Reading behind the lines

Postmemory in contemporary British war fiction

By Natasha Alden

Reading behind the lines


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8893-3
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: January 2014
  • BIC Category: Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: c 1900 to c 2000, Ireland, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, HISTORY / Social History, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: from c 1900 -


This book takes the concept of postmemory, developed in Holocaust studies, and applies it for the first time to novels by contemporary British writers. Focusing on war fiction, Alden builds upon current scholarship on historical fiction and memory studies, and extends the field by exploring how the use of historical research within fiction illuminates the ways in which we remember and recreate the past.

Using postmemory to unlock both the transgenerational aspects of the novels discussed and the development of historiographic metafiction, Alden provides a ground-breaking analysis of the nature and potential of contemporary historical fiction. By examining the patterns and motivations behind authors' translations of material from the historical record into fiction, Alden also asks to what extent such writing is, necessarily, metafictional. Ultimately, this study offers an updated answer to the question that historical fiction has always posed: what can fiction do with history that history cannot?


1. Introduction
i. "Flickering at the Edge of My Childhood"
ii. Graham Swift: "Finding out what Father Was Made Of"
3. Regenerating the past: fact and fiction in the Regeneration Trilogy
4. "In the beginning was the word; and to that it came back in the long run": Briony Tallis and Atonement
5. Lesbian postmemory: Haunted 'history' in The Night Watch
6. Conclusion: ".it may help the reader to know what is historical and what is not"


Natasha Alden is Lecturer in Contemporary British Fiction at Aberystwyth University

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