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John Probasco McWilliams
Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT 05753-6004)
Revolution and the Historical Novel

As Lukacs observed, the historical novel arose shortly after the French Revolution when European peoples acquired an acute sense of the passage of time. My book will apply Lukacs's insight both to major historical novels and to the troubled position of their authors. As the upheavals of 1815, 1830, 1848, 1870 and 1917 all attest, faith in enlightenment was repeatedly challenged by the carnage of further revolution. Present circumstance necessarily reshaped novelists' portrayals of a prior era. Although political change in the name of human rights aroused hope of progress, a legacy of violence, originating in the leftist Terror of 1793, provoked fear and conservatism. From Waverley to Doctor Zhivago, the wavering of the male protagonist embodies both a dialogue between past and present and an historical clash between an ancien regime and a volatile new order. I intend to write the most authoritative study of revolutionary politics in the historical novel yet to appear in print.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Comparative Literature

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2011 – 12/31/2011