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the Complete Review
the complete review - literary criticism / anthology

The Novel
(Il romanzo)

edited by
Franco Moretti

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the editor

To purchase volume 1 of The Novel

Title: The Novel
Editor: Franco Moretti
Genre: Anthology
Written: 2001-3 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 1888 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: The Novel: volume 1 and volume 2 - US
The Novel: volume 1 and volume 2 - UK
The Novel: volume 1 and volume 2 - Canada
  • Italian title: Il romanzo
  • Originally published in five volumes in Italian; the two-volume English edition is a heavily cut version
  • Volume 1: History, Geography, and Culture
  • Volume 2: Forms and Themes

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

It's a lot to cover -- but we're also annoyed that so much has been cut

Chances that we will review it:

Maybe now that it's out in paperback ......

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . 2-3/2007 Emilie Bickerton
London Rev. of Books . 22/3/2007 David Trotter
The Nation . 4/12/2006 William Deresiewicz
The NY Rev. of Books . 10/5/2007 Hermione Lee
The NY Sun . 26/7/2006 Adam Kirsch
TLS . 23/6/2006 Eric Bulson

  Review Consensus:

  Immense but pretty interesting

  From the Reviews:
  • "Moretti and his contributors have succeeded in making the study of the novel -- if not the entire 'literary field' -- 'longer, larger and deeper' than it was before, or than any single scholar could ever make it." - David Trotter, London Review of Book

  • "This is a very ambitious collection, and it was put together by a very ambitious man. An attempt to encompass the whole history of the novel, from Heliodorus to DeLillo, Argentina to Japan, it includes more than a hundred essays, by nearly a hundred contributors, under a dozen and a half rubrics ("Toward World Literature, " "Space and Story"), employing three different expository strategies: long synoptic essays, shorter readings of individual texts and brief explications of analytic terms or historical trends. And this is an abridgment of the five-volume Italian original. () The best thing that can be said about The Novel is that while it amply reflects the size of Moretti's ambition, constituting his latest attempt to place himself at the center of global novelistic study, it only sparingly reflects his critical aims. Quantitative analysis does rear its head in several places, and the collection is also highly uneven and in several respects rather poorly edited. But Moretti has enlisted some first-rate critics among his contributors, and they have responded with a large range and amount of superb work (..) While some of these essays make useful points, and a couple of them interesting ones, they are distinguished, in general, by numbing banality and the use of methodologies that would make a statistician weep. () Some of the charts aren't even properly proofread, though that problem is hardly unique to this section. The two volumes together contain well over a hundred typos and inconsistencies -- which, given the collection's price and publisher and prestigious editorial board (which includes Fredric Jameson and Mario Vargas Llosa), is nothing short of disgraceful. Also disgraceful is the quality of the translations." - William Deresiewicz, The Nation

  • "Many of the essays are in awkward translations and much of the writing is densely theoretical. () All too often the writers here seem to be talking only to their own identically trained confrères in critical theory, thereby drastically narrowing the appeal of the volumes' often rich exploration of fiction's histories, types, and variants." - Hermione Lee, The New York Review of Books

  • "When you open The Novel, in other words, you may think you know what a novel is; by the time you close it (not to say finish it, since few nonprofessionals will read it from beginning to end), you are no longer sure. And if there is one goal that all the diverse contributors to The Novel share, it is this sort of estrangement. () The sheer diversity of topics here is exciting and opens up many new horizons." - Adam Kirsch, The New York Sun

  • "Moretti's latest work is his most ambitious. It is an attempt to explain the form and history of the novel without relying on national categories. () Global in scale, Il romanzo is like a shot of adrenalin for a tired discipline. It contains at least twenty critical essays per volume, interspersed with close readings of individual texts, social and cultural histories, and statistical analyses. None of us can boast of having a firm grasp of the novel in Latin America, India, China, Italy, Germany, Japan, Africa, Britain, France, Spain and the United States. This kind of country-by-country and continent-by continent focus has the effect of estranging the novel so that we can see it anew. () The Princeton volumes have their own problems. When interviewed by an Italian journal, Moretti explained that he was forced to downsize Il romanzo because the American editors were afraid it wouldn't sell (it will be fully intact in the forthcoming Brazilian and Korean editions). As a result, much of the international context was cut out to accommodate an Anglo-American public. Maybe it's appropriate that Il romanzo, like the novels it examines, will have to make some formal compromises while travelling round the globe, but it is the English audience that loses out in the end. () Even the most cursory look at the organization shows that Moretti wants to shake things up (..) There's no question that people will still be talking about these volumes twenty-five years from now. But if they produce the effect I think they should, I'm willing to wager that down the road, critics will argue that, Franco Moretti's attempt to reconceive world literature did not go far enough." - Eric Bulson, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The Novel: Reviews: Franco Moretti: Other books by Franco Moretti under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Editor:

       Franco Moretti teaches English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University.

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© 2007-2010 the complete review

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