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This collection of prefaces, originally written for the 1909 multi-volume New York Edition of Henry James’s fiction, first appeared in book form in 1934 with an introduction by poet and critic R. P. Blackmur. In his prefaces, James tackles the great problems of fiction writing—character, plot, point of view, inspiration—and explains how he came to write novels such as The Portrait of a Lady and The American. As Blackmur puts it, “criticism has never been more ambitious, nor more useful.” The latest edition of this influential work includes a foreword by bestselling author Colm Tóibín, whose critically acclaimed novel The Master is told from the point of view of Henry James. As a guide not only to James’s inspiration and execution, but also to his frustrations and triumphs, this volume will be valuable both to students of James’s fiction and to aspiring writers.
In seven independent, but closely related chapters, the author presents his personal conception of the European novel, which he describes as 'an art born of the laughter of God'.
In this account of how the novel reorients philosophy toward the meaning of existence, Yi-Ping Ong shows that the existentialists discovered a radical way of thinking about the relation between the form of the novel and the nature of self-knowledge, freedom, and the world. At stake are the conditions under which knowledge of existence is possible.
In The Art of Alibi, Jonathan Grossman reconstructs the relation of the novel to nineteenth-century law courts. During the Romantic era, courthouses and trial scenes frequently found their way into the plots of English novels. As Grossman states, "by the Victorian period, these scenes represented a powerful intersection of narrative form with a complementary and competing structure for storytelling." He argues that the courts, newly fashioned as a site in which to orchestrate voices and reconstruct stories, arose as a cultural presence influencing the shape of the English novel. Weaving examinations of novels such as William Godwin's Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, along with a reading of the new Royal Courts of Justice, Grossman charts the exciting changes occurring within the novel, especially crime fiction, that preceded and led to the invention of the detective mystery in the 1840s. -- John Sutherland, University College London

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