The publication of English translations of Georg Lukács's The Theory of the Novel (1971) and The Historical Novel (1962) inaugurated a major development in North American criticism of the past half century: the turn to Continental theory for an identification of the novel with the philosophy of history. Lukács's critical project has been sustained in the United States by Fredric Jameson, whose return to the thesis of The Historical Novel in the closing essay of The Antinomies of Realism (2013) is at odds with his revisitation of the Romantic genealogy of the pre-Marxist Theory of the Novel in that book's main section. The new antinomies in which Jameson recasts the dialectic of realism, narration and affect, draw on the modal antagonism between narrative and lyric that is opened in the Romantic bildungsroman (Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship), made foundational for the aesthetic ideology of Romanticism via Hegel and subsumed into national history—the horizon of epic totality—in the historical novel (Scott's Waverley). Jameson's reversion to the later Lukács in his essay on the historical novel addresses a crisis not only of the genre but of history itself as an anthropomorphic project, the medium of human progress, with the erosion of the social-democratic nation state as basis for an alternative politics to neoliberal capitalism in the shadow of global environmental catastrophe.
History and the Novel after Lukács
ian duncan is Florence Green Bixby Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Scott's Shadow: The Novel in Romantic Edinburgh () and Modern Romance and Transformations of the Novel (1992), a coeditor of Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism (2004) and The Edinburgh Companion to James Hogg (2012), and a general editor of The Collected Works of James Hogg. He is completing a book on the novel and the science of man in Europe from Buffon to Darwin.
Ian Duncan; History and the Novel after Lukács. Novel 1 November 2017; 50 (3): 388–396. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-4195000
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