Prufrock's Page

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Defining The Novel

In his review of the staggering work entitled The Novel -- a two-volume compendium of scholarly essays on every aspect of the genre translated from the Italian at $99.50 per volume -- Adam Kirsch states: "The like pornography: It may be hard to define, but everyone knows it when they see it."

On a more sombre note, he considers the future:

"[The novel] helped to incarnate the modern sensibility, and to teach its readers what it means to be modern. It is the novel, as opposed to earlier forms of narrative, that made the ordinary mind's encounter with the ordinary world a source of drama and significance. If the novel is indeed losing its central position in our imaginative can only be because modernity itself is slipping away, with all its distinctive promise and menace. The dispensation that replaces modernity may be better or worse, but if it does not see its own reflection in the novel, it cannot help appearing to us as somehow less human."


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