Mrs Engels

McCrea, Gavin (2013) Mrs Engels. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The creative component of the thesis consists of a novel entitled Mrs Engels. Mrs Engels is a first-person narrative from the perspective of Lizzie Burns, the Irish lover of the Communist leader Friedrich Engels. The action of the novel is focused on the years 1870-72 when Lizzie and Friedrich move from Manchester to London in order to be close to the Marx’s and the active international Communist scene there.

The critical component consists of an essay entitled ‘Illusions of Truth’. ‘Illusions of Truth’ is a meditation on some of the questions raised when we speak of the category of ‘historical fiction’. It is a response to the fact that, often, discussions of historical fiction view ‘the past’ as textual and therefore to some degree unknowable, while taking for granted the knowability of ‘the present’. In other words, in order to assert the textuality of the past, many discussions of historical
fiction juxtapose it to an immediately knowable present, sometimes called ‘direct’ or ‘present experience’. But is it true that the present is a more solid, knowable form of human experience than the past? Is direct engagement with reality even possible? Does the present exist at all, except as an historical fiction? The essay uses the theory of Michel Foucault, specifically his ‘archaeological’ and ‘genealogical’ approaches to history, as lenses through which to examine these questions. Grouping its analyses around the larger themes of time, space and truth, it considers whether anything in human experience can, in fact, be present and non-historical (and therefore entirely knowable and true). Can conscious human experience be anything other than historical and fictional? If indeed it cannot, is ‘historical fiction’ as a separate literary classification sustainable?

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Users 2259 not found.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2014 11:52
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2018 01:38

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