History and storytelling
in Jeanette Winterson
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This chapter discusses Winterson's third novel, The Passion. The Passion may be said to combine the parallel stories of two marginal witnesses to the Napoleonic wars, at the crucial moment in Hegelian World History when it was approaching its apocalyptic synthesis. One is Henri, a French soldier who joined the Grande armée because he wanted to be a drummer and ended up as chicken-neck wringer and personal cook to Napoleon. The other is Villanelle, a Venetian boatman's daughter who worked at the casino as a croupier until she was sold by her husband as a vivandière, or army prostitute. The combination of history with fantasy aligns The Passion with ‘historiographic metafiction’, the type of novel characterised by intense self-reflexivity and a relish in storytelling which Linda Hutcheon considers to be the best expression of the contradictory nature of the postmodernist ethos.

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