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.

URL: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/manup/lah/20...

Abstract

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.

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