Landscapes of History in the Novels of Lawrence Norfolk
Periodikum: Prague Journal of English Studies
Klíčová slova: Contemporary British fiction; historical novel; anti-humanism; myth in fiction; postmodern narrative
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visual quality and the way they depict history. It is argued that Norfolk’s historical
novels are unique in their portrayal of “landscapes of history”, large canvases in which
individual characters play marginal, or a rather insignificant role. This approach
distinguishes Norfolk from much of contemporary historical fiction, albeit at times this
strategy might not be wholly satisfactory from a critical perspective. However, the article
claims that Norfolk’s novels are intellectually inspiring since, similar to landscape,
they invite a certain gaze, yet deny us the possibility of naming, of conceptualising.
They provide readers with impressive vistas on history, which is seen as something too
large to understand and penetrate. In this the novels are anti-humanistic. Individual
characters (and their actions) are insignificant, or significant only to such an extent
that they subscribe to some mythical framework, as Norfolk shows in, arguably, his
best novel, In the Shape of a Boar (2000).