The Open UniversitySkip to content

Bringing the past to heel: History, identity and violence in Ian McEwan's Black Dogs

Müller-Wood, Anja and Wood, J. Carter (2007). Bringing the past to heel: History, identity and violence in Ian McEwan's Black Dogs. Literature and History, 16(2) pp. 43–56.

Full text available as:
PDF (Not Set) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (178Kb)
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Ian McEwan's 1992 novel Black Dogs employs postmodern understandings of history while also critiquing these same perspectives. In particular, by depicting the efforts of its protagonist, Jeremy, to write a memoir of his parents-in-law, it draws attention to the subjectivity of historical writing. While this quality has led some critics to condemn the novel for its escapism and amorality, the authors of the essay argue that Black Dogs is a statement about the necessity of history rather than its futility. Indeed, they read the text as a dramatization of humanity-s ability to bear rather than escape the often troubling burden of the past and an endorsement of the writing of history despite the awareness that historiography, while serving deep-seated human needs, is always problematic.

Item Type: Journal Article
ISSN: 0306-1973
Keywords: violence; historiography; memory; identity; postmodernity; narrative
Academic Unit/Department: Arts > History
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research (ICCCR)
Item ID: 17464
Depositing User: John Wood
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2009 13:45
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2016 06:22
Share this page:

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   + 44 (0)870 333 4340