Literature regularly invites us to believe in it as a narrative or representation of the past. It needs our belief, or at the very least, the suspension of our disbelief, in order to tell its stories of history, community, the individual, and everything else. When R. G. Collingwood wrote of the similarities between literature and history in his book, The Idea of History, the only difference he could find between them was that history was intended to be true (Collingwood 1961, 246). As literary criticism and theories have for several decades now eroded the stability of authorial intention as a guide to the meaning or interpretation of texts, and the notion of truth has always been unstable for philosophers, the differences between literature and history now seem to many literary critics and some historians to be less clear than ever. A major part of the effort to erode further the distinctions between literary and historical writings has been undertaken by new historicism and cultural materialism, and the degree of their success is perhaps easily measured by the prominence of historical issues and contexts now raised in the course of studying and writing about literature.
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