Introduction: The novel as theory

Kathleen Lubey, Rebecca Tierney-Hynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Defining the novel as a literary concept that recognizes prose fiction's reflexive engagement with social, epistemological, and historical conditions, this critical introduction locates novel theory in the variety of ways eighteenth-century novels assert how and what they know. Form is ineluctably connected to history, we argue, and novels offer particularly sharp articulations, in excess of plot and character, of literature's capacity to generate abstract social commentaries and empirical generalizations. Drawing on major accounts of form and the novel, as well as surveying recent discussions of eighteenth-century fiction and acknowledging the normative risks of the appellation "novel," we imagine novel form as experimental, open-ended, and adaptive in its theoretical approach to material conditions of history. We preview the volume's contributions as a collection—necessarily incomplete—that demonstrates novels' affinity for identifying the construction of particular realities and imagining alternate ones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages9
JournalEighteenth Century
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


  • novel
  • prose fiction
  • literary theory
  • form
  • formalism
  • epistemology
  • 1700-1799


Dive into the research topics of 'Introduction: The novel as theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this