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June 2016 Vol. 53 No. 10

Routledge


The following review appeared in the June 2016 issue of CHOICE:

Humanities
53-4226
PN3441
2015-3903 CIP
De Groot, Jerome. Remaking history: the past in contemporary historical fictions. Routledge, 2016. 232p index afp ISBN 9780415858779, $145.00; ISBN 9780415858786 pbk, $44.95; ISBN 9781317436188 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this wide-ranging study, De Groot (English, Univ. of Manchester, UK) argues that historical fiction has an "uncanny" relationship to the past; that is, it is a genre that makes history simultaneously familiar and alien.  Not confining his analysis to novels, De Groot also examines English-language film and television programs (Downton Abbey, Mad Men) to demonstrate how contemporary historical fiction is itself a form of historiography.  These narratives engage self-consciously with their own truth- and myth-making about history.  For example, in a chapter on the materiality of the past, De Groot argues that smoking is a particularly strong "index of pastness," given the unpopularity of cigarettes in contemporary US cultural and public heath discourse.  Contemporary films, television programs, and novels that depict smoking call ironic attention to their significance as both representations of the past and as commentaries on how the past is represented.  De Groot engages heavily with cultural theory, and thus some of his arguments will perplex less-experienced readers, but overall this is an important contribution to historical fiction studies.

--L. R. Braunstein, Dartmouth College

Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.