Sophia Lee’s The Recess and the epistemology of the counterfactual
in Counterfactual Romanticism
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Focusing on Sophie Lee’s novel The Recess (1783–85), this chapter discusses the uncanny ‘folds’ of the actual and the virtual in Lee’s early alternate history novel of sixteenth-century Scotland and England. Attending to the novel’s bewildering doublings and twinnings, its interplay of historical and fictional personages, the chapter develops a theory of counterfactualism that is focused on form and narrative. The strategies of Lee’s novel render history’s ‘facts’ and personae exchangeable and ‘depthless’, resulting not in a ‘genealogy’ but rather a discursive ‘narratology’ in which entities (and thus ‘history’) are defined only by relational difference.

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