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

    Author(s):
    Martin Paul Eve (see profile)
    Date:
    2018
    Group(s):
    LLC 20th- and 21st-Century English and Anglophone, TC Digital Humanities
    Subject(s):
    Digital humanities, British novel, Etymology, Historical fiction
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6WH2DD9T
    Abstract:
    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 Part I of 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.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 month ago
    License:
    Attribution
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