The Angel of Ferrara

Woolley, Benjamin. 2015. The Angel of Ferrara. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

[img] Text (Creative component: Angle of Ferrara)
ECL_thesis_WoolleyB_2015.pdf - Accepted Version
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (1MB)
Text (Critical component: What is history doing in Fiction?)
Woolley - Thesis - Angel of Ferrara - critical component - What is history doing in fiction.pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (1MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis comprises two components: an extract of The Angel of Ferrara, a historical novel, and a critical commentary entitled What is history doing in Fiction?

The novel is set in the Italian city of Ferrara in February, 1579, a jewel of the Renaissance at the height of its powers but deep in debt. Amid the aristocratic pomp and popular festivities surrounding the duke’s marriage to his third wife, the secret child of the city’s most celebrated singer goes missing. A street-smart debt collector and lovelorn bureaucrat help her increasingly desperate attempts to find her son, their efforts uncovering the brutal instruments of ostentation and domination that gave rise to what we now know as the Renaissance.

In the critical commentary, I draw on the experience writing The Angel of Ferrara, together with my own historical works, to explore the relationship between history and fiction. Beginning with a survey of the development of historical fiction since the inception of the genre’s modern form with the Walter Scott’s Waverley, I analyze the various paratextual interventions—prefaces, authors’ notes, acknowledgements—authors have used in their attempts to explore and explain the use of factual research in their works. I draw on this to reflect in more detail at how research shaped the writing of the Angel of Ferrara and other recent historical novels, in particular Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

I then examine the issue form the opposite perspective: the use of fictional devices such as narrative in history, considering whether or not this compromises or enhances the authority and validity of historical work. I end by critically examining the prevailing notion that the borderline between fiction and history has become blurred, arguing that, while each influences the other, the distinction is one of type rather than degree.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

The creative writing part of the thesis, an extract of 'The Angel of Ferrara' is currently embargoed.


historical fiction, renaissance, historicism, creative writing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


28 February 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2015 12:48

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:08


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)