Telling It Like It Wasn't: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (Hardback)
  • Telling It Like It Wasn't: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (Hardback)
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Telling It Like It Wasn't: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction (Hardback)

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£79.00
Hardback 416 Pages / Published: 23/02/2018
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Inventing counterfactual histories is a common pastime of modern day historians, both amateur and professional. We speculate about an America ruled by Jefferson Davis, a Europe that never threw off Hitler, or a second term for JFK. These narratives are often written off as politically inspired fantasy or as pop culture fodder, but in Telling It Like It Wasn't, Catherine Gallagher takes the history of counterfactual history seriously, pinning it down as an object of dispassionate study. She doesn't take a moral or normative stand on the practice, but focuses her attention on how it works and to what ends--a quest that takes readers on a fascinating tour of literary and historical criticism. Gallagher locates the origins of contemporary counterfactual history in eighteenth-century Europe, where the idea of other possible historical worlds first took hold in philosophical disputes about Providence before being repurposed by military theorists as a tool for improving the art of war. In the next century, counterfactualism became a legal device for deciding liability, and lengthy alternate-history fictions appeared, illustrating struggles for historical justice. These early motivations--for philosophical understanding, military improvement, and historical justice--are still evident today in our fondness for counterfactual tales featuring the Civil War and Nazis. Alternate histories of the Civil War and WWII abound, but here, Gallagher shows how the counterfactual habit of replaying the recent past often shaped the actual events themselves. The counterfactual mode lets us continue to envision our future by reconsidering the range of previous alternatives. Throughout this engaging and eye-opening book, Gallagher encourages readers to ask important questions about our obsession with counterfactual history and the roots of our tendency to ask "What if...?"

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226512389
Number of pages: 416
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"At a time when fact itself is under siege, why tarry with thought experiments about pasts that didn't happen? Gallagher's answer is a historicist one: although counterfactual narratives have been with us in many forms since antiquity, their full story has remained untold. Fortunately, we no longer have to live in a timeline where Telling It Like It Wasn't has yet to be written. To read this engrossing book is to be haunted not by lives unled but by previously undermapped regions of history, philosophy, theology, legal reasoning, and literature."--Paul K. Saint-Amour, author of Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form

"A fascinating book. . .Telling It Like It Wasn't is a deep and authoritative overview, suitably footnoted, of issues that are even more relevant today. . .There is probably no other book that has mined the historical counterfactual perspective as comprehensively as Gallagher's."

--Footprint Books
"Telling It Like It Wasn't is a deep and authoritative overview, suitably footnoted, of issues that are even more relevant today than in the last century and a half. . .A fascinating book for both historians and the general public."--SF Commentary

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