“Our first need is a working definition of the characteristics of the novel—a definition sufficiently narrow to exclude previous types of narrative and yet broad enough to apply to whatever is usually put in the novel category” (Watt 9). With these words, Ian Watt opened one of the most ambitious and consequential attempts to theorize the novel form in the twentieth century. His search for a “working definition” would account for the specificity of the novel, both diachronically, against previous narrative traditions (from Heliodorus's Aethiopica to Bunyan's allegories), and synchronically, against that careless habit of accuracy that still characterized British theorizations of the novel vis à vis, for instance, the short story and the novella. A novel is “a fiction in prose of a certain extent,” had declared, in fact, Abel Chevalley in The Modern English Novel of 1925 (21...

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