Theory of the Novel
Described broadly, Theory of the Novel explores how “between the mid-sixteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, a genre long considered an unpretentious form of entertainment — the novel — became the primary art practiced in the West, the art that portrays the extensive totality of life.” Writing for fellow scholars, Mr. Mazzoni (translated from the original Italian by Zakiya Hanafi) assumes — even demands — extensive background knowledge, delving as he does into the minute details of a long list of great European novels and the intellectual debates surrounding them.
That’s not to say there aren’t any joys to be had for the lay reader, just that they’re few and far between. The reader’s familiarity with and interest in writers such as George Eliot and Tolstoy and concepts like Aesthetic Platonism may well determine their interest in the book. But still, the lay reader will be left with an overview of the novel’s evolving philosophy, understanding how novelists came to see that “a prince who sees his province being invaded experiences the same pain as a farmer who sees his cow being stolen” and how their novels “[explored] these passions as if they were both of the utmost importance.”
Harvard University Press
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