Novel Characters: A Genealogy

Novel Characters: A Genealogy

Novel Characters: A Genealogy

Novel Characters: A Genealogy

Synopsis

Novel Characters offers a fascinating and in-depth history of the novelistic character from the "birth of the novel" in Don Quixote, through the great canonical works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the most influential international novels of the present day
  • An original study which offers a unique approach to thinking about and discussing character
  • Makes extensive reference to both traditional and more recent and specialized academic studies of the novel
  • Provides a critical vocabulary for understanding how the novelistic conception of character has changed over time.
  • Examines a broad range of novels, cultures, and periods
  • Promotes discussion of how different cultures and times think about human identity, and how the concept of what a character is has changed over time

Excerpt

Fictional characters don’t exist, but we often feel as if they did. Or wish that they didn’t. Mr Darcy can still make young women’s hearts flutter in the age of Twitter. Charlotte Brontë, alarmed by the ferocity of Heathcliff, wondered if it was even right that her sister, Emily, had conceived of him. In the “Kugelmass Episode,” Woody Allen fantasizes about a weekend at the Plaza Hotel with Madame Bovary. Different readers of varying degrees of sophistication, but all very much alike in their subjection to the power of novelistic characters to enthrall. Their responses are as representative as they are instructive: although we know them to be imaginary, novelistic characters can be as real to us as the book (or Kindle) we hold in our hand. We become involved with them, identify with them, love or despise, even fear them, care what happens to them.

Why this should be so is one of the deepest mysteries and pleasures of the imaginative but intensely real experience available to us in novels. E. M. Forster alludes to this feeling of intense involvement in the title of the two chapters he devotes to character in his “ramshackly” but sharply observed Aspects of the Novel – “People,” a word that works to reduce and in some measure demystify the distance between readers and novelistic characters. Regarded as people, characters are more . . .

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