The past, we know, informs us. Its texture has been just as real to its time as we feel the present to be for us. And yet, despite its immense importance for establishing and understanding our identity, the reality of the past is curiously inaccessible. This book assembles seven specialists from the fields of history, cultural studies and literature and allows them to debate, in some cases vigourously, the issues of truth and fiction raised by attempts to recreate the past. The debate highlights the formal mechanisms, the imaginative transformations, the ideological commitments whereby history is constructed.
Helen Dunmore writes of the influence on both her life and her writing of D.H. Lawrence, an influence generated by an accident of place but extending to include Lawrence’s wife, Frieda. Two essays discuss the images of history consciously manufactured during the First and Second World Wars respectively. Image-making is central to David McCrone’s essay on the making of Scotland’s heritage, which he shows to be manufactured by interests with little or no concern for historical accuracy.
Marianne Børch develops the theme by considering whether it is possible to recreate the past. Fictions by, for instance, Byatt and Fowles and Harrison’s Gulf War Poems are central to a study which points towards a self-conscious revival of the romance genre.