Relationship Between History and Literature

In my mind literature and history blur together like waves at a beach. They wax and wane forever intertwined, and everytime you believe there is a difference, a wave comes forth and blurs the edges all over again.

There is a reflection between both history and literature we all understand implicitly, but not concretely. I know that Aesop’s fables are considered literary works of fiction, yet at the same time I recognize the fact that they represent a fragment of history that is forever embedded in the timeline of the ancient Greeks.

No matter how hard we try to rip history from literature — we can’t. Literature was written in a specific moment of time, therefore making it a work of the past. Even this small essay/reflection will join the past. Someone can pick this document forty years from now and muse over the ponderings of a nineteen-year old girl over the link between history and literature. Literature in itself is a pinpoint in history.

Some would believe that works of fiction such as scifi and fantasy have no link to its cultural environment, but this is not true. The story itself reflects the nature of the author who was influenced by an age or era. Again, we can perceive (even if not clear) the link between a scifi literary work and its historical context.

Yet, not all history is a literary recount. We can speak of specific dates regarding the Normandy battle of WWII without the conversation be considered literature. Not all historical documentation are considered literature. Anne Frank’s diary is by common convention considered a work of literature (as well as a reference of historical facts). But I wonder if the same would be if we were to publish the diary of a farmer from 17th century England?

The biggest and most elusive trait both history and literature share is the fact that both are not objective subjects. What is history? What is literature? Even great thinker must go into extensive essays and books to describe what a chemist would explain of his profession in a sentence. The fact that we cannot specify with one overly simplified definition what is what, we will always be shifting our perspectives.

The relationship between history and literature will always be pervasive because one is the collection of happenings and the other is the reflection of human nature in its ever shifting form. Together, they make up the portrait of our humanity, but still leave enough space for more questions.