This collection of essays addresses forms of historical self-reflexivity in American short fiction from the early nineteenth century to the present. It examines the historical, social, and intellectual impulses that led to a questioning of the traditional concepts of historiography. The essays investigate the various challenges that American writers of short fiction have leveled against positivistic notions of history throughout the last two centuries.
As the contributors of this collection show, the questioning of the truth status of historiography is not a product of a pervasive twentieth-century skepticism and relativism, but is instead a reflection of a persistent and wide-ranging inquiry into the limits of historical knowledge: philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries doubted the possibility of an objective rendering of historical events, and writers of fiction at once absorbed and intensified these skeptical impulses. From the beginning, American short stories have instigated a process of renegotiating and re-visioning America's past.