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AbstractWhen considering the differences between fiction and history, it seems reasonable to conclude that ‘imaginative literature, conceived of as fiction’ is a somewhat ‘privileged form of communication’ that ‘understands itself as separate from the sphere of the real’ (Ellison 6). Fiction, after all, is the realm of the speculative. It is a space where authors are free to invent, describe, and ruminate — even in the complete absence of evidence that these ruminations and descriptions are plausible. Kim Scott’s most accomplished novel, That Deadman Dance, is a work deeply preoccupied with its position as a fiction and with its relation to history, to the point that it becomes a central focus of the narrative. De Man once insisted that ‘readers degrade the fiction by confusing it with a reality from which it has forever taken leave’, yet in the case of That Deadman Dance, which uses the history of the Albany region in Western Australia as a scaffold for narrative, character, and thematic elements, it seems the reader is being specifically invited to confuse the events of the past with the events of the novel (2002: 17). The presence in the text of these historiographic elements, while fundamental to the novel’s ethical project, also leads to what Ellison has called ‘referential anxiety’, or the turn away from the referent towards self-referentiality (6). So do we degrade Scott’s fiction by searching for a historical referent? Or is it his intention to use the ‘referential effects’ of fiction to reveal the tenuous nature of its relationship with the past (Ellison 8)...