Nearly a quarter century after Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, the novel seems to be less a national subject than a flexible citizen. But before Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, most novel histories took the mobility of prose fictions for granted; writers had long recognized and detailed the history of romance and then novel translations and adaptations. This essay takes stock of this return to translative novel history and calls for a more rigorously historicized use of the term transnational. When the novel became a modern, national literary phenomenon by the end of the eighteenth century, it also began its course as a transnational genre for the first time. Its transnationality was an effect of a particularly modern set of practices and attitudes about translating fiction in the European core. Thus transnationalism describes a new period in prose fiction's mobility that sets it apart from a premodern praxis of transmission—a historical juncture that has been occluded by novel theory. The novel was not always transnational, but its emergence as a modern genre depended on it.

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