Lukácsian narrative theory remains influential in literary studies despite the fact that many of its principles and conclusions seem specific to novel production within the industrializing heartland of the nineteenth-century European nation-state. Starting with the premise that two of Lukács's interconnected blind spots were modernist form and imperial history, this essay looks to some of the central concepts of The Theory of the Novel, The Historical Novel, and Studies in European Realism for a broader, twentieth-century, and global frame of reference. To that end, it builds on two critical essays, “Traveling Theory” and “Travelling Theory Reconsidered,” in which Edward Said takes the concept of reification as an apt way to describe a specific symbolic procedure central to colonial discourse: the dehumanization of the native. If we follow out the Fanonian logic of that claim, we can think of late European humanism (and its associated modernist discourses of psyche and myth) as crucially formed by the colonial world system. In that case we can also reread modernism in a properly global frame, turning Lukács against Lukács, by taking the modernist novel of consciousness not as a testament to bourgeois inwardness and decadence but as an artifact whose form was partially determined by objective social and historical conditions in the colonial and metropolitan contact zones of the Age of Empire.
Jed Esty; Global Lukács. Novel 1 November 2009; 42 (3): 366–372. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-029
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