In this course, we will study four historical novels and a range of
short stories, as well as essays about the goals and practices of historical
fiction. We will learn about the history of this contested genre and the ways
readers and critics have responded to it over the last two centuries. How does
historical fiction fit into and illuminate literary history? How do
representations of history in fiction differ from putatively factual historical
accounts? Can historical fiction really teach us about the past, or is it,
according to L. P. Hartley’s much-quoted line, “a foreign country” whose
inhabitants “do things differently” and whose psychologies are opaque to modern
readers? We will consider the cultural contexts in which various historical
fictions are produced as well as analyzing the structure, form, and style of
these texts.


This is a writing-intensive course that will involve regular peer review
and class discussion and will encourage students to pay attention to their own
writing processes. Required reading not listed below will be available to
download and print via Laulima.


Course Requirements


Three 3-5 page papers

Midterm exam

Informal writing assignments

Final exam (with possible creative option)

Peer workshopping/review

Attendance and participation


Required Texts (available at UHM


Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

Edward P. Jones, The Known World

Monique Truong, The Book of Salt