In the gaps left unfilled : historical fantasy and the past

McArthur, Maxine Elisabeth (2008) In the gaps left unfilled : historical fantasy and the past. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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Abstract

The thesis consists of the novel The Fox and the Mirror and an accompanying exegesis. The novel is an historical fantasy set in a world based on early medieval (12-13th century) Japan. The main characters are a young female shaman, Hatsu, and a young warrior’s assistant, Sada, who is a Buddhist believer. When Hatsu’s village and shrine are destroyed by warriors and her summoning mirror is stolen, she is abandoned by her kami . To experience the kami’s presence again, she must follow the thief and retrieve the mirror before it can be used to resurrect an ancient evil. Sada must capture Hatsu and bring her back to his lord, or his family will suffer. Yet he is entranced by Hatsu and feels guilt at the destruction of her village. He must choose whether to abandon his former life and stay with Hatsu, or betray her. In the novel I have tried to invoke the feel of a place and time where the supernatural is as real as the physical world; I also try to imagine how a religion as alien to Japanese native beliefs as Buddhism became a part of that country’s spiritual culture. In the exegesis I reflect upon how I used various kinds of history, both written and unwritten, to build the world, characters and narratives of The Fox and the Mirror, and thereby explore some ways in which historical fantasy, as a sub-genre of historical fiction, is capable of presenting an ‘authentic’ view of the past, in spite of its non-realistic nature. I identify three main ways historical fantasy writers can provide an authentic view of the past: by using telling details from an historical era; by incorporating documented events and persons into the story; and by portraying the world as people in the past believed it to be. Historical fantasy is different from realistic historical fiction in that it can more easily incorporate elements belonging to shared cultural heritage, such as beliefs regarding the dead and the supernatural. This characteristic involves writers in research using material that involves other ways of knowing the past—in particular the expressions of belief such as religion, popular customs, folk tales, and oral history. With the broadening of our historiological perspectives in the postmodern climate, historical fantasy based on non-documentary forms of history may come to be seen as another way of knowing the past.

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ID Code: 20297
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Bourke, Nicole & Bolland, Craig
Keywords: historical fantasy, historical fiction, Japan, supernatural, religious beliefs, history and the past, historical fantasy writers, Japanese Buddhism, Shinto, history and fiction, fiction and the past, religious syncretism in Japan, angry ghosts, shamans in Japan, spirit summoning, Salmonson, Tezuka, Hughart, Princess Mononoke, kami
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 01 May 2009 03:08
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:52

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