The Theory of Evolution and the Life of its Author in Contemporary British Fiction and Non-Fiction
History and Simulation in Thorvald Steen’s Don Carlos and Giovanni and Roger McDonald’s Mr. Darwin’s Shooter
In his seminal Simulacra and Simulation Jean Baudrillard argues that late twentieth-century cinema is obsessed with history, which it tries to simulate14 in response to the prevailing feeling of the lack of historical continuity, and of any reliable historical narrative bonding us to the past and explaining our world as resulting from past events.
The great event of this period, the great trauma, is the decline of strong referentials, these death pangs of the real and of the rational that open onto an age of simulation […] today one has the impression that history has retreated leaving behind it an indifferent nebula, traversed by currents, but emptied of references. It is into this void that the phantasms of past history recede, the panoply of events, ideologies, retrofashions – no longer so much because people believe in them or still place some hope in them, but simply to resurrect the period when at least there was history.15
“The phantasms of past history” Baudrillard describes are history-inspired scenarios which, without attempting to be accurate, play with the notions of the past, reenacting events and situations we know from history books and turning them into spectacle. History is not shown but simulated in such a way as to emphasize its fictional character. The spectators are continuously made aware that they are watching an impression of what might have happened in the past, with the past itself being inaccessible.
The wealth of contemporary novels which discuss history in...
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