Fiction and Referentiality in Twelfth-Century English Historical Writing
Combining literary theory and historiography, Monika Otter explores the relationship between history and fiction in the Latin literature of twelfth-century England. The beginnings of fiction have commonly been associated with vernacular romance, but Otter demonstrates that writers of Latin historical narratives also employed the self-referential techniques characteristic of fiction. Beginning with inventiones, a genre dealing with the discovery of saints' relics, Otter reveals how exploring the fundamental problems of writing history and the nature of truth itself leads monastic or clerical Latin writers to a budding awareness of fictionality. According to Otter, accounts of conquests, treasure hunts, descents into underground worlds, and efforts (usually unsuccessful) to retrieve subterranean objects serve as self-referential metaphors for the problems of accessing and retrieving the past; they are thus designed to shake the reader's faith in historical representation and highlight the textuality of the historical account.
Otter traces this self-conscious use of fictional elements within historical narrative through the works of William of Malmesbury, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gerald of Wales, Walter Map, and William of Newburgh. A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Monika Otter gives the incorporated fictions in Latin non-fiction literature the intelligent and serious attention this phenomenon has long deserved. Otter's approach is sensitive both to historical context and to literary theory, and she is generous-minded enough to allow medieval writers to think their own thoughts, without the restrictions of doctrine--medieval or modern."--Nancy Partner, McGill University