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Crossing Borders

The Interrelation of Fact and Fiction in Historical Works, Travel Tales, Autobiography and Reportage


Maureen A. Ramsden

In the twentieth century, the boundaries between different literary genres started to be questioned, raising a discussion about the various narrative modes of factual and fictional discourses.
Moving on from the limited traditional studies of genre definitions, this book argues that the borders between these two types of discourse depend on complex issues of epistemology, literary traditions and social and political constraints. This study attempts a systematic and specific analysis of how literary works, and in particular documentary ones, where the borders are more difficult to define, can be classified as factual or fictional. The book deals with several areas of discourse, including history, travel tales, autobiography and reportage, and opens up perspectives on the very different ways in which documentary works make use of the inescapable presence of both factual and fictional elements.


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Part II: The Interrelation of Fact and Fiction in Documentary Discourse


Part II The Interrelation of Fact and Fiction in Documentary Discourse Ce que je viens d’écrire est faux. Vrai. Ni vrai ni faux comme tout ce qu’on écrit sur les fous, sur les hommes. [What I have just written is false. True. Neither false nor true, like every- thing that is written on the insane and Man in general.] — Jean-Paul Sartre If Fictions are model versions of reality, rather than either records of the real or fabrications of the unreal, then we must explore the ways in which such models may relate to our existence. — Robert Scholes Chapter 3 The Story of History/History as Story1 Introduction This chapter focuses on the area of historical discourse. It examines the particular paradigm used by many modern factual and fictional historical works, the narrative form of discourse, and the object of their inquiry or story, the factual or fictional data belonging to the past. The main aim of the discussion is to illustrate the different levels at which elements from the opposing realm operate in both factual and fictional discourses. Thus fictional techniques are to be found in factual histories and historical facts form part of fictional histories, leading to the production of a story of his- tory or a history as story. A passage taken from Michelet’s Histoire de la révolution française (1847) [History of the French Revolution], a work of history of the nineteenth century, which is accepted as factual, according to the literary conventions and epistemology of...

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