certainty, and belief.

Sublime Desire is an eloquent melding of theory and practice. Mixing the canonical with the unexpected, Elias analyzes developments in the historical romance genre from Walter Scott's novels to novels written today. She correlates developments in the historical romance to similar changes in historiography and philosophy. Sublime Desire draws engagingly on more than thirty relevant texts, from Tolstoy's War and Peace to Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, Charles Johnson's Dreamer, and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain. But the book also examines theories of postmodern space and time and defines the difference between postmodern and postcolonial historical perspectives. The final chapter draws from trauma theory in Holocaust studies to define how fiction can pose an ethical alternative to aestheticized history while remaining open to pluralism and democratic values. In its range and sophistication, Sublime Desire is a valuable addition to postmodernist studies as well as to studies of the historical romance novel.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780801867330
Author:
Elias, Amy J.
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Location:
Baltimore
Subject:
General
Subject:
History and criticism
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Semiotics & Theory
Subject:
Historical fiction -- History and criticism.
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series:
Johns Hopkins, Poetry and Fiction
Series Volume:
56
Publication Date:
20011031
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8.74x5.62x.99 in. 1.09 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » Historiography
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction (Johns Hopkins, Poetry and Fiction) New Hardcover
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Product details 352 pages Johns Hopkins University Press - English 9780801867330 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Has twentieth-century political violence destroyed faith in historical knowledge? What happens to historical fiction when history is seen as either a form of Western imperialism or a form of postmodern simulation?

In Sublime Desire, Amy Elias examines our changing relationship to history and how fiction since 1960 reflects that change. She contends that postmodernism is a post-traumatic imagination that is pulled between two desires: the political desire to acknowledge the physical violence of twentieth-century history, and the yearning for an escape from that history into a ravishing realm of historical certainty. Torn between these desires, both historical fiction and historiography after 1960 redefine history as the sublime, a territory beyond lived experience that is both unknowable and seductive. In the face of a failure of Enlightenment ideals about knowledge and the West's own history of violence, post-World War II history becomes a desire for the secular sacred sublime — for awe, certainty, and belief.

Sublime Desire is an eloquent melding of theory and practice. Mixing the canonical with the unexpected, Elias analyzes developments in the historical romance genre from Walter Scott's novels to novels written today. She correlates developments in the historical romance to similar changes in historiography and philosophy. Sublime Desire draws engagingly on more than thirty relevant texts, from Tolstoy's War and Peace to Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, Charles Johnson's Dreamer, and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain. But the book also examines theories of postmodern space and time and defines the difference between postmodern and postcolonial historical perspectives. The final chapter draws from trauma theory in Holocaust studies to define how fiction can pose an ethical alternative to aestheticized history while remaining open to pluralism and democratic values. In its range and sophistication, Sublime Desire is a valuable addition to postmodernist studies as well as to studies of the historical romance novel.

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