Introduction: Exoticising the Past in Contemporary Neo-Historical Fiction

  • Elodie Rousselot


Over the last few decades, historical fiction has experienced a remarkable recrudescence, with a growing number of critically acclaimed authors (such as Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan and Sarah Waters) exploiting the creative possibilities the genre affords, and the creation in 2009 of its very own literary award, the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Boasting one of the largest monetary prizes of its kind in the United Kingdom, the Walter Scott Prize is indicative of how critically recognised — as well as commercially successful — historical fiction has become. Amidst this recent explosion, one trend in particular has come to prominence, a trend characterised by its critical re-appraisal of specific historical periods and of their social, cultural, and political contexts. This is particularly evident, for instance, in the development of the very successful ‘neo-Victorian’ novel (as with A. S. Byatt’s Possession (1990) and Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs (1997)), and its concomitant field of critical studies.


Critical Engagement Contemporary Culture Contemporary Reader Night Watch Historical Fiction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adichie, C. N. (2006) Half of a Yellow Sun (London: Harper Perennial).Google Scholar
  2. Bongie, C. (1991) Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism, and the Fin de Siècle (Stanford: Stanford University Press).Google Scholar
  3. Burton, R. R (1860) Lake Regions of Central Africa (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts).Google Scholar
  4. Byatt, A. S. (1990) Possession (London: Chatto and Windus).Google Scholar
  5. Carey, P. (1997) Jack Maggs (London: Faber and Faber).Google Scholar
  6. Chabon, M. (2000) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel (New York: Picador).Google Scholar
  7. Chabon, M. (2004) The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (New York: HarperCollins).Google Scholar
  8. Colley, A. C. (1998) Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de Groot, J. (2010) The Historical Novel (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  10. Edric, R. (2000) The Book of the Heathen (London: Black Swan).Google Scholar
  11. Enright, A. (2002) The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (London: Vintage).Google Scholar
  12. Fowles, J. (2004) The French Lieutenant s Woman [1969] (London: Vintage).Google Scholar
  13. Grenville, K. (2009) The Lieutenant [2008] (Edinburgh: Canongate).Google Scholar
  14. Gutleben, C. (2001) Nostalgic Postmodernism: The Victorian Tradition and the Contemporary British Novel (Amsterdam: Rodopi).Google Scholar
  15. Heilmann, A., and Llewellyn, M. (2010) Neo-Victorianism: The Victorians in the Twenty-First Century, 1999–2009 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holland, P., and Huggan, G. (1998) Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).Google Scholar
  17. Huggan, G. (2001) The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hutcheon, L. (1988) A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (London: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hutcheon, L. (1989) The Politics of Postmodernism (London: Routledge).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huyssen, A. (2003) Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory (Stanford: Stanford University Press).Google Scholar
  21. Ishiguro, K. (1989) The Remains of the Day (London: Faber and Faber).Google Scholar
  22. Jameson, F. (1991) Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso).Google Scholar
  23. Jameson, F. (1998) The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983–1998 (London: Verso).Google Scholar
  24. Karlinsky, H. (2010) The Evolution of Inanimate Objects: The Life and Collected Works of Thomas Darwin (1857–1879) (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press).Google Scholar
  25. Kohlke, M.-L. (2008a) ‘Introduction: Speculations in and on the Neo-Victorian Encounter’, Neo-Victorian Studies, 1(1), 1–18.Google Scholar
  26. Kohlke, M.-L. (2008b) ‘Sexsation and the Neo-Victorian Novel: Orientalising the Nineteenth Century in Contemporary Fiction’ in M.-L. Kohlke and L. Orza (eds) At the Interface/Probing the Boundaries, Vol. S3: Negotiating Sexual Idioms: Image, Text, Performance (Amsterdam: Rodopi), pp. 53–77.Google Scholar
  27. LaCapra, D. (1987) History, Politics, and the Novel (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
  28. Lefebvre, H. (1984) Everyday Life in the Modern World [1968], S. Rabinovitch (trans.) (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers).Google Scholar
  29. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1973) Tristes Tropiques [1955], J. Weightman and D. Weightman (trans.) (London: Cape).Google Scholar
  30. Lowenthal, D. (1985) The Past is a Foreign County (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  31. Mandler, P. (2002) History and National Life (London: Profile Books).Google Scholar
  32. Mantel, H. (2009) Wolf Hall (London: Fourth Estate).Google Scholar
  33. Mantel, H. (2012) Bring Up the Bodies (London: Fourth Estate).Google Scholar
  34. McEwan, I. (2001) Atonement (London: Jonathan Cape).Google Scholar
  35. Mitchell, D. (2010) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (London: Sceptre).Google Scholar
  36. Mitchell, K. (2010) History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction: Victorian Afterimages (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Motion, A. (2000) Wainewright the Poisoner: The True Confessions of a Charming and Ingenious Criminal (London: Faber and Faber).Google Scholar
  38. Porter, H. (1989) The Tilted Cross [1961] (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press).Google Scholar
  39. Raleigh, W. (1848) The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtìful Empyre of Guiana [1596] (London: Hakluyt Society).Google Scholar
  40. Rogers, J. (1995) Promised Lands (London: Faber and Faber).Google Scholar
  41. Said, E. (1993) Culture & Imperialism (London: Chatto and Windus).Google Scholar
  42. Sturken, M. (2007) Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero (Durham and London: Duke University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Waters, S. (2006) The Night Watch (London: Virago Press).Google Scholar
  44. Wesseling, E. (2010) ‘Unmanning Exoticism: The Breakdown of Christian Manliness in The Book of the Heathen’ in M.-L. Kohlke and C. Gutleben (eds) Neo-Victorian Tropes of Trauma: The Politics of Bearing After-Witness to Nineteenth-Century Suffering (Amsterdam: Rodopi), pp. 311–38.Google Scholar
  45. Wyile, H., Andrews, J., and Viau, R. (2002) ‘Introduction: Past Matters/Choses du passé’, Studies in Canadian Literature/Etudes en littérature canadienne, 27(1), 1–9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elodie Rousselot 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elodie Rousselot

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations