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A tale of the old city : queering the national narrative.

Bedo, Michael (2016) A tale of the old city : queering the national narrative. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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The legitimacy of the historical novel as a means of interpreting the past continues to divide critics. The immense readership of such notable examples of the genre as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has led some academic historians to express anxiety about the potential of fictionalised histories to distort how the past survives in public memory. The novel is traditionally regarded as having less rigorous constraints in how it approaches archival material than academic history and greater freedom to invent when the historical record is deficient. But while these freedoms are alarming to many historians, it is the same lack of constraint and licence to invent for which the historical novel is also celebrated, along with its potential to challenge preconceptions of historical periods, characters and events. It is these factors that make the genre especially suitable for recovering marginalised histories where the historical record is impoverished. My thesis is both a critical and practical interrogation of how the novel can engage with marginalised history, specifically the historical experience of homosexual desire. I am looking at homosexual desire within the context of the late nineteenth century, a period that has received a good deal of attention from academics in the last 15 years; recent scholarship has focused on the more complex range of homosexual identities that have been overshadowed by the dominant Wildean archetype. My novel, ‘Among Christian Men’, which is the main component of this thesis, employs fiction as an alternative way of contributing to the historiography of male homosexuality. My critical chapters explore the significance of a creative rather than critical approach to historical sources. My novel dramatises the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889, which forced the subject of sex between men on public consciousness. Within the novel I explore the significance of homosexual scandal in relation to British imperialism and national identity. In foregrounding these themes I intend to show how homosexual desire was considered to be a threat to imperial prowess, which in turn accounts for why the experience of homosexual desire has been largely absent from how this period exists in public memory. ‘Queering the National Narrative’ is a project of reclamation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects : Creative Writing, Queer History, Historical Fiction
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Date : 31 August 2016
Funders : Faculty of Arts and Human Science
Contributors :
Depositing User : Michael Bedo
Date Deposited : 06 Sep 2016 07:48
Last Modified : 31 Aug 2017 02:08

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