Examines the form of the novel, capaciously defined and across its history, exploring the interplay of conformity and experimentation in classic and outlier examples of the genre, with a focus on Joseph Conrad, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf.
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This book addresses an anomaly in the novel as genre: the generic promise to readers—that "reading a novel" is a familiar and repeatable experience—is challenged by the extravagant exceptions to this rule. Furthermore, these exceptions (such as Moby-Dick, Ulysses, or To the Lighthouse) are sui generis, hybrid concoctions that cannot be said to be typical novels. The novel, then, as literary form, succeeds by extravagantly disregarding or
even disavowing the protocols of its own genre. Examining a number of famous examples from Don Quixote to Nostromo, this book offers an anatomy of exceptions that illustrate the structural role of their exceptionality for the prestige of the novel as literary form.