Based on a systematic sampling of nearly 2000 French and English novels from 1601 to 1830, this book's foremost aim is to ask precisely how the novel evolved. Instead of simply 'rising', as scholars have been saying for some sixty years, the novel is in fact a system in constant flux, made up of artifacts – formally distinct novel types – that themselves rise, only to inevitably fall. Nicholas D. Paige argues that these artifacts are technologies, each with traceable origins, each needing time for adoption (at the expense of already developed technologies) and also for abandonment. Like technological waves in more physical domains, the rises and falls of novelistic technologies don't happen automatically: writers invent and adopt literary artifacts for many diverse reasons. However, looking not at individual works but at the novel as a patterned system provides a startlingly persuasive new way of understanding the history and evolution of artforms.
From what we know about the history of the novel, it seems consensual that certain periods have preferred narrative postures: the eighteenth century is the heyday of the firstperson novel; in the nineteenth, thirdperson "omniscience" holds sway, until the reintroduction of the first person -often through new methods such as the interior monologue -in the Modernist novel. How are we to explain the "systemic" dominance of narrative forms? Some strands of literary criticism skirt the question entirely. It doesn't come up if one seeks to articulate narrative form primarily with the choice of the individual writer who, in pursuit of a specific aesthetic goal, weighs the resources and disadvantages of each mode. 1 And it probably goes without saying that the formalist and synchronic orientation of most narratology resists devoting attention to such historical clustering. 2 By contrast, narrative personhood is of much more interest to the ideological criticism that has dominated literary studies for many decades -the very job of such criticism being to map cultural practices onto sociohistorical mutations. To give a schematic idea of possible explanations in this vein: the popularity of the firstperson novel in the 1 "[Stevenson] spoke of his habitual inclination towards the story told in the first person as though it were a chance preference, and he may not have perceived how logically it followed from the subjects that mostly attracted him" (Lubbock 1921: 218). Writing of the narrative transformation of the initial firstperson version of The Castle, Dorrit Cohn comments, "Kafka would surely not have bothered to make this laborious change in midstream, had he thought that it was of no consequence to his fiction. More or less consciously he must have known that there were advantages to the K. over the I…" (1978: 171). 2 Monika Fludernik's work is an obvious exception; see especially Fludernik 2003.
The photographic image——conceived as .at, reproducible, and mobile——is integral to Fredric Jameson's influential description of the postmodern as marking an evacuation of historical thinking. This essay argues that Jean-Luc Godard's early work, and his 1963 film Le Méé;pris (Contempt) in particular, represents a sustained attempt to use images to promote a type of historical thinking for which Jameson's definition of the postmodern, however relevant to Godard, cannot account.
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