The Theory of The Novel
A historico-philosophical essay on the forms of great epic literature TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY
(c) Hermann Luchterhand Verlag GmbH 1963
Translaton © The Merlin Press 1971
First published by P. Cassirer, Berlin, 1920
This editon frst published by
The Merlin Press Ltd., 3 Manchester Road, London E14
by Whitstable Litho Printers Ltd.,
I should like to acknowledge my debt to Jean Clairevoye, the translator of this book into French (La Théorie du roman, Editions Gonthier, Geneva 1963), whose version I consulted at all stages of my work.
THE FORMS OF GREAT EPIC LITERATURE EXAMINED IN RELATION TO
WHETHER THE GENERAL CIVILISATION OF THE TIME IS AN INTEGRATED OR A PROBLEMATIC ONE
The Problems of a Philosophy of the History of Forms
The Epic and the Novel
The Inner Form of the Novel
The Historico-philosophical Conditioning of the Novel and its Significance II
ATTEMPT AT A TYPOLOGY OF THE NOVEL FORM
The Romanticism of Disillusionment
Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Apprenticeship as an attempted synthesis 4
Tolstoy and the attempts to go beyond the social forms of life
draft of this study was written in the summer of 1914 and the final version in the winter of 1914-15. It first appeared in Max Dessoir’s Zeitschrift fur Aesthetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft in 1916 and was published in book form by P. Cassirer, Berlin, in 1920. THE FIRST
The immediate motive for writing was supplied by the outbreak of the First World War and the effect which its acclamation by the social-democratic parties had upon the European left. My own deeply personal attitude was one of vehement, global and, especially at the beginning, scarcely articulate rejection of the war and especially of enthusiasm for the war. I recall a conversation with Frau Marianne Weber in the late autumn of 1914. She wanted to challenge my attitude by telling me of individual, concrete acts of heroism. My only reply was: ‘The better the worse!’ When I tried at this time to put my emotional attitude into conscious terms, I arrived at more or less the following formulation: the Central Powers would probably defeat Russia; this might lead to the downfall of Tsarism); I had no objection to that. There was also some probability that the West would defeat Germany; if this led to the downfall of the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, I was once again in favour. But then the question arose: who was to save us from Western civilisation? (The prospect of final victory by the Germany of that time was to me nightmarish.) Such was the mood in which the first draft of The Theory of the Novel was written. At first it was meant to take the form of a series of dialogues: a group of young people withdraw from the war psychosis of their environment, just as
the story-tellers of the Decameron had withdrawn from the plague; they try to understand themselves and one another by means of conversations which gradually lead to the problems discussed in the book—the outlook on a Dostoevskian world. On closer consideration I dropped this plan and wrote the book as it stands today. Thus it was written in a mood of permanent despair over the state of the world. It was not until 1917 that I found an answer to the problems which, until then, had seemed to me insoluble. Of course it would be possible to consider this study simply in itself, only from the viewpoint of its objective content, and without reference to the inner factors which conditioned it. But I believe that in looking back over the history of almost five decades it is worth while to describe the mood in which the work was written because this will facilitate a proper understanding of it.
Clearly my rejection of the war and, together with it, of the bourgeois society...
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