Facts and Fictions

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 11:30 AM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
M. Shelly Conner, University of Illinois at Chicago
Promiscuous interdisciplinarity is an apt term for my experience writing my novel everyman as I found myself researching the histories of pornography, railroads, language, cultures, minstrel iconography, and salt. I poured over newspaper articles dating back a haf of a century and scoured census data. I traveled to the towns and cities in which the novel is set. I became historian, anthropologist, and cultural curator in an effort to blend verifiable truth with plausaible

Yet, interdisciplinarity has been largely limited to academic praxis, to the exclusion of the creative, with fiction being polarized against fact-based research such that the creative-academic writing binary can be viewed as one of the last frontiers of interdisciplinary pairings. There wasn't a space for historical fiction when Alex Haley was writing Roots. Although well received at the time of its publication, it was scandalized once it became known that it was in part a fictionalized account of Haley's African and slave ancestry and was largely based on the writings of Harold Courlander's The African. Thirty years later, Dan Brown pens The Da Vinci Code – a work of contemporary fiction so steeped in historical research that it is postulated as a dramatized investigation into ancient conspiracy theories. This is further legitimized by the History Channel's documentary into the novel's claims about a bloodline of Jesus previously proposed in Henry Lincoln's Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

This presentation examines fiction as a site of interdisciplinary engagement and notes that similar creative license is often at play in academic works. The research for my novel everyman serves as an example of blending scholarly research with creative narrative.

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