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CW913 Historical Fictions, Fictional Histories


When Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for her historical novel Wolf Hall, she proved to the readers on our island 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 meta-fictions. 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 is interested in the craft and ideological complexities of historical fiction. In the era of ‘alternative facts’, can we justify making up stories about the past? What is historical fiction for? How do its writers balance the need to respect the differences between past and present sensibilities with the need to find common ground? What questions and concerns do we take with us, as writers and as readers, when we seek reconnection with the imagined past?

The module will be assessed by a portfolio of historical fiction.

Seminars will be comprised of discussions of the set texts, group discussions of writing exercises, and writing workshops.

Suggested reading

The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault

Clytemnestra, Costanza Casati 

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

Cecily, Annie Garthwaite 

Captain Alatriste, Arturo Perez-Reverte 

Daughters of Night, Laura Shepherd-Robinson 

Post Captain, Patrick O’Brian 

Spitting Gold, Carmella Lowkis  


Assessed portfolio of 6000 words (30 CATS).

MAW students must submit a portfolio of 70% creative work and 30% essay. Students on the MA in English Literature may choose to submit a portfolio of 70% creative work and 30% essay OR 100% essay