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“Based on a True Story”: The Appeal to Truth and Postcolonial Historical Fiction
Films and books that claim to be “based on a true story” have a strong pull on the audience. The appeal to truth is powerful, and some scholars attribute its power to nostalgia for a long, lost time when things were supposedly better. In an age where “all that is solid melts into air,” historical fiction is a response to a perceived loss of stability, innocence, tradition and coherence. While this may be true, it does not address the pull of historical fiction for people who do not foster any nostalgia for particular periods in history. Colonial pasts, for instance, are particularly problematic. Historical novels set in such periods do too make an appeal to the truth, but this appeal is certainly not nostalgic as oppression, brutality, theft and erasure are what are fore-fronted, never a “better time.” In this talk, I look at various postcolonial, historical novels to explore the appeal of “based on a true story,” their relationship to truth, and what this appeal to truth means for the postcolonial condition.
Speaker: Dr. Maya Aghasi, Assistant Professor of Literature, Department of English, American University of Sharjah.
Dr. Aghasi works on the postcolonial in world and transnational literatures in English, Arabic and French. She explores such problems as the nation, race and globalization, placing gender at the heart of her analyses. She has published on national conflict as a spectacle of ideological pedagogy and on Arab American women writers. This talk comes from her current project on postcolonial historical fiction, which looks at how the genre can interrogate and atone for unjust historical documentation in colonial and settler colonial societies.
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