Historiographic Metafiction

"Historiographic metafiction is the only credible way for the contemporary novel to attempt realism". Do you think that this statement misrepresents both historiographic metafiction and the practice of contemporary realism?

The debate over realism is one which has existed since the time of Plato and Aristotle and it is even now a dominant frame of reference for literary criticism and evaluation. Linda Hutcheon describes the postmodern as the "contradictory phenomenon that uses and abuses, installs and then subverts, the very concepts it challenges - be it in literature, painting, sculpture, film, video, dance, television, music, philosophy, aesthetic theory, psychoanalysis, linguistics or historiography" (1987: 10). Similarly Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition characterises the postmodern as possessing an "incredulity toward metanarratives" (1984: xxiv). This analysis will merely seek to illustrate how British postmodern fiction plays with the structures of authority and in this case with the traditional notions of history, and challenges the realist convention by suggesting that this authority and its relation to experience are at least under interrogation. Through this subversion, British authors explore an ironic re-visitation of the past by analyzing not the events of history, but its discourses in search for the ever-evading "truth". The last decades have witnessed a return of history in the novel, a proliferation of fictional narratives that address historical issues, events and characters. These fictions are protean in form and in many ways depart from the epistemology and the narrative strategies that characterised historical fiction at the height of its popularity.

The realist aesthetic tended to distinguish between "lying literature" and "true" literature, "objective" history and to ascribe a moral value to fact. History was seen as accessible as pure fact, independent of individual perception, ideology, or the process of selection necessitated...