Module Convenor - Tim Leach/ Sarah Moss

Term 2

Thursday 16:00 - 19:00 H.501

UPDATED FOR 2018-2019


When Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for her historical novel Wolf Hall, she proved to the world what many had been arguing for decades: that historical fiction was no longer confined to a narrow commercial genre or a mere marketing category. Today, historical fiction has expanded to a diverse and variant body of work, encompassing testimony, experimental writing, creative non-fiction and postmodern metafictions. Writers of historical fiction act at a singular intersection between art, history and storytelling. They navigate this complex intersectional and interdisciplinary space while engaging with questions of public memory, historiography and the nature of historical truth.

This module will seek to develop students into both readers and writers of historical fiction. It will examine novels that embody the genre’s potentials and push its boundaries, alongside critics that probe questions thrown up during the fictional writing of history. It will also seek to develop students as writers through workshopping their own creative work, and as creative-critical practitioners who hypothesise, experiment and test their critical theses through their own practice.

Each 3-hour seminar will be divided between a 2-hour discussion of one novel and one short piece of critical writing. The first 2 hours will be used to discuss these readings, and the final 1 hour will be used to workshop student works in progress.

Seminar List

Week 1. Introduction.

Fiction: Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle.

Critical: Lowenthal, David. The Past is a Foreign Country. 1995. p. 224-231. (

Week 2. Authenticity in the Historical Novel.

Fiction: Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008)

Critical: Margaronis, Maria. ‘The Anxiety of Authenticity: Writing Historical Fiction at the End of the Twentieth Century.’ (

Week 3. Historiographical Metafictions.

Fiction: Michel Binet, HHhH.

Critical: Hutcheon, Lynda ‘Historiographical Metafiction’ in The Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. 1988. (

Week 4. Writing Back from History.

Fiction: Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace.

Critical: Anderson, Perry. ‘From Progress to Catastrophe’ London Review of Books, 2011 (

Week 5. Games and Mysteries.

Fiction: Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose.

Critical: Naming the Rose: Readers and Codes in Umberto Eco's Novel. 1980.S. Sallis.(

Week 6. Reinventing History.

Fiction: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall. 2010.

Critical: The Best is History, by A.N Wilson (

Week 7. The Archives in Fiction.

Fiction: W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn. 1995.

Critical: Rebecca Stott, Dust Like Pollen. (

Week 8. Historical Short Stories.

Fiction: The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits. 2011.

Critical: Stephanie Cross, Historical fiction: the long and the short of it. (

Week 9. Experimental Histories.

Fiction: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo. 2017.

Critical: Hayden White, Introduction: Historical Fiction, Fictional History, and Historical Reality.

Week 10. Seeing Ourselves in History.

Fiction: Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian. 1951.

Critical: Becoming the Emperor, The New Yorker (