Hello, this seems to be the first blog post I am writing (other than the brief ‘about me’ I put up last month) and I am really excited to be doing so. I recently had the pleasure of attending Dr. Heather Laird’s public lecture “Remembering” Past Futures: Commemoration and the Roads Untaken. One of the reasons I was so excited about the lecture was that it was one of those beautiful intersections of literature and history I love so very very much, having majored in English and minored in history for my undergrad in the states.
One of the main ideas which Dr. Laird got at was that the past “could have been other than what it was” and to use this in our understanding of how we can shape both the present and future. I have always been fascinated by, but intellectually wary of the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’s of historical musings. On the one hand, it can help us to appreciate the level of human progress, and on the other it can put one into a depressed tail spin towards nowhere.
As a kid, so much of what I had always heard was that “if x hadn’t happened, we’d be speaking German” in regards to any event which could have potentially turned the tide of the second World War the other way. That optimism though was contrasted with the lamentation that “if only” was what caused the partition of Ireland, but “what if” was what kept my great grandfather, Big Jim from being killed in Ireland in a conflict about a treaty euphemistically alluded to, rather than emigrating to New York in 1924. “Could have” stopped flight 93 from reaching DC, where my father was working the morning of 9/11. And countless “what ifs” I had while driving over IED laden paved roads in Iraq and backroads of Afghanistan. I have traded a few resentments for a larger happiness of how history turned out. I have always been drawn to historical fiction, since I was kid. I hope to look up articles or books in the coming weeks which deal with historical fiction. Let’s strip it down and get to the meat on the bones.