One symptom of the current crisis of confidence in the humanities is the proliferation of titles that turn on the formula, “Why the (here fill in the imperiled or “disrespected” genre of choice) Matters.” It is now taken almost as axiomatic that the case has to be made if we are to continue to care about the lyric, the drama, the novel, or any of their companionable literary forms the way we did when the arts were considered, as they apparently no longer are, a source of cultural as well as personal enrichment. Guido Mazzone’s Theory of the Novel has its own painstaking argument to make about not only why but also when and how the novel came to matter as decisively and authoritatively as it did. Taking his cue from D. H. Lawrence’s essay, presciently titled (given its date, 1925) “Why...

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