Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

David Cowart


This study identifies a new generic form termed here the “Speculative Historical Novel” within contemporary American fiction. The works that Speculative Pasts collect all agonize over the erasure of the past, and question how we can incorporate history into the present while accepting that full recuperation may be impossible. In their emphasis on the erasure of the past, these novels trace the manifold silences created by the imperial conquest of the New World and articulate how this past continues to structure the lived experiences of everyone on this continent.

This speculation is, on the one hand, necessarily suppositional. When faced with a literally and ideologically pocked chronicle, authors must rely upon their aesthetic imaginations to craft narratives that forefront the power dynamics that created such silences in the first place, while they simultaneously model ways for us to inhabit our historical present that do not ignore the lasting legacies of this effaced lineage. This speculation can also be revelatory of our current moment within global capitalism. With the cessation of the Cold War, global capitalism has functioned unimpeded for the past thirty years. This moment has seen unprecedented growth in financial sectors, and yet at the same time proven to be extremely susceptible to volatility. Perhaps encapsulated most saliently within the speculative financial practices that beget the global recession of 2008, our growingly abstract and diffracted economic landscape has created a moment in which the disconnect between the lived reality of many global citizens and the economic evaluation of their nations’ economies seems growingly distant. Thus, these speculative histories prove analogous to and culturally contextualized within this global cultural moment in which speculation seems the only way to navigate a landscape of limited information and endless contingency.

Through this artistic speculation, these novels continually attest, we see the importance of the aesthetic imagination in helping us to identify effaced archives and incorporate them into our daily lives, in however contingent and incomplete a manner. By drawing attention to, and speculating about, the manifold silences that mar our past, these novels model for us a navigation of history that does not ignore or efface the gaps that scar the annals of history and provide the possibility of historical critique in an age after postmodernism.


© 2022, Gregory William Deinert

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