History vs Fiction

History vs Fiction - History vs Fiction Analyzing the Differences and Similarities What is the difference between an historical account and a

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History vs. Fiction: Analyzing the Differences and Similarities What is the difference between an historical account and a fictional account? This question has been explored for many years, and is still the subject of heated debates. What are the obligations of the historian who compiles and documents the information for their readers? Is there any difference between the historians and the novelists regarding a reader’s expectation for accuracy of the facts? How do readers know what to believe and what to disregard? The answers to these questions are neither simple nor short, but this paper will attempt to resolve them nevertheless. An historian is defined by Wikipedia as, “a person who studies history. […] often reserved for people whose work is recognized in academia, particularly those who have acquired graduate degrees in the discipline (Historian).” Although this definition may seem rather vague, it does point readers in the right direction. In another article, “Novel”, also found at Wikipedia.com, we learn that, “Since its appearance, the novel has become one of the major literary genres, and today it is the object of discussions demanding artistic merit, a specific literary style and a deeper meaning than a true story of the same content could claim to have (Novel).” Readers expect to get the straight facts from their history texts, while they expect to get the feeling of the time and culture from their novels. The distinctive differences between historical retellings and fictional accounts are therefore closely linked to the overall message of the piece. When a novelist writes, whether historical fiction or otherwise, there is an attempt to convey culture, context and emotion. When an historian writes there is a requirement that only the facts themselves be presented. An historian would tell us for example that, “Mount St. Helens had been dormant since 1857. An explosive steam eruption on March
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27, 1980, was followed by alternating periods of quiescence and minor eruption (Saint).” Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson, Michael T. Murphy & Larry Sturholm receive writing credits for the 1981 movie “St. Helens, Killer Volcano.” The movie gives us an emotional attachment to a stubborn old man named “Harry Truman,” who refuses to evacuate. This example is used to illustrate a key difference between history and fiction.
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This note was uploaded on 10/23/2009 for the course ENG/HIST 299H taught by Professor Walker/tekulve during the Spring '06 term at Converse.

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History vs Fiction - History vs Fiction Analyzing the Differences and Similarities What is the difference between an historical account and a

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