The article explores the novel form's engagement in narrating the crucial shift from the Old Left to the New Left in the United States by analyzing Norman Mailer's claims to have written a collective novel, The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History. The article risks the claim that in Mailer's conflicted attempts to write the collective form we can not only locate stark evidence of the retreat of class-based models in the American political imaginary but also map the ways in which the novel genre adapts to political change. The paper also attends to a lacuna within critical appraisals of Norman Mailer that has ignored what he meant by the collective novel. Much of the critical output remains concentrated on attempts to resolve the book's dominant generic problem: Is the text a novel or a history of the 1967 march to the Pentagon? What remains buried in this eagerness to resolve the generic issue either way—as history or as novel—are Mailer's negotiations with the collective novel. Suggesting a different and perhaps unexpected reading of the history-novel bifurcation in the text, the article analyzes the specter of the collective novel as it exists as a limit-point constantly questioning Mailer's agential assertions in his text.

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