CHAPTER 4

Histories and Stories

but once history's onstage, histrionic as usual (all those wars,
all those historic judgements), the a–historic hasn't a speaking
part. what's imagination next to the weight of the (f)actual?

Daphne Marlatt, Ana Historic1

The nature of history, the ways in which it is written, spoken, imagined, researched, even performed, are thematised in Daphne Marlatt's Ana Historic (1988). The novel explores a particular aspect of Canadian history–the establishment of Vancouver in the late nineteenth century, and the experiences of women living there –and at the same time, it reflects self-consciously on ways of knowing and narrating the past. It may therefore be described as 'historiographic metafiction', a term coined by the influential Canadian theorist of postmodernity Linda Hutcheon. In her 1988 book A Poetics of Postmodernism, Hutcheon writes: 'Historiographic metafiction shows fiction to be historically conditioned and history to be discursively structured'.2 She argues that, in such texts, the apparently transparent mechanisms of both literary realism and historical writing are revealed to be selective, contingent and informed by complex power relations. In The Canadian Postmodern, also published in 1988, Hutcheon emphasises that historiographic metafiction is not preoccupied simply with its own conventions; rather, it is 'fiction that is intensely, self-reflexively art, but is also grounded in historical, social, and political realities', and that it is

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