Fictions of U.S. History

Fictions of U.S. History

A Theory and Four Illustrations
Frances Richardson Keller
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/29/2002
ISBN: 978-0-253-10886-9
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Fictions of History offers a new definition of the term "fictions." A fiction is not merely the imaginative literature we treasure in works of novelists, dramatists, and poets. It is a powerful, driving idea that enters the life of an individual, the course a whole society travels, and the stories historians tell about the human past. In many dimensions, fictions affect every person on planet Earth. We all live lives based on fictions.

Frances Richardson Keller chooses fascinating examples to demonstrate how dominant fictions of a given time emerge and are entrenched, and how historical figures have come to accept or reject these fictions. She begins with "the grandest fiction," the patriarchal system, and reflects on its origins, effects, and future. Then she addresses the fictions that dominated stories historians told about the Reconstruction of America after the Civil War. Keller next considers the emergence and demise of Mormon polygamy as a fiction in the 19th century. Her fourth and last illustration is the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and the fictions that empowered her.

Author Bio

Frances Richardson Keller was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago. She is author and editor of numerous articles and books, including American Crusade: The Life of Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Slavery and the French Revolutionists by Anna Julia Cooper (editor and translator), and Views of Women's Lives in Western Tradition. Dr. Keller taught History and Women's Studies at San Francisco State University, and continues to lecture and publish widely on topics in women's, African-American, and U.S. history.


“"Fictions of U.S. History is an innovative meditation on the writing, rewriting, and, most importantly, the forgetting of history that will fascinate scholars, students, and members of the general public alike. Keller insightfully brings to light aspects of our common past that have been erased from collective memory, either deliberately or through historians' oversights." —Mary Beth Norton We all live lives based on fiction. So asserts Frances Richardson Keller in this thought-provoking examination of the fictions which enter society and affect the course of our lives. To illustrate the diverse ways fictions have acted upon us, Keller examines the history of the predominant, but increasingly defensive, system of patriarchal organization, the changing interpretations of Reconstruction and the rights of African Americans, the evolution and demise of Mormon polygamy, and the changing missions that inspired Eleanor Roosevelt. These cases illustrate the purposes fictions have served, as well as their inherent fluidity. They also provide fresh interpretations of important milestones in US history.”

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

Brantingham: The End of the First Beginning
Beyond Brantingham

1. Fictions and the Missions of History: Our Fictions, Our Missions, Our Selves

2. The Grandest Fiction:
A Pathology of Patriarchy
A Category of Fissures

3. The Scramble After the Civil War
Stories for Grown Ups
Historians and Competing Commitments

4. From Mormon Polygamy to American Monogamy: Shifting Fictions in the Life of a Society

5. Eleanor Roosevelt: Changing Fictions