The proliferation of historical commemoration in the United States has led to the willful, overt manipulation of historical facts through imaginative fantasy. This essay argues that a strong literary tradition can help us understand this mode of historical fantasy. The essay surveys contemporary fictions of alternate history, particularly Philip Roth’s The Plot against America (2004). The essay contends that historical fantasy offers a particular mode of engagement with the past—one that steers a middle course between nationalist chauvinism and revisionist debunking.

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