The popularity of historical fiction: Tracey Loughran

LECTURE

Speaker: Tracey Loughran (University of Cardiff)

Two historical novels focused on the experience of World War One form the basis for Tracey Loughran’s answer as to why historical fiction is popular.  Regeneration by Pat Barker (1991) and Bird Song by Sebastian Faulks (1993) provide two opposing views on the popularity of the genre according to Loughran.  One is safe, comfortable and predictable whilst the other provides the exotic and subversiveness.  Can you guess which one is which?

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About Matt Phillpott

I am an historian of early modern Britain and the Digital Resources Manager at the School of Advanced Study. My main area of interest is in the authentication of knowledge in early print, including religious, historical, and agricultural texts.

3 thoughts on “The popularity of historical fiction: Tracey Loughran

  1. What I found particularly interesting about this paper and others (notably Ian Mortimer’s and Rebecca Stott’s) was the interrelationship and sometimes interdependence (possible too strong a word?) of historical fiction to “real“ history (relationships which , I think add, to the popularity of the historical fiction genre – as also evidenced by Elizabeth Chadwick’s piece).

    Historical fiction can reinforce, reframe and redefine our view of historical events and characters; while “real” history can offer opportunities for fiction, plot developments and characterisation.

    Just taking two examples – Tracey Loughran discusses Regeneration (Pat Barker 1991) which deals with shellshock during World War I. This book reinforces our views of the war; however there was no single academic history book which dealt with shellshock when the book was published. Since Regeneration there are now a handful of monographs and historians have engaged with the book – notably an article – “Regeneration” revisited: W.H.R. Rivers and shell shock during the Great War (2000).

    Rebecca Stott relates in her talk how she came up with the plot for The Coral Thief (2009). She had been working (academically) on evolutionary thought before Darwin and had come across no women working in this field. She imagined where such women would come from, their life, the period and place and hence her book The Coral Thief.

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