On the Lancaster University website there’s news of a conference on reading and writing the 21st-century novel. As some of the talks were about historical fiction, I thought it might be particularly interesting — until I read some of the abstracts. Here’s an example:
Mariadele Boccardi, (University of the West of England), ‘Beyond the Garden: Liminality and Politics in the 21st Century Historical Novel’.
Amy Elias has suggested that in historical novels the “sense of history emerges from and is constructed by the text itself”. In a group of historical novels published in the early 1990s (The Chymical Wedding, Possession, and Ever After), the sense of history is articulated as an explicit epistemological encounter between past and present occurring within the gated boundaries of an Edenic garden. This space is constructed as a haven from the ethical demands of the enterprise of representation and becomes the liminal site of contingent apprehension of history. My paper examines how two twenty-first century historical novels interrogate and ultimately re-articulate the implications of liminality by explicitly engaging with the locus of the garden. Matthew Kneale’s English Passengers (2000) presents the quest for a physical rather than narrative Garden of Eden and in the move from formal to substantive concerns explores the ethics of its representation in fiction. Ronan Bennett’s Havoc in its Third Year (2004), on the other hand, centres on the impossibility of the garden itself, as John Brigge articulates his desire for a life outside the commitments of politics in the image of a garden in bloom in which his wife and child sit. The paper offers productive directions of enquiry on the historical novel beyond the concerns with narrative, knowledge and representation which dominated it at the end of the twentieth century and towards both the ethical and political implications of narrating the past.
What is it about Eng. Lit. academics that they have to talk in this impenetrable gobbledegook?
My guess it’s either (a) they don’t have anything interesting to say, so they dress it up in long words and tortuous phrasing, or (b) it makes them feel important to exclude the non-academic by using “specialist” jargon. Or both. Anyway, there’s plenty more in this vein here. I don’t, by the way, suppose this kind of thing is limited to Lit Profs, but it’s a long time since I was a student (and in those days academic gobbledegook was mainly the preserve of sociologists).