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Telling It Like It Wasn'tThe Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction$
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Catherine Gallagher

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226512389

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226512556.001.0001

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Nineteenth-Century Alternate-History Narratives

Nineteenth-Century Alternate-History Narratives

(p.48) Chapter Two Nineteenth-Century Alternate-History Narratives
Telling It Like It Wasn't

Catherine Gallagher

University of Chicago Press

Alternate-history narratives differ from analytical uses of counterfactual history by developing elaborate plotlines from counterfactual premises. Instead of probing the moments of indeterminacy for their multiple possible consequences in the manner of Leibniz or Clausewitz, the alternate-history writers extend and embellish particular imaginary aftermaths, sometimes spreading them over generations or even centuries. They appeared in two book-length forms in the nineteenth century. The first to be published were alternate histories, which draw their dramatis personae exclusively from the actual historical record. This chapter examines the earliest instances, by Louis Geoffroy-Château and Charles Renouvier, which were published in nineteenth-century France, showing their links to contemporary political and philosophical debates. The second form to arise was the alternate-history novel, which invents not only fictional historical events but also fictional characters. These made their earliest appearances at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States and Britain, following on previous shorter experiments with narrative temporality and historical causality by such writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edward Everett Hale.

Keywords:   alternate history, alternate-history novels, Louis Geoffroy-Chateau, Edward Everett Hale, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Renouvier

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