IN CARL EINSTEIN'S
If Carl Einstein's theory of visual art links everyday vision to the collective creation in art of a totality for consciousness, the same project determines his theory of prose. But while painting and sculpture present totality in a single moment, prose works with narrative sequences. The stories presented in prose activate memories of past events in the psyche of the reader or listener and fit them into a particular narrative form that creates an interpretation of these past events. In the same way that African sculptures create a communal perception of objects, stories create a communal perception of events, providing a template for the perception of past events and a model for understanding future ones.
Because Einstein's prose theory considers totality to be a fundamental structure of human consciousness rather than a characteristic of specific, undeveloped cultures, his vision of prose differs markedly from that of Georg Lukács in his Theory of the Novel. Though they wrote in the same period about the idea of totality and its relation to epic forms, their approaches mark out two opposing directions for considering nineteenth- and twentieth-century European prose. While Lukács considers totality to be a historicophilosophical category whose parameters have changed in the history of the West, Einstein considers it from the point of view of the psychology of perception and understands its mechanisms to be constants in human history. As a result, the differences in genre and structure that Lukács understands to be the result of a historical development become, in Einstein's account, distinctions between competing forms.