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Postmodernist historical novels: Jeanette Winterson’s and Salman Rushdie’s novels as historiographic metafictions

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2009
Kırca, Mustafa
The aim of this dissertation is to study postmodern historical novels, which are labeled “historiographic metafictions” (Hutcheon 1989: 92), in terms of their allowing for different voices and alternative, plural histories by subverting the historical documents and events that they refer to. The study analyzes texts from feminist and postcolonial literature, Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion and Sexing the Cherry, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Shame as examples in which the transgression of boundaries between fact and fiction is achieved. Basing its arguments on postmodern understanding of history, the thesis puts forward that historiography not only represents past events but it also gives meaning to them, as it is a signifying system, and turns historical events into historical facts. Historiography, while constructing historical facts, singles out certain past events while omitting others, for ideological reasons. This inevitably leads to the fact that marginalized groups are denied an official voice by hegemonic ideologies. Therefore, history is regarded as monologic, representing the dominant discourse. The thesis will analyze four novels by Winterson and Rushdie as double-voiced discourses where the dominant voice of history is refracted through subversion and gives way to other voices that have been suppressed. While analyzing the novels themselves, the thesis will look for the metafictional elements of the texts, stressing self-reflexivity, non-linear narrative, and parodic intention to pinpoint the refraction and the co-existence of plural voices. As a result, historiographic metafiction is proved to be a liberating genre, for feminist and postcolonial writers, that enables other histories to be verbalized.