The article analyzes the “fictional” worlds employed by literary historians with a tool grounded in possible worlds theory. The core of the tool's spatiotemporal framework is applied to four literary histories which cover the history of the novel from its beginnings to the twentieth century: Thomas Pavel's “The Novel in Search of Itself: A Historical Morphology,” Michael McKeon's Origins of the English Novel: 1600 – 1740, Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth's The English Novel in History: 1840 – 1895, and Franco Moretti's The Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to García Márquez. The analysis confirms adherence to the tool's patterns in the four histories. Such adherence may help us understand ways academics and specifically historians think about literature and validate the spatiotemporal framework as an analytic tool. In the current “post-postmodern” context of history as both an engagement with literary forms and a search for truth, knowledge of the former advances a grasp of the latter.
Daniel Candel Bormann; Possible Worlds in the History of the Novel. Poetics Today 1 March 2016; 37 (1): 107–136. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3452631
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