Graham Swift documents the disillusionment of late twentieth-century British urban middle class as it strives to recover after losing faith in myths of power and progress. Swift's seven novels to date tell family stories: intergenerational strife, marital disharmony and the inability to communicate are related to significant moments in nineteenth- and twentieth-century history, especially the two world wars. As a postmodern author, Swift self-consciously pays homage to tradition through polyphony and metafiction: in his novels the moral imperatives of nineteenth-century realism are combined with fragmented tales of alienation typical of modernism and the questioning of representation characteristic of contemporary fiction. 'From History to Storytelling' focuses on Swift's insistent exploration of first-person narratives of trauma and examines the power of storytelling to relieve guilt. Overwhelmed by painful memories reconstructed through telling, Swift's ageing protagonists are hesitant and frequently unreliable storytellers. Through narrative they seek to comprehend their place in history, personal and national.
Haunted by their choices, they feel persecuted by socio-political and natural forces. Swift's narrators resort to confession, seeking to accommodate guilt which stems from their failure as sons, fathers and husbands. By telling stories his characters learn to explore their suffering for meaning and reconnect with the world: confessing their guilt redeems them and restores their faith in life. In novel after novel Swift progressively reinforces his belief in storytelling as a fundamental human instinct and a therapeutic ritual.
Dr Anastasia Logotheti specializes in 20th-century British fiction. She teaches literature and writing at Deree College, the American College of Greece, and coordinates the College's two Writing Centers. She was on a Fulbright scholarship at Penn State, where she also taught composition and rhetoric classes. A contributor to The Literary Encyclopedia, she has presented papers on contemporary fiction and the pedagogy of writing and learning at many conferences.