Cover: Real and Imagined Worlds: The Novel and Social Science, from Harvard University PressCover: Real and Imagined Worlds in E-DITION

Real and Imagined Worlds

The Novel and Social Science

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674418998

Publication Date: 01/01/1977

303 pages


Available from De Gruyter »

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the “e-ditions” program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (“print-on-demand”) editions via the “Available from De Gruyter” link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press’s catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

To show how the imagined world of the storyteller informs us about the real world of experience, a distinguished social scientist brings the perspective of his discipline to bear on two and a half centuries of fiction. Under his scrutiny, the novel reveals a wealth of insight into sociological, historical, and political phenomena. Morroe Berger illustrates his points with an extraordinary range of novels in Europe and America, from Defoe to Forster and Golding.

The interaction between the novel and social science started in the eighteenth century, when these two ways of examining human behavior and social life achieved their modern form. Writers of fiction broadened their outlook to take in social class and touched upon other issues that are still very much alive, such as individualism, marriage, and the status of women. The novelist, Berger makes clear, is no intruder among historians and social scientists, but rather has been focusing on the same landscape through a different lens. Berger demonstrates that the novel has enriched our understanding of political power, class, law, cultural conflict, and interpersonal relations. He compares Fielding’s fiction with Mandeville’s essays in the eighteenth century, and Silone’s novels of power and bureaucracy with social scientists’ treatments of these themes in the twentieth. He points out how such novels as Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies amplify the theory of the social contract. And he examines the clash of cultures as portrayed in the novel of colonial life. Having affirmed the novel’s contribution to social science, Berger explodes its claims to offering a higher scientific truth—Balzac’s zoology and Zola’s experimental novel are cases in point—and reviews the long-standing dispute between science and literature exemplified in the writings of C. P. Snow.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

The Burnout Challenge

On Burnout Today with Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter

In The Burnout Challenge, leading researchers of burnout Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter focus on what occurs when the conditions and requirements set by a workplace are out of sync with the needs of people who work there. These “mismatches,” ranging from work overload to value conflicts, cause both workers and workplaces to suffer