In this paper I want to think about what Jackie Pearson and others have termed the ‘genetic imaginary’. That is, popular understanding of the work of our DNA and, more particularly, how we might understand, represent, and visualise it. In particular I’m interested in how genetic science interacts with genealogy and the sense of an investigation of the past, and how this impacts upon our contemporary sense of ‘history’.The paper investigates the intersection of genetics and popular narratives of ‘history'. How is this science represented and understood? How, particularly, is it visualised? What does this mean for privacy, and the projection of the self online? What are the imaginative implications of sharing DNA data? Does DNA render an identity ‘outside of history’? What I’m going to do, then, is look at various manifestations of DNA in historical investigation and think about how this relates to genealogy, public history, and the contemporary historical imagination. I try throughout to define the historiographical impact of genetics.
Jerome de Groot is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. He is the author of The Historical Novel (2009), Consuming History (2008) and Royalist Identities (2004), as well as numerous articles on manuscript studies, historiography, popular history and early modern court culture. His three main areas of interest are Contemporary popular history; the Historical Novel; Literature and culture of the civil war period. His primary research interest is in contemporary popular history. Consuming History (2008; 2nd ed. 2016) and Remaking History (2015) are both published by Routledge and concern the ways in which contemporary popular culture engages with history. There are chapters on historical film, television (documentary and drama), museums, computer games, re-enactment and novel writing. He discusses writers like Hilary Mantel, David Peace, Thomas Pynchon, Ali Smith, and Sarah Waters. He talks about historical films from 12 Years a Slave to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, to the work of Quentin Tarantino.