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Thread: The Historical Mind-Set

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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    The Historical Mind-Set

    I thought I would start this thread after reading a reply in a different thread in Novels. All I can say is that I am gobsmacked:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244237&page=2

    Now there's one I don't agree with. Even though it's not realistic, historical mindsets are obnoxious, I'd generally prefer a historical character with a more modern mindset if it's not absurdly anachronistic. Or, better, a historical fantasy world where the modern mindsets make sense within the worldbuilding.


    Now I'm not sure whether it's the thought of deeming historical characters as 'obnoxious' [which is ignorant of history, as many modern values stem from the classical world], or that it annoys me as a history student and historical writer who's first pre-occupation is with capturing 'alien' cultures - which is why I read HF after all.

    When I read HF, I don't want to read about the modern world. If I want to read about the modern world, there's plenty to be had in the general fiction shelves.

    Thoughts?
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    I don't particularly enjoy reading women-hating narratives, is the problem for me with pure accuracy. And let's face it, a vast majority of times and cultures were (or still are) horrible settings for women to try and exist, much less thrive. Stand-out women like Hypatia, Trotula di Ruggiello, and the like still lived against a backdrop of oppression so awful, it depresses me to read accurate stories about them. So for me, yes, I like some modernization of the treatment of women, even if it's just within a single university, family, or social structure of the author's invention set against the backdrop of a misogynist world. Reading over and over again about how, say, Fanny Mendelssohn, every bit the thinker and composer her brother was, was stuck in the house and belittled and kept from making her fine music public either depresses me or makes me want to become a lesbian or take out anger on some poor undeserving modern male or...well, I don't end up in a good mood about it. It reminds me of my own childhood, how I wasn't allowed to do much interesting at all, told I couldn't be a doctor or President or athlete or astronomer because I was female. It reminds me of what I've lost in music, art, and science because half the geniuses were kept from developing their talents. Give me a dose of more pleasant inaccuracy any day.

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    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    Now I'm not sure whether it's the thought of deeming historical characters as 'obnoxious' [which is ignorant of history, as many modern values stem from the classical world], or that it annoys me as a history student and historical writer who's first pre-occupation is with capturing 'alien' cultures - which is why I read HF after all.

    When I read HF, I don't want to read about the modern world. If I want to read about the modern world, there's plenty to be had in the general fiction shelves.

    Thoughts?
    Yes, peculiarly enough, ALL people born before 1950 were naturally obnoxious – as opposed to the lovely, intelligent, verbal people oozing intellectual flexibility and empathy you can find posting on, say, youtube?

    I bet 98% of all people in history were obnoxious. Just like 98% of all people in any other given group are obnoxious. isn't it funny though that I think about 98% of all people would agree with me on that, even though none of them would include themselves among the obnoxious people?

    Anyway, I love history, warts and all. In fact, I especially love the warts! I don't want a sanatized version of history anymore than I want a 'sanatized', kiddie-adapted version of the world when I watch the news or read a contemporary book.

    Quote Originally Posted by lorna_w View Post
    I don't particularly enjoy reading women-hating narratives, is the problem for me with pure accuracy. And let's face it, a vast majority of times and cultures were (or still are) horrible settings for women to try and exist, much less thrive. Stand-out women like Hypatia, Trotula di Ruggiello, and the like still lived against a backdrop of oppression so awful, it depresses me to read accurate stories about them.
    I do not agree that a historically accurate narrative need be 'women-hating'. This whole idea that women in history are only interesting when they 'stand out' is actually a pet peeve of mine. Women have, through out history, lived spectacular lives. Not just a few; women in general. They conquered hardships and tribulations; they've loved and lost and sacrificed their lives for others and causes they believed in. They hated and killed and traded and intrigued. They had revelations and lost their faith and regained it. And they had dreams and wills and created beautiful things that we have decided were not 'art' simply because they were female crafts...

    In short, they lived full, exciting lives even if they didn't make it into the history books. That is not to say they lead easy lives, but most people didn't.
    Last edited by Flicka; 05-05-2012 at 08:38 PM.
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    Wandering the west wandering's Avatar
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    I try to stick to the historical facts, regardless of what they are. Warts and all. Taking a snap shot in history, against the background of those times, and it would certainly not mimic today's "mind set." How could one write a contemporary historical piece that includes slavery, for instance ?

    Interesting thread.

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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wandering View Post
    "mind set." How could one write a contemporary historical piece that includes slavery, for instance ?
    The sex trade.
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    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    I thought I would start this thread after reading a reply in a different thread in Novels. All I can say is that I am gobsmacked:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244237&page=2



    Now I'm not sure whether it's the thought of deeming historical characters as 'obnoxious' [which is ignorant of history, as many modern values stem from the classical world], or that it annoys me as a history student and historical writer who's first pre-occupation is with capturing 'alien' cultures - which is why I read HF after all.

    When I read HF, I don't want to read about the modern world. If I want to read about the modern world, there's plenty to be had in the general fiction shelves.

    Thoughts?
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    Nothing in literature turns me off more than "historicals" with inappropriate mindsets for the period. Not the rare individual known to have an unusual mindset, like say, Spinoza, of course. But I refused to read a book that had cavemen with alienated loners. Couldn't stand "Godric" because Buechner made the guy long for a more meaningful relationship with his father, when he would have worked alongside his father for years. Etc.

    I don't write much or read much historical fiction for this very reason. And ironically, that's exactly why I show up here to offer my thoughts, etc. I don't want HF I want to throw across the room.

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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    I do not agree that a historically accurate narrative need be 'women-hating'. This whole idea that women in history are only interesting when they 'stand out' is actually a pet peeve of mine. Women have, through out history, lived spectacular lives. Not just a few; women in general. They conquered hardships and tribulations; they've loved and lost and sacrificed their lives for others and causes they believed in. They hated and killed and traded and intrigued. They had revelations and lost their faith and regained it. And they had dreams and wills and created beautiful things that we have decided were not 'art' simply because they were female crafts...


    Precisely. It's a common accusation that the Romans were 'woman-hating.' But, when you read some of the tombstones set up by husbands for their wives, they are some of the most romantic things I've ever read.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorna_w View Post
    I don't particularly enjoy reading women-hating narratives, is the problem for me with pure accuracy.
    Flicka has already made some excellent points about this, so I'll try not to go off into a long rant. (I've been extremely touchy about this perception of history=oppressed women ever since a child that I was babysitting said, in the middle of a game of pioneers, "I'll just sit down here on this stump and watch you, since this was back when women had no point." No point? Our culture is telling our daughters that up until just now, they had no point? )

    Ahem. Working on this not-ranting thing.

    Anyhow, I'd like to add that history is not a monolith, and there is no broad "historical mindset". Finding misogynistic mindsets obnoxious does not necessarily mean that an accurate Anglo-Saxon mindset would be obnoxious.

    It's also worth bearing in mind that a huge amount of the history that has been passed down to us was filtered through a Victorian mindset.

    That said, I agree that there can be "historical mindsets" that are obnoxious to me as well. Like the ones where the character is so busy being a Medieval Person that they forget to be human. Or the scenario when the spunky female MC with an inexplicably modern mindset is running around in a historical setting, feeling oppressed because she can't be a modern women.

    If a person from another century (past or future) was transported to now, I'm sure our social mores could also be perceived as oppressive. Different social mores are just different. Differences can sometimes involve oppression; but they can also mean that there's an entirely different system in place, with different ways to thrive. Less-well-researched historical writing can forget that, and throw a blanket of generic misogyny and backwardness over everything more than a few decades ago. Which makes me ranty.

    I'm sorry to hear about your personal experiences with misogyny, though, lorna_w - I can see how that could sour the entire discussion. I'm not in a position of having ever been told that I couldn't do something because I was a girl (though I do wish I'd picked up more mechanics from my dad, the way my brothers did), so I'm coming at this from a very different angle.

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    little orphan anarchist Raventongue's Avatar
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    Accuracy. Accuracy is nice. But there are seriously some folks who write historical fiction set in times or places they know nothing about just so they can get away with disgusting amounts of sexism, racism, homophobia and the like. And they get away with it too easily.

    Besides, as much as I love a good gritty historical now and then, every once in a while I just want a setting that's simple and fun. I think we can all agree obnoxious behaviour (historical or otherwise) is not, in and of itself, fun.
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    knows a hawk from a handsaw Shakesbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorna_w View Post
    And let's face it, a vast majority of times and cultures were (or still are) horrible settings for women to try and exist, much less thrive.
    This is true for the vast majority of humanity, not just women. Social class, not just gender, determined the life style of many people in the past. Born into a high social class a woman could have a good life if she was of a mind set. Many women rebelled against the restrictions they faced but they did it quietly and without fuss which is why there is little, if anything, about them in primary sources. I think that a lot of the perceptions of the past are still based on the views of male historians writing for males. As are so many, if not all, primary sources. Going beyond the history books to the primary sources gives a more realistic and accurate view. Many modern mind sets are just as obnoxious as some from the past. Some humans have yet to progress beyond Neanderthal.




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    Wandering the west wandering's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by wandering
    "mind set." How could one write a contemporary historical piece that includes slavery, for instance ?


    The sex trade.
    True, I was thinking back in Egyptian/Roman times

    I do find this thread very interesting.

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    Two years old now. Lyra Jean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post

    Precisely. It's a common accusation that the Romans were 'woman-hating.' But, when you read some of the tombstones set up by husbands for their wives, they are some of the most romantic things I've ever read.
    I remember from one of my Roman history classes a gravestone of someone's wife. It was a lovely epitaph. He spoke of how even though she loved him she would go along with a divorce so he could remarry because she couldn't get pregnant and give him children. But how he refused because he loved her. And basically how wonderful and loving she was and now his world is less now because she is no longer in it.

    I actually had a crush on Pompey the Great because he loved his wives not only for the sex but also for their intelligence. He was married multiple times including Julia, the only child of Julius Caesar.

    I stopped reading historicals because all the women seemed to modern. None of them wanted to actually get married they all wanted to go out and accomplish something great or prove that they don't need to be married. I even read one historical where none of the women actually wanted to be married but only did so because it was what was expected of them or because it would be better for them if they did. But none of them actually ever loved their husbands or even grew to love their husbands. Sorry to unrealistic for me.
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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyra Jean View Post
    I actually had a crush on Pompey the Great because he loved his wives not only for the sex but also for their intelligence. He was married multiple times including Julia, the only child of Julius Caesar.
    I think it was Pompey who was called 'an effeminate lecher' because he loved his wife too much. I love that, I just had to put in my book.

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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shakesbear View Post
    This is true for the vast majority of humanity, not just women. Social class, not just gender, determined the life style of many people in the past. Born into a high social class a woman could have a good life if she was of a mind set. Many women rebelled against the restrictions they faced but they did it quietly and without fuss which is why there is little, if anything, about them in primary sources. I think that a lot of the perceptions of the past are still based on the views of male historians writing for males. As are so many, if not all, primary sources. Going beyond the history books to the primary sources gives a more realistic and accurate view.
    I agree.

    I'm currently researching Pious Romances from the 5th century, for my new WIP. Despite they are fiction [and have a strict function] it's interesting to see the gender roles in action.
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    Dull Old Person Flicka's Avatar
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    I'm lucky enough to never even have heard of the idea that there were things I couldn't do because I was a girl until I started school. Until then, I thought the biggest difference in what boys and girls could or couldn't do was that I could wear dresses and boys could not...

    In school that changed. I was constantly debating gender issues with my teachers. I think they hated me.

    It didn't do much good, though. For example, in high school I filed an official protest against our lit hist book, which I felt gave to too much attention to male writers at the cost of important female writers. My example was that Jane Austen, the Brontë Sisters and Elizabeth Gaskell were all crammed in on less than 1/2 page, while Dickens got 12 whole pages. The response? I was told not to think so much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldbirch View Post
    F
    Anyhow, I'd like to add that history is not a monolith, and there is no broad "historical mindset".

    /.../

    Less-well-researched historical writing can forget that, and throw a blanket of generic misogyny and backwardness over everything more than a few decades ago.
    This so much. I don't know how many times I've seen people discuss 18th century behaviour in terms of 'my grandmother did...' when said grandmother was born in 1890. Like everything 'in history' was more or less the same.

    'History' isn't one place or one mindset, but many. To assume that people were less intellectually or emotionally apt just because they lived a few hundred years ago is a sign of ignorance. I can't imagine that a person who's read accounts of grieving parents from the 18th century or say, Roman poetry or 17th century philosophy, could ever make that mistake.

    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    I think it was Pompey who was called 'an effeminate lecher' because he loved his wife too much. I love that, I just had to put in my book.
    I remember reading a book set in 19th century Sweden by one of our great 'working class writers' where she has a man marrying a woman he's crazy about pretty late in life. He dotes on her until she gets pregnant, when he turns very cold and distant. Turns out he's embarrassed that everyone will be able to tell from her growing belly that he's not a 'real man' but one that likes the carnal companionship of women.

    Which is clearly very unmanly.

    Quote Originally Posted by gothicangel View Post
    I agree.
    I'm currently researching Pious Romances from the 5th century, for my new WIP. Despite they are fiction [and have a strict function] it's interesting to see the gender roles in action.
    I'm also studying the 5th century right now.
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    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I'm lucky enough to never even have heard of the idea that there were things I couldn't do because I was a girl until I started school. Until then, I thought the biggest difference in what boys and girls could or couldn't do was that I could wear dresses and boys could not...

    In school that changed. I was constantly debating gender issues with my teachers. I think they hated me.

    It didn't do much good, though. For example, in high school I filed an official protest against our lit hist book, which I felt gave to too much attention to male writers at the cost of important female writers. My example was that Jane Austen, the Brontë Sisters and Elizabeth Gaskell were all crammed in on less than 1/2 page, while Dickens got 12 whole pages. The response? I was told not to think so much.
    I remember when I was in primary school we were being taught how to sew [girls only, and this was in the eighties.] I still can't sew or knit . . .
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    practical experience, FTW DianeL's Avatar
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    I have to say, speaking as a feminist, I don't see how pretending-away the more difficult aspects of life for women (or ANYone) during a difficult period in history does me any favors today. I find anachronistic female characters jarring and irritating precisely because ignoring the problems of any society (whether gender-based or otherwise) too apologistic and flip.

    I'd agree with everyone who has pointed out that history isn't some sort of homogenized place where everyone held exactly the same viewpoints to exactly the same degree, in every station and every place across the board. Women are enough a part of the population that even the most misogynistic systems were forced to accommodate at least some aspect of their participation in the world. It's often been speculated, too, that in so-called "lower classes" there was less room for systematized chauvinism, as women had to contribute in order for all the work to be properly done. I think there are limits to this theory, too, but it *has* given enough room for some authors to have created some excellent historicals based on this "wiggle room".

    My own approach to female characters has varied somewhat. Very early Frankish society was still in some flux, and my main female character happens to be a queen known almost entirely for her influence with her husband - but I depict a relationship between them fraught with its *own* difficulties, some of which do present in the context of a historical woman's actual position. One woman is banished from society (the worst punishment possible) for sexual indiscretion, and another, as the victim of rape, witnesses her tormenter seriously punished (by the laws of wergeld, a woman in childbearing years was high in the heirarchy of human life value). The second novel will deal with a woman of even higher noble station, in a much more ritualized society, who infracts against her system pretty spectacularly (she marries a slave at one point) and witnesses the consequences to others, of her actions. This woman happens to be educated (letters of hers survive) and powerful, but in many ways has a much harder go of things as a woman precisely because of her attainment of power. The price she'll pay is definitely owing to her gender, too.

    In order to explore these things, to get down into their implications, for me as an author to ignore them would leave me writing a fairy tale, not a real story. I can't and won't do that, and have a very hard time understanding why it would interest anybody to cleave away these things from a work of fiction. Whatever their reasoning may be, they're asking for compromised storytelling - and fiction is compromised in enough ways just subjectively, I can't fathom good reasons to compromise it knowingly. I don't understand the attraction to history, if one wants bits of it redacted or edited away.
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW flapperphilosopher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I do not agree that a historically accurate narrative need be 'women-hating'. This whole idea that women in history are only interesting when they 'stand out' is actually a pet peeve of mine. Women have, through out history, lived spectacular lives. Not just a few; women in general. They conquered hardships and tribulations; they've loved and lost and sacrificed their lives for others and causes they believed in. They hated and killed and traded and intrigued. They had revelations and lost their faith and regained it. And they had dreams and wills and created beautiful things that we have decided were not 'art' simply because they were female crafts...

    In short, they lived full, exciting lives even if they didn't make it into the history books. That is not to say they lead easy lives, but most people didn't.
    Quote Originally Posted by Goldbirch View Post
    Anyhow, I'd like to add that history is not a monolith, and there is no broad "historical mindset". Finding misogynistic mindsets obnoxious does not necessarily mean that an accurate Anglo-Saxon mindset would be obnoxious.

    It's also worth bearing in mind that a huge amount of the history that has been passed down to us was filtered through a Victorian mindset.

    That said, I agree that there can be "historical mindsets" that are obnoxious to me as well. Like the ones where the character is so busy being a Medieval Person that they forget to be human. Or the scenario when the spunky female MC with an inexplicably modern mindset is running around in a historical setting, feeling oppressed because she can't be a modern women.
    .
    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    'History' isn't one place or one mindset, but many. To assume that people were less intellectually or emotionally apt just because they lived a few hundred years ago is a sign of ignorance. I can't imagine that a person who's read accounts of grieving parents from the 18th century or say, Roman poetry or 17th century philosophy, could ever make that mistake.
    Everyone's pretty much said my thoughts, especially in those quotes (so exciting I figured out how to multi-quote!). What I love about history is that people have always been people, they've loved and cried and felt the same things that we feel today-- but absolutely the context was different. What they felt about their feelings was different, and what they could do about them was different. What shaped their feelings was different. I find that fascinating. If you aren't interested in the different, why read historical fiction? I hate the HF where the setting is just window dressing, putting modern characters in historical clothes. And, as above, the stuff that's like, "look how medieval they are!". Sure, the right balance isn't easy, but I feel it's the point of historical fiction. Connecting with people despite the differences. A love story in 1232 will be a different story than one in 1603 or 1850 or 1921... and isn't that fascinating? Isn't that why we read and write this stuff?

    I'm really glad to see everyone's responses-- I don't read tons of HF, really, though I love it, mostly because of problems with that historical mindset, but all of you give me hope! I'd read any of your historicals.
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  19. #19
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    It's interesting how this thread about historical mindsets has become about women's historical roles.

    As far as mindsets, I think that's one of the hardest things for a writer to get right. It's hard to see from an entirely different worldview. It requires a lot of reading and thinking--writing in general, I believe, requires a lot of psychological intuition.

    I've written in a few different time periods. The late-18th-century in France was remarkably modern in certain respects. The attitude towards sex was more permissive (not for everyone, of course). Amongst the higher classes, husbands and wives did not love each other; it wasn't the done thing. They had lovers. This was just assumed (because marriages were arranged, it was assumed you got your loving somewhere else). Unlike the Victorians, they weren't prudish. In fact, it's been difficult to write my current Victorian WIP because I can't have fun with it. It would be quite scandalous for my middle-class Victorian girl to speak like my ancien-regime fake comtesse does!

    One of the hardest things for me to get right is the religiosity. I am not an atheist by any means, but religion is not central to my life. Throughout many ages, religion was central to day-to-say life. That can be a hard one to really express properly--especially since it might turn some readers off.

    As far as the woman question--well, I haven't had much trouble with that. I just assume the women I write about were more or less like me but with different rules. After all, I'm a young woman. I could have been born two hundred years ago with the same mind and talents.

    My current female main character is more or less forced into marrying because she was caught in a compromising position with him. She doesn't really question that it has to happen, and she doesn't object to getting married; but she isn't thrilled about having to marry the guy who took advantage of her, a guy she doesn't like too much. She's also young to be getting married (16), but that doesn't bother her too much.

    In my 18th-century WIP, the women, particularly Jeanne de La Motte-Valois, were more interesting than the men. I stole a bit of Jeanne's thunder and gave it to my poor prostitute Nicole, but these ladies are out their duping gullible men and stealing necklaces worth a fortune. And do they feel badly about it? Meh. Maybe a little badly. But mostly "meh". If you can pull it off, then go for it. I feel like the Victorians would moralize the whole thing to death (I have such a love-hate relationship with the Victorians).

    My last WIP was based on a real-life kick-ass warrior queen, so she naturally breaks most of the rules and stands out.

    Maybe because I grew up in a time when women are given the opportunity to achieve anything a man can, it just hasn't jumped out as an issue to me. It isn't something that I ruminate on often. My parents always told me I should be an engineer; it was me who said, "No, I don't want to be an engineer!"
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW mayqueen's Avatar
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    I love this topic. It's fabulous.

    As a very serious feminist and critical feminist scholar-in-the-making, I am annoyed endlessly by both the attitude that feminists can't/shouldn't enjoy historical fiction and the attitude that only strong women are interesting (meaning women who acted like men). Gender is something that is historical and contextual, just like social class or status hierarchies, race, and sexuality (etc).

    For me, the fun of reading and writing historical fiction is employing my sociological imagination. How did the individual's biography link up to the social structure of the given time and place? I love that stuff! People traded in slaves, enjoyed public executions, thought beating women was good for them, and believed that chanting magic words could cure a fever. That's what makes historical characters interesting, to me. Why would you think that way? What about a society enables that stuff? Have we advanced beyond that or are we still recycling those beliefs in new ways?

    So that was a bit off topic, but my answer is if you don't like "the historical mind-set," then I don't think historical fiction is your genre.
    "I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess." -Donna Haraway

  21. #21
    Two years old now. Lyra Jean's Avatar
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    Here are two things I remember reading that are true. I wish I could remember the sources.

    1. This I believe is around the 1870's or 1880's. A girl and her friends were quilting a quilt top. Her younger brother came along and wanted to help. So to humor him they gave him some black thread and had him quilt on a white part of the quilt. This way they could easily unpick later what he sewed without straining their eyes, because boys can't sew. When he finished his sister and her friends looked at what he did and they liked it so much they left it in.

    2. This happened around the same time period. There was a wagon train headed west. They ran into some minor trouble. A woman on the train basically took over command and set everything right again. After everything was all better she then kinda freaked out, became utterly useless, and fainted because she was taught that this is what a real lady does and she didn't want to be considered too masculine.

    3. During the Civil War the North had women help them find Confederate soldiers who were trying to escape. They would go to ports or railroads the women could tell just by the way a person was walking if it was a woman in a dress or a man dressed as a woman. A lot of soldiers dressed as women to escape because at the time they would just politely let a woman by without looking too hard. So all a man needed was a dress a bonnet and a fan. Women spies could get away with so much more because it was thought that they really were harmless and couldn't do anything.
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  22. #22
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldbirch View Post
    It's also worth bearing in mind that a huge amount of the history that has been passed down to us was filtered through a Victorian mindset.
    That slowly dawned on me as I branched out in reading, only to discover just how much of what I thought was history was really Victorian-founded mythology. It's why I switched over to reading actual medieval romances and histories, and then all kinds of primary sources, as my first choice of history reading. Real history is a lot more varied and a lot more interesting than the fluffy Victorian filter of history which still sticks over our history books like a webbing of cotton candy.

    I don't care to read a historical novel whose character has a "modern" mindset. To my eye it's as weirdly artificial as the old Victorian Arthurian stories filled with impossibly highminded virtuous knights whose highfalutin' language and squeamish pietism was nothing like what I found in Chrétien de Troyes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flicka View Post
    I don't know how many times I've seen people discuss 18th century behaviour in terms of 'my grandmother did...' when said grandmother was born in 1890. Like everything 'in history' was more or less the same.

  23. #23
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    Oh, Alessandra, that's a hilarious cartoon! [Insert smiley rolling on ground.]

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
    "The only freedom any of us ever has is the freedom to choose how we will not be free."

  24. #24
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldbirch View Post
    Flicka has already made some excellent points about this, so I'll try not to go off into a long rant. (I've been extremely touchy about this perception of history=oppressed women ever since a child that I was babysitting said, in the middle of a game of pioneers, "I'll just sit down here on this stump and watch you, since this was back when women had no point." No point? Our culture is telling our daughters that up until just now, they had no point? )
    Eh. I have seen groups of historical reenactors struggle with this, as women have pushed for nonhistorical but more active rôles -- or even for actual historical rôles that disturbed the old boys, such as the rather well-documented number of female cross-dressing American Civil War soldiers.

    Somewhere in Terry Pratchett's "Thud!" there's a pithy quote about the misery of female historical reenactors, since all they are allowed to be is wenches.

    Besides, misogyny comes and goes. There was a lot of progress made in women's rights from about 1910 - 1930, and then a nasty backlash which gathered force through the 1950s and 1960s. For that matter, women weren't doing half bad in medieval Europe -- I laughed when I discovered Ela of Salisbury, female sheriff from 1226 to 1229. I was under the impression that a number of women's rights were chipped away during the upheavals of the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment, so that the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a kind of nadir of women's freedoms in Europe.

    But I shouldn't rant either. Besides, I'm not absolutely sure of my facts.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW mayqueen's Avatar
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    Silvia Federici makes that argument in Caliban and the Witch, that the shift from feudalism to capitalism required the subjugation of women's reproductive labor. It's a fascinating work and an interesting argument. I'll leave y'all to decide if you agree.
    Last edited by mayqueen; 05-07-2012 at 07:06 PM.
    "I'd rather be a cyborg than a goddess." -Donna Haraway

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