Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

Carnell, Rachel

Subject Headings

American History, American Literature, British and Irish Literature


There exists a little known connection between the seventeenth-century genre of secret history and contemporary political novels. Secret histories such as Procopius’ The Secret History of the Court of Justinian, Sebastien Bremond’s Hattige or the Amours of the King of Tamaran, and Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister have in common three defining structural characteristics of the genre: active narrators, narrative layers, and unusual character names. Two contemporary texts which have long resisted categorizing, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men and Joe Klein’s Primary Colors, also contain these characteristics. Re-reading these texts as secret histories allows us to better categorize and understand them. Given this, Warren and Klein not only seem to be borrowing this culturally familiar form, but in doing so, they create texts which demonstrate that the genre truly remains viable in contemporary America, as every political moment makes use of it.