The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time

By Karen Hellekson | Go to book overview

Conclusion

I have been concerned with the meeting of narrative and history within the rubric of the alternate history. Every alternate history is concerned with cause and effect; by altering the cause, this genre argues, one might alter the effect that springs from the cause. The six text-based chapters deal with close analyses of narrative and history, but the rubric that organizes the chapters is the model of history that best describes the reason for history as perceived by the author. Hayden White argues that the historian is not a disinterested researcher, but an interested participant writing a text with an end in mind. His discussions of ideological positions, emplotment modes, and paradigms of form are rigorous ways of tropologically organizing information for analysis.

The alternate history is no different. The four paradigms of history I discuss—the eschatological, genetic, teleological, and entropic models— usefully organize the genre and provide a framework from which researchers may analyze the genre. Terry Cochran argues that “theories of history … emerged precisely in response to instabilities in order to explain them, render them understandable. Thus, historical theories tend to be totalizing, positing an origin, an ending, and a transcendental notion to power the course separating them” (49). The models of history help place the texts that represent this genre into a kind of order according to what I perceive the primary model present in a text to be.

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