My latest book: Philosophy of the Novel


Philosophy of the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan/Springer, 2018) is now available as an ebook from the publisher. Go to either the Palgrave Macmillan page or the SpringerLink page. Palgrave Macmillan is now part of the German based Springer Nature group, though continuing to have its own editorial offices in London. Judging by my experience, production is now integrated at the group level. The US Macmillan operation now has no relation with Palgrave Macmillan.

The book can be downloaded in pdf or epub formats. The ebook is not yet available from Amazon or any other online bookstore. Maybe this will come when the hardback appears in print next month. It is now available for preorder. The ebook is €74 and the hardback will be €95.

The hardback is available for pre-order from Amazon. £80 from Amazon UK. $110 from Amazon US. €102 from Amazon France. €96 from Amazon Germany €122 from Amazon Italy. €94 from Amazon Spain. R$395 from Amazon Brazil₹8 6041 from Amazon India.


Chapters and Information from Publisher’s webpages. 

(I will try to add other ways of explaining and introducing the book over the next few weeks)

This book explores the aesthetics of the novel from the perspective of Continental European philosophy, presenting a theory on the philosophical definition and importance of the novel as a literary genre. It analyses a variety of individuals whose work is reflected in both theoretical literary criticism and Continental European aesthetics, including Mikhail Bakhtin, Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin. Moving through material from eighteenth century and ancient Greek philosophy and aesthetics, the book provides comprehensive coverage of the major positions on the philosophy of the novel. Distinctive features include the importance of Vico’s view of the epic to understanding the novel, the importance of Kierkegaard’s view of the novel and irony along with his other aesthetic views, the different possibilities associated with seeing the novel as ‘mimetic’ and the importance of Proust in understanding the genre in all its philosophical aspects, relating the issue of the philosophical aesthetics of the novel with the issue of philosophy written as a novel and the interaction between these two alternative positions.

1. Introduction. From Analysis to Form

This chapter investigates major aesthetic approaches to the philosophy of the novel and develops distinct approaches to be used in the book. The distinction between Analytic and Continental European philosophical approaches is established. The Analytic approach is largely explored with reference to Peter Lemarque. Its limitations are defined through a discussion of Lemarque’s approach to Roland Barthes as a literary critic. The nature of ethics and literature as an approach to the novel is identified and its limitations are discussed. Martha Nussbaum is selected as an example of ethical philosophical criticism at its best. Her approach and its limitations are discussed in relation to poetics, erotics and ethics, focusing on her reading of Jacques Derrida.

2. Epic in Aristotle and Vico

Epic is discussed as a forerunner to the novel. Aristotle’s comments on Homeric epic in the Poetics and Rhetoric are fully explored, to establish a view of what epic is and its relation to public forms of speech. Giambattista’s New Science is discussed with regard to its philosophy of history, its account of poetry and the central role it gives to Homeric philosophy. This is discussed as partly the product of a growing novelistic culture in Vico’s time and as applying to main aspects of the novel including its relation both to epic discourse and the more variable discourse of everyday life.

3. Idealism and Romanticism

The literary aesthetics of the eighteenth century is discussed with regard to the growth of the novel as a literary genre, noting it that is not incorporated much into aesthetics. It is in the late eighteenth century that Romantic philosophers such as Friedrich Schlegel begin to develop a philosophy of the novel based on its appeal to subjectivity and unstable perspectives, summed up in the term ‘irony’. Hegel’s reaction to Schlegel and less elevated role for the novel is explored along with related aspects of his literary aesthetics. This chapter then covers the role of nature, particularly as known to chemistry as a model for understanding and appreciating the novel, or at least setting up the possibility of doing so.

4. Kierkegaard, Irony and Subjectivity

Søren Kierkegaard is discussed as the first philosopher to develop an understanding of the novel at length. Four of his texts are considered: From the Papers of One Still Living, The Concept of Irony, Either/Or, A Literary Review. The first is considered for its account of Danish novels in a world of unpredictability and subjectivity. The second is considered for its view of Socratic irony and dialogue, Romantic irony and novels, along with Hegel’s criticisms. The third is considered for its accounts of tragedy and opera, as deeply connected with novelistic aesthetics, as well as the Romantic novelistic structure of Either/Or. The fourth is discussed for its view of the place of the novel in the political and social understanding of the time.

5. Lukács on Subjectivity and History (Introduced Through Nietzsche)

The chapter begins with what Nietzsche contributes to the philosophy of his novel through his remarks on Stendhal and Dostoevsky, along with his view of how the novel emerges from the death of tragedy in antiquity. These thoughts are considered as what opens the way for Lukács. Lukács is mostly considered for his Romantic work on the novel, though his Marxist phase is also considered. His view of the novel as a fall from epic unity between individual, and the world is emphasised along with other historical aspects.

6. Bakhtin, Ethics and Time

Bakhtin is discussed with regard to the antique and medieval precursors for the novel, pluralism of voices, carnival, temporal analysis and approach to Dostoevsky. François Rabelais is discussed as the source of the transformation of the carnivalesque into novel. The ethical and political aspects of Bakhtin’s commitment to plurality of voices and registers are considered. The relation of his literary analysis with his view of the distinction between Orthodox and Catholic churches is discussed, along with his Russian populist leanings

7. Mimesis, Humanism and Time

Erich Auerbach is considered as a theorist of mimesis and of the decline of Europe, influenced by Vico. His more humanist view is compared with the anti-humanism of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, to the extent that they see the current civilisation as doomed and lacking in ideals. This Marxist view is compared with more conservative and liberal views of the growth of state power. Adorno and Benjamin are compared as more nihilistic and more religious thinkers. Their views of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel are discussed.

8. Mimetic Limits. Desire, Death and the Sacred

This chapter looks at how French writers of the mid-twentieth century take mimesis away from the centre of the novel. Georges Bataille puts ‘evil’ at the centre, that is the breaking of social habits to reach some deep level of desire which is enacted rather than represented. Maurice Blanchot puts death and meaninglessness at the centre of the novel, which drifts towards and between moments of emptiness and extinction. René Girard has a more Christian Huımanist view of the dangers of mimetic desire and violence, which may be resolved by moments of transcendence. The more violent and apocalyptic aspects of his views are also explored. Finally, the chapter considers how French anti-mimeticism is taken up by Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.

9. The Absolute Novel. Proust on Lost Time

Marcel Proust’s river novel, In Search of Lost Time, is considered as anovel of absolutes as advocated by the Romantics. The consideration of Proust both as a philosophically interested writer and as the object of an enormous amount of philosophical attention. How Proust’s transcendental aesthetic subjectivity connects with historical, national and European consciousness through memory. His place in the history of literature and how he writes as someone located in the history of literature always concerned with other kinds of history. The specific place of his writing in Third Republic France and the political interpretation of this include the movement from aristocratic to democratic worlds.

10. The Philosophical Novel

How the novel and philosophy may become the same and the limitations on such hopes. After a survey of examples, the chapter focuses on James Joyce’s relationship with Vico and Homer (continuing considerations in Chap.  2), Joyce’s relationship with Kierkegaard, Jane Austen’s relationship with ethics and Austen’s indirect relationship with Kierkegaard. The chapter considers both how the most obviously literary philosophical and philosophical literary works may be considered from a philosophical novel perspective, but also how a less obviously philosophical writer like Austen is full of philosophical insights. This continues considerations in the introduction on how ethics and the novel may be related.


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