The Wake and Romanticism: Historical Fiction as Cultural Resistance
Abstract: When Celtic culture faced oppression in the eighteenth century, poets Thomas Gray and James Macpherson imagined grand tales of historical fiction as a way of both preserving and elevating that culture. Thomas Gray’s The Bard and Macpherson’s Ossian Cycle both sought to remember the rich Scottish-Gaelic history, while depicting heroes from that culture openly resisting their oppressors. Three centuries later, novelist Paul Kingsnorth returns to the blueprint of historical fiction with The Wake, featuring the Anglo-Saxon warrior Buckmaster in his struggle against the Norman invaders. Kingsnorth uses the historical setting to recall foundational elements of English culture he claims have been forgotten. This paper will analyze the use of historical fiction as a means of preserving and remembering a culture. It will also establish The Wake as a work of modern Romanticism through both its similarities with the poems of Macpherson and Gray, and its own struggle to reckon with a forgotten history of English culture.
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