Roundtable History and Fiction: Creative Intersections

AHA Session 156
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Exeter Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Joan Neuberger, University of Texas at Austin
Novel History
Jane Kamensky, Brandeis University
Bringing Out the Dead
Geraldine Brooks, freelance
Factional Fiction: Literature and Cinema in the Writing and Teaching of History
Donald Ostrowski, Harvard University Extension School
Eisenstein's Books: Ivan the Terrible as History
Joan Neuberger, University of Texas at Austin
Historical Fiction and Fictional History
Peter Ho Davies, University of Michigan

Session Abstract

Working at the margins between history and fiction, the panelists will explore the uses of fiction as a mode of historical thinking, and the possibilities that historical situations offer for the creative work of fiction writing.  An eclectic group of writers, some primarily authors of historical fiction, others primarily working as historians, bring varied perspectives to this shifting boundary.  The roundtable will open the conversation to touch not only on the challenges of researching and writing historical fiction but also of using works of fiction and film in teaching.  Further, the panel will explore approaches to history adopted by other creative artists.  With a stellar line-up of participants, the roundtable should draw a large audience and generate lively discussion.  Geraldine Brooks and Peter Ho Davies are both the authors of award winning works of historical fiction.  They will discuss how they work with historical material in creating their novels and short stories.  Jane Kamensky is professional historian and the co-author, with Jill Lepore, of an adventurous work of historical fiction.  She will discuss what possibilities and difficulties the move from history to fiction may pose.  Joan Neuberger, a historian of Soviet film, will discuss the careful historical research and cavalier reshaping of the past that film-maker Sergei Eisenstein saw as artistically and historically justified in the making of his masterpiece, Ivan the Terrible.  Donald Ostrowski, a historian of medieval Russia and an accomplished teacher, will discuss the advantages and pitfalls of using fiction and film in history courses.

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