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    The Historical Imaginary of Nineteenth-Century Style in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

    Eve, Martin Paul (2018) The Historical Imaginary of Nineteenth-Century Style in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. C21 Literature: Journal of 21st Century Writings 6 (3), pp. 1-22. ISSN 2045-5224.

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    The first section of David Mitchell’s genre-bending novel, Cloud Atlas (2004), purports to be set in 1850. Narrative clues approximately date the intra-diegetic diary object of this chapter to the period 1851-1910. This article argues for the construction of a stylistic historical imaginary of this period’s language that is not based on mimetic etymological accuracy. Specifically, I show that of the 13,246 words in The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, there are at least three terms that have an etymological first-usage date from after 1910: spillage, variously attested from ~1934; latino, from ~1946; and lazy-eye, from ~1960. Instead, I show that racist and colonial terms occur with much greater frequency in Cloud Atlas than in a broader contemporary textual corpus (the Oxford English Corpus), indicating that the construction of imagined historical style likely rests more on infrequent word use and thematic terms from outmoded racist discourses than on etymological mimesis.


    Item Type: Article
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Depositing User: Martin Eve
    Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2017 13:56
    Last Modified: 09 Jun 2021 15:11


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