Writing Worthless men: History and the literary

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My fifth novel Worthless men is based on numerous oral history recordings that I made in my mid-twenties, and is set on the home front during World War One. Nevertheless, if I had any ambitions in relation to history while writing the novel, these were only intermittently present to me, and if I was contributing to the historical turn in contemporary literature I was doing so more or less unknowingly. I might even have denied I was writing a historical novel. This essay represents a belated attempt to engage with a discourse of which I was largely unconscious at the time of writing the novel, and considers in particular the hazy issue of novelistic intention, the compositional challenges of incorporating research material into a fiction, the ethical question of the appropriation of traumatic experience, the difficulties in distinguishing fictional from historical discourse, the greater difficulty in distinguishing ‘historical fiction’ from other types of fiction, and concludes with a reconsideration of whether I have in fact written a historical novel.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalTEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • History
  • Historical fiction
  • Authorial intention
  • Composition
  • Defamiliarisation

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