Post-Modern Narrative as a Form of Historical Discourse

Essay by lacrimaUniversity, Master's November 2006

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If one takes a closer look at the title of this essay, one will undoubtedly notice that the conflict between historians and literary theorists concerning the narrativity of history, which has been very acute over the last several decades, is definitely present there. In the title fiction has been merged with history, which proves that the two notions are by all means inseparable. History has all the common features of fictional narrative, whereas fiction, as it has turned out in the epoch of post-modernism, has to deal largely with history. Just like narrative is an inalienable part of history, nowadays, historical discourse has become a competent part of post-modern fictional narratives. Post-modernism seems to almost completely erase the boundaries between these two notions. As Lerner puts it:

'It is necessary to state the obvious. Fiction differs from history in not making a claim to truth.' [Lerner 1990: 336]

How can it be possible to claim that post-modern narrative can be a manifestation of historical discourse? To find at least partial answers to these questions it would be sensible to turn first of all to J.-F. Lyotard, who wrote extensively on post-modernism, its characteristic features and peculiarities.

According to Lyotard:

'The postmodern is a historical/cultural "condition" based on a dissolution of master narratives or metanarratives, a crisis in ideology when ideology no longer seems transparent' [Irvine 2003]

This means that post-modern narratives put under suspicion and even reject the existence of some universal truth or, in other words, the so-called Master Narrative on which all the rest narratives are founded. Consequently, it can be presumed that by rejecting the dogmatic grand generalities each post-modern literary work can claim to be presenting the 'truthful' historical discourse within itself. According to John Mepham: ' the 'postmodern' is a variable historical category, constructed...