Narrative ethics and character in the representation of the past in Contemporary fiction

    Project Details


    This was a two-day international conference held at the University of Portsmouth on Friday and Saturday, 16th and 17th June 2023.

    Following on from the success of Event 1 in Caen in October 2022, this conference further explored how the past is a key component of contemporary literature. Current years have seen an increased return of history and of the historical novel in mainstream fiction, from the historiographic metafictions of the 1990s to the “fresh commitment to what we might call the reality of history” (Boxall 2013) in 21st-century novels. Considering that character remains central to the novel, this two-day conference jointly organised by the Universities of Portsmouth and Caen addressed the issue of the past in contemporary fiction through the question of the choice of protagonists and their representation. Indeed, if we believe with Paul Ricoeur that narrative is the foundation of textual memory, if “narrative imagination is an essential preparation for moral interaction” since it develops compassion and understanding in the reader (Nussbaum 1998), then the question that begs to be asked is: can one write anything about the past in the name of the freedom of fiction and art or is there an ethical limit to representations of the past in contemporary fiction?

    The conference included a public event, a talk by acclaimed novelist Patricia Duncker on Friday, 16th June.
    Effective start/end date16/06/2317/06/23


    • ethics
    • character
    • narrative
    • historical fiction