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Theory of the Novel

Theory of the Novel

Guido Mazzoni

Translated by Zakiya Hanafi

ISBN 9780674333727

Publication date: 01/02/2017

The novel is the most important form of Western art. It aims to represent the totality of life; it is the flagship that literature sends out against the systematic thought of science and philosophy. Indebted to Lukács and Bakhtin, to Auerbach and Ian Watt, Guido Mazzoni’s Theory of the Novel breaks new ground, building a historical understanding of how the novel became the modern book of life: one of the best representations of our experience of the world.

The genre arose during a long metamorphosis of narrative forms that took place between 1550 and 1800. By the nineteenth century it had come to encompass a corpus of texts distinguished by their freedom from traditional formal boundaries and by the particularity of their narratives. Mazzoni explains that modern novels consist of stories told in any way whatsoever, by narrators who exist—like us—as contingent beings within time and space. They therefore present an interpretation, not a copy, of the world.

Novels grant new importance to the stories of ordinary men and women and allow readers to step into other lives and other versions of truth. As Theory of the Novel makes clear, this art form narrates an epoch and a society in which individual experiences do not converge but proliferate, in which the common world has fragmented into a plurality of small, local worlds, each absolute in its particularity.


  • Guido Mazzoni’s book offers us one of the most profound and far-reaching reflections on the novel since the influential works of Georg Lukács and Frederic Jameson. Blending a persuasive theory of fiction with an innovative history of the genre, Mazzoni proposes convincing answers to virtually all questions raised by these topics. Incredibly learned and reader-friendly, this book is a true classic.

    —Thomas Pavel, University of Chicago


  • Guido Mazzoni is Professor of Literary Theory at the Università di Siena and the author of Theory of the Novel.

Book Details

  • 408 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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