By Marni Gauthier
This publication exhibits how a political and cultural dynamic of amnesia and fact telling shapes literary structures of heritage. Gauthier specializes in the works of Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Bharati Mukherjee, and Julie Otsuka.
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Extra info for Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: Counterhistory
Rather than construct a faithful historical “type,” as does the traditional historical novel, or merely problematize the nature and status of our information about the past, as does historiographic metafiction, the texts that the following chapters examine present counterhistories to received versions of the American past. More recently than the book studies cited earlier, scholars such as David W. Price and Nancy J. Peterson have taken issue with 20 AMNESIA AND REDRESS IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN FICTION Hutcheon’s assessment of postmodern novels as primarily deconstructive.
Each text these chapters consider utilizes its historical referents in ways that constitute different engagements of mythic history. Mythic history is that narrative of national identity that partially represents experience and gains particular currency in the popular imagination. 19 The means by and extent to which each text reinvents mythic histories of America produce what I distinguish as revisionary and redemptive versions of history. All these texts scavenge among the ruins of history to reconstruct a story of the past that exists in fragments, proceeding according to the Benjaminian “truth: [that] nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history” (254).
My central argument concerning the cultural work of these contemporary historical novels—their truth telling, their revising nationalist histories and mythologies, their (re)making national mythic history, their speaking truth to power— corresponds to this sense of “culture as a strategy of survival” (Location 172). I suggest that the new cultural forms to which Bhabha alludes—which invent “other” times and narrative spaces—include the historical fiction with which Amnesia and Redress is concerned.