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A journey backwards: history through style in children's fiction

By Christopher Ringrose


A & C Black's Flashbacks series invites its readers to “Read a Flashback...take a journey backwards in time”. There are several ways in which children's fiction has encouraged its readers to engage with and care about history: through the presence of ghosts, through frame stories, time travel, or simply setting the narrative in the past. However, modern critical theory has questioned the validity of traditional modes of the genre. This paper defends historical fiction for children by arguing that, whatever narrative strategy is used, such writing stands or falls through its evocation of a historical sensibility—or what Raymond Williams calls a `structure of feeling'. This is achieved through elements of style, both in the representation of dialogue and thought. Pastiche, sometimes thought of as an unsatisfactory feature of contemporary culture, can often perform a similar evocative function. The paper is based on close readings of Alan Garner's The Stone Book from 1976, and 21st century fiction by Kevin Crossley-Holland, Kate Pennington and Paul Bajoria. If these books do not overtly use the techniques of “historiographic metafiction”, it may be because awareness of historiography is implicit in the very texture of their writin

Topics: PR1, PZ, PR821
Publisher: Springer
Year: 2007
OAI identifier:
Provided by: NECTAR

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