A rewriting of the history of the novel which contests the view that the novel was invented by the British. It argues that novels have existed since ancient times and discusses major works in Greek and Latin. It also studies the history of development of Chinese and Japanese fiction.
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‘Rich, imaginative, subversive and playful’
James Wood, Observer
‘An elegant, learned and convincing book’
Mary Beard, Independent
‘Doody, vigorously, entertainingly and with great detailed learning, has invaluably extended the debate about fiction.’
Malcolm Bradbury, Financial Times
‘Doody’s book is like a vast, all-embracing novel, packed with extraordinary sub-narratives and an engrossing storyline. It should be read by all who criticise fiction, and by many who write it.’
Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times
"One of the most successful literary lies is the English claim to have invented the novel. One of the best-kept literary secrets is the existence of novels in antiquity."
In this extraordinary and subversive book, Margaret Anne Doody challenges the conventional view of the novel, arguing that instead of being the defining achievement of the English middle class, the novel is an older, more cosmopolitan creation, a protean form that emerged from the ancient cultures of Africa, Asia and Europe.
Before literary history discarded the ancient novel, Doody argues, these stories by the Syrians, the Africans, the Greeks and many others – written in Greek and Latin during the first millennium AD – commanded a wide, devoted audience. The influence of such writings was acknowledged by later masters of the novel, Cervantes and Fielding included. But the ancient novel mysteriously disappeared from bookshelves in the mid-eighteenth century, around the same time the English novel was born. According to Doody, European cultural elitism had by then asserted itself to great effect, relegating the prose fiction of the ancient Mediterranean world to the trash heap of 'Romance', thus skilfully keeping the 'foreign' out of literature.
Stimulating, entertaining, staggering in its breadth, thrilling in its detective work, this marvellous book generously and persuasively welcomes back whole shelves of fiction, demonstrating, in one fell swoop, how all current introductions and textbooks are misleading and misled. 'The True Story of the Novel' marks the beginning of the twenty-first century's understanding of the history of literature.
Margaret Anne Doody is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of several books, including the novel 'Aristotle Detective' and a biography of Frances Burney.
"Written with verve and wit, and by any standard an extraordinary and idiosyncratic achievement. The closest comparison available is with Fry's 'Anatomy of Criticism', which caused such a stir almost forty years ago. Doody acknowledges a certain affinity with that formidable work, while insisting, quite rightly, that she is trying to do something different: for one thing, it is always relevant that she is a woman, laying down a different law from Fry's or any man's, and combatively aware of masculine (and also British-imperialist) presumptions that can now be contested even though they retain a vestige of their classic authority. I find it difficult to give a fair idea of the exuberance, intelligence and boldness of this book."
FRANK KERMODE, 'London Review of Books'
"Wonderful and truly revolutionary.
With fascinating detail Doody obliterates the arbitrary distinction between the Novel and Romances.
After the publication of her work, it will become impossible to shut away the novels of antiquity as distant and disreputable. They will have to be recognised not merely as ancestors, but as living participants in a rich and thoroughly subversive genre."
MARTIN BERNAL, author of 'Black Athena'
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Book Description HarperCollins, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. A slight tan to the page edges. Previous owners name inside front page. Good condition is defined as: a copy that has been read but remains in clean condition. All of the pages are intact and the cover is intact and the spine may show signs of wear. The book may have minor markings which are not specifically mentioned. Most items will be dispatched the same or the next working day. Bookseller Inventory # mon0006481924
Book Description Hardback. Book Condition: Fair. A readable copy of the book which may include some defects such as highlighting and notes. Cover and pages may be creased and show discolouration. Bookseller Inventory # GOR005111364
Book Description Hardback. Book Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # GOR003227292
Book Description HarperCollins, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: Acceptable. This book may include some defects such moderate highlighting and notes. Cover and some pages may be creased and show discolouration. Ex-library. However the book is still readable. we ship books from UK within 1 working day. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000476690