THE THEORY OF THE NOVEL: New Essays by John--Ed. Halperin


Email this review


A mixed bag of original MLA-type essays by nineteen professors of English, including notable contributions by Leon Edel, Leslie Fiedler, and Frank Kermode, redefining the novel and the tradtion of literary realism (in terms of ""exposition,"" ""comedy,"" ""character,"" ""myth,"" ""tone,"" ""point of view,"" ""intention"") in light of the post-Joycean novel. (It was T.S. Eliot's review of Ulysses that first pronounced ""the death of the novel."") The process of revisionism practiced here uses a modern critical intelligence to examine classic works, and to be sure, these 20th century critics are almost exclusively preoccupied with authors safely dead and canonized. In a candid footnote to his essay ""The Modern Multivalent Novel,"" Alan Warren Friedman confesses his feeling that ""many of the new anti-novelists...resemble enigmatic aliens from another planet."" And then bemoans that gap between critics and practitioners. Why, he wonders, do novelists' ideas of novels not conform to critics? Possibly because criticism so often strays far afield of the vitality of literature into deadly things like semantic philosophy and so generally smells of formaldehyde. Although these essays lack energy, they are intelligent, freely honed, and thought provoking, and many break new ground in the old curriculum. Worth reading, if you really care about the Anglo-American novel.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1974
Publisher: Oxford