2007 annual lecture: Harry Potter & the Holocaust: Reflections on history & fiction

In recent debates over truth and fiction in history, the Holocaust has loomed large. It is often seen to be a litmus test for historians, in terms of historical method, truth, questions of moral judgement in history, narrative form, the representability of the past, and much more. More generally, difficult pasts, such as Australia's frontier colonial past, pose such major challenges for historians that some have argued they are better dealt with through fiction than history. In this lecture, Professor Curthoys considers what historians can learn from novelists, and novelists from history, with special attention to the latest and last book in the Harry Potter series.

About the speaker

Ann Curthoys is Manning Clark Professor of History at ANU and an ARC Professorial Fellow. Earlier in her career she taught Women’s Studies at ANU and History at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has written about many aspects of Australian history, including Aboriginal-European relations, racially restrictive immigration policies, Chinese in colonial Australia, journalism, television, and 'second wave' feminism. She also writes about historical theory and historical writing. Her books include Freedom Ride: A Freedomrider Remembers (2002), winner of the Stanner Prize, and, with John Docker, Is History Fiction? (2005). She is currently completing a collaborative project with Ann Genovese, Alex Reilly, and Larissa Behrendt on Historical Experts and Indigenous Litigants. Her ARC Professorial Fellowship, which began in March 2007, is for a project entitled Indigenous Peoples, the British Empire, and Self-Government for the Australian Colonies. She is also a closet Harry Potter fan.

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