After the Fact: Authority and the Historical Document in Late Twentieth-Century Literature examines historiographic metafiction’s epistemological concern with the historical document. The six texts herein recover official and neglected documents, viewing history from marginal perspectives endeavoring an ethical reconsideration of dominant historical narratives. Thematically paired chapters focus on eye-witness narratives, legal and official government documents, and news publications. The first two chapters, D.M. Thomas’ The White Hotel with Toni Morrison’s Beloved, explore the writers’ reconsideration of eye-witness accounts, specifically the Holocaust survivor narrative and the slave narrative. The second pair reviews mythologies of the nation in the United States. Susan Howe’s Singularities rewrites the Indian captivity narrative. Hannah Weiner’s Spoke revises the 1868 Black Hills treaty to focus on how popular and official texts promote the colonial imaginary and function to justify colonial expansion. The final two chapters examine Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace and Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, which critique the press’s authority by questioning its claim to objectivity.
Elizabeth Rich is professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University.
Chapter 1: Nor Can the Living Speak for the Dead: D. M. Thomas’s The White Hotel and the Limits of Early Holocaust Survivor Testimony
Chapter 2: Recovering the Slave Narrative, Recovering Identity: History and Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Chapter 3: “centuries roam audible silence”: Susan Howe’s Singularities and the Articulation of Difference in the American Indian Captivity Narrative
Chapter 4: “Theland isours”: Reading the Land and Breaking the Treaty in Hannah Weiner’s Spoke
Chapter 5: “In my opinion she is guilty as sin”: (de)Constructing the Murderess in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace
Chapter 6: A Brief History of Time: Poetry and the Press in Robert Coover’s The Public Burning
Conclusion: The Work of Forms After Authority