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« "It's a Good Life" | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

January 04, 2006



Spielberg is taking some heat about this now with his movie Munich, on a related matter--that he is drawing on one series of events out of the rest of the historical conflict. As a result, the Isreali response is seen, according to detractors, out of the of an ongoing war. If you don't know what happened previously, the Isreali response looks like an over-reaction.

This interests me quite a bit because of the problem of the ever-receeding beginning for a story teller and the problem of history in ethical and moral dilemmas.

Interesting post!

Andre Mayer

In fiction, the issue is not verifiable fact versus probabilities or even possibilities -- it's facts and probabilities and possibilities versus untruths, improbabilities, and impossibilities.

Greenblatt's Will in the World may or may not be legitimate scholarship, but does anyone argue that its embrace of possibilities goes too far even for fiction?

It seems to me that there are (at least) two related but distinguishable moral issues, social and individual, both of which apply in some degree to scholarship as well as to literature. The social issue has to do with misrepresentation of historical events and process in a way that distorts readers'/viewers' understanding of the world they live in. The individual issue has to do with our human responsibility to our subjects: the dead have no right to privacy, and no recourse against libel, but they are owed respect.

Ophelia Benson

Interesting, indeed.

And of course I knew I was mincing around in a large field. But my main point was just to say that it's too simple merely to say 'it doesn't matter.' It does matter. That doesn't mean I know how to resolve the issues, to put it mildly; but I do argue that it matters.

Funny, I've just been reading Greenblatt's Will in the World - and don't think much of it, I must say. At least not so far. The whole deeply conditional section on Campion and the Lancashire Catholic sojourn - I don't believe a word of it, and I don't find it interesting. And it all seems so stale - the 'he might have' stuff is so familiar from myriad other Shakespeare biographies; it seems silly to bother with yet another walk around that particular park.

But maybe it improves.


I'm going to work my way back to the ethical issues in the second post, because I'm far from denying that they exist (it's something that comes up regularly in reference to my Victorian historical novels, which are making very specific claims about moral values and historical narrative). But where do "truths" and "untruths" reside in a historical novel--in individual details, the narrative's overarching "argument," or somewhere else?

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