My essay poses three questions: Why are novels in prose? Why are they so often stories of adventures? Why was there a European but not a Chinese rise of the novel in the course of the eighteenth century? Disparate as they may sound, the questions have a common source in the guiding idea of the collection The Novel: “to make the literary field longer, larger, and deeper”—historically longer, geographically larger, and morphologically deeper than those few classics of nineteenth-century Western European “realism” that have dominated the recent theory of the novel (and my own work). What the questions have in common is that they all point to processes that loom large in the history of the novel but not in its theory. Here I reflect on this discrepancy and suggest a few possible alternatives.

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