The College Novel in America

The College Novel in America

The College Novel in America

The College Novel in America

Excerpt

A study of the novel of academic life in America must inevitably be concerned more with the history of the novel as a literary form and social document than with genius. Only a few such novels are by major authors, and a few others are what the movie people call "sleepers," but the bulk of them have suffered one edition and then been consigned to the remainder piles. Many of the worst are interesting by reason of the particular axe the author has to grind, or simply because of their abysmal ineptness. This general lack of excellence poses several questions.

The milieu of the academic world, at least in Aristotelian terms, would seem to be well-fitted for the novelist. For Aristotle the most effective dramatic action is one which involves a unity of plot, characters who are interesting (if not noble), and thought which is well- expressed. The academic world offers a certain insulation which gives the novelist the chance to enclose the action in time and place. It also contains people for whom ideas as well as actions are important enough to precipitate crises. The teacher and the student should also be able to articulate their problems. And yet the novel of academic life has fostered no Sophocles.

The potentialities of the student as a subject for fiction were pointed out by George Saintsbury in 1898.

There can be, or should be, few passages in life with greater capabilities than that when a man is for the first time almost his own master, for the first time wholly arbiter of whatsoever sports and whatsoever studies he shall pur-

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