971 Winter 2019 Learning History from Historical Fiction
Tuesday, 9:40–11:05, Feb. 12
Instructor: David Heymsfeld
Sometimes historical fiction can give us a better picture of the past than conventional history. A conventional historian must justify his or her interpretations by documentary evidence and individual interviews. The available evidence may be incomplete or create an inaccurate picture. The novelist seeking to convey the past is free to use his or her sense of how people think and act. As a result, the novelist may be able to provide the best picture of the thoughts and actions of political leaders and ordinary people. This class will consider historical fiction in general and then look at the history portrayed in several novels: Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, both about World War II, and Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, depicting politics, racial unrest, and social classes in New York City in the 1980s.
David Heymsfeld, an OLLI member, was a congressional professional staffer for 35 years. He has taught several OLLI courses on history and is a volunteer guide for the Newseum.