The Past re-imagined: memory and representations of power in historical fiction for children

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    This article argues that historical fiction functions as a collective memory: it provides a social framework for recollections that speak of a national agenda often through personal experiences. Taking as its examples three Australian and New Zealand fictions for children and young adults, from the late twentieth and early twentieth-first century, the article examines texts that focus on how we remember the past and what aspects of that past should be remembered: Memorial (1999), a picture book by Gary Crew (author) and Shaun Tan (illustrator), The Divine Wind (1998) by Garry Disher, and The Swap (2004) by Wendy Catran. Close analysis of these texts suggests that, like memory itself, historical fiction tends to eulogise the past. In historical fiction, for children especially, whilst power relations of cultural significance can be perpetuated, they can also be re-positioned or re-invented in order to re-imagine the past. Shifts in the present understanding of past power relationships contribute towards the reinvention of race relations, national ideologies and the locus of political dissent. The article concludes that historical fiction, because of its simultaneous claim to fact and imagination, can be a powerful and cunning mode of propaganda.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-124
    Number of pages14
    JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • historical fiction
    • memory
    • power
    • war
    • memorial
    • Australia


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