The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time

By Karen Hellekson | Go to book overview

2
Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee:
Alternate History, Narrativity,
and the Nature of Time

In this chapter, I discuss in detail several articulations of time, most notably the ideas of time as an arrow and time as a cycle. Underpinning any understanding of time, however, is the human sense of time and the way it is structured. History is held up by this most basic of understandings: what happened in the past has created the present. The alternate history seeks to redirect the arrow of time, to change a cause and therefore change an effect, an idea I outlined in more detail in the previous chapter. In an alternate history, even a simple change in cause may cascade, leading to a dramatically different effect, or historical outcome. For this reason, I consider all alternate histories to be fundamentally genetic, or, to cite Webster's Tenth, “relating to or determined by the origin, development or causal antecedents of something.” This chapter and the two that follow focus on texts that deal primarily with the genetic model of history.

Bring the Jubilee, Ward Moore's classic 1955 science fiction novel, plays with the genesis of events by playing with the metaphors we use to articulate the passage of time, most notably the metaphors of time as arrow and time as cycle—the linear and cyclic models of time. I discuss these metaphors in terms of both the theme of the work and the narrative structure Moore uses: Moore writes the memoir of a historian, Hodge, who finds himself in an increasingly alien alternate reality after he time-travels to the past and changes his history. Hodge, who fears that he lives in a

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