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Critical Essay Assignment 1 | Management

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Assessment Task 1

In an essay of 2,500 words (including quotes, excluding reference list), students should discuss their chosen or self-designed prompt with substantial, critical-analytical reference to three primary texts studied before the due date of the assessment, making use of at least four prescribed secondary resources.

1. What kinds of ‘truth’ can 'fiction' offer? Are there forms of information about the past that 'fiction' can offer more powerfully, more intimately, than ‘real history’? 

2. How far does most historical fiction succeed as an escape from the real? Is historical fiction really just a soft and safe option? 

3. Discuss the possibilities for fiction as a serious investigative mechanism. Outline ways in which the mounting of hypotheses, in historical fictions, have led to richer versions of present truths. 

4. Writers sometimes speak of 'fiction’s' capacity to retrieve the lost voices of marginalised and oppressed groups. Is this retrieval, or just a representation of what is really inaccessible? Are we just retrieving, ‘under controlled conditions’, the kinds of voices that we want to hear? Discuss both the strengths and the limits of such fictional explorations. 

5. Historical fiction: mere spectacle, or powerful engagement? Discuss authorial strategies through which history may be rendered real, immediate, and telling. In particular, outline ways in which a number of authors have made their histories press powerfully and insistently upon the present. 

6. Most novels and stories are set in the past. Most novels are thus, in a sense, ‘historical’, involving complex devices for bringing the past forward and moving about in time – moving faster, moving slower, interrupting the flow of time, and generally, breaking up and strategically diverting the flow of time through introduction to conclusion. Compare and evaluate the handlings of time in a number of works studied up until this point in the trimester. 

7. Do particular ‘uses’ of time betray a deeper and more philosophical attitude to time, on the part of the author? In what ways can various fictional uses of time subvert, expand and challenge our conventional notions of time? How far can good reading sometimes be a direct assault on our habitual notions of time, of ‘pendulum time’, as Laurence Sterne once called it?

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