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Travels of a Genre

Travels of a Genre: The Modern Novel and Ideology

Mary N. Layoun
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Travels of a Genre
    Book Description:

    If the modern Western novel is linked to the rise of a literate bourgeoisie with particular social values and narrative expectations, to what extent can that history of the novel be anticipated in non-Western contexts? In this bold, insightful work Mary Layoun investigates the development of literary practice in the Greek, Arabic, and Japanese cultures, which initially considered the novel a foreign genre, a cultural accoutrement of "Western" influence. Offering a textual and contextual analysis of six novels representing early twentieth-century and contemporary literary fiction in these cultures, Layoun illuminates the networks of power in which genre migration and its interpretations have been implicated. She also examines the social and cultural practice of constructing and maintaining narratives, not only within books but outside of them as well. In each of the three cultural traditions, the literary debates surrounding the adoption and adaption of the modern novel focus on problematic formulations of the "modern" versus the "traditional," the "Western" and "foreign" versus the "indigenous," and notions of the modern bourgeois subject versus the precapitalist or precolonial subject. Layoun textually situates and analyzes these formulations in the early twentieth-century novels of Alexandros Papadiamandis (Greece), Yahya Haqqi (Egypt), and Natsume Soseki (Japan) and in the contemporary novels of Dimitris Hatzis (Greece), Ghassan Kanafani (Palestine), and Oe Kenzaburo (Japan).

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6080-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. Chapter 1 FICTIONAL GENEALOGIES (pp. 3-20)

    If genealogy is typically the tracing of “natural,” biological—and often patriarchal—lines of descent,fictional genealogiesproposes the pluralization of that presumably singular generative line and its character as a fictional narrative. It also, of course, refers to the fictional genealogies of the genre of the modern novel. Much of what follows, then, will suggest that there was very little that was “natural” about the development of the modern novel. Rather, the suggestion is what should be by now a familiar one—that literary (and cultural) genres and texts are the site of active struggles and conflicts as well...


    It is not clear whether this ironic counsel of stoicism offered to a defeated Mark Antony was accepted. Whether or not Mark Antony accepted the counsel, the sense of irretrievable loss that underlies that ironic counsel, which is arguably the impetus for it, is “accepted” in the fiction of the mainland Greek novelist and short story writer, Alexandros Papadiamandis (1851–1911). The ironic poetic commentaries of the modern Greek poet C. P. Cavafis (1863–1933) might at first seem a strange introduction to the work of Alexandros Papadiamandis. For Cavafis’s poetry situates itself in the margins, so to speak, of...


    The work of the Egyptian novelist, short-story writer, and critic Yahyā Haqqī (b. 1905) spans more than half a century of Egypt’s turbulent history. Haqqi’s work is implicitly informed by the conflicts and aspirations of Egyptian and Arab writers and intellectuals from the first half of the twentieth century. His fiction, as well as his social commentary and literary criticism, are emblematic of the political and cultural attempts of Egypt and the Arab world to confront and respond to an expanding West and to the social, cultural, and political turmoil that confrontation with the West caused within Egypt. In this...

  6. Chapter 4 OF NOISY TRAINS AND GRASS PILLOWS (pp. 105-147)

    The writing and life of the Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916) straddle a great many of the boundary lines that are frequently traced in an outline of modern Japan. The formulation of the conflict facing the non-Western world in its confrontation with the West as that between the traditional and the modern—or, in Yahyā Haqqī and Alexandros Papadiamandis, the authentic and the foreign—also informs the works of Sōseki, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of his own age and of modern Japanese literature as well. Sōseki was born a year before the Meiji Restoration and...


    InTo Diplo Biblio(The double book)¹ by Dimitris Hatzis, the clotted and almost tortured prose of the early-twentieth-century Greek novelist, Alexandros Papadiamandis, is forcibly refashioned into a narrative language of startling if contradictory simplicity. The vagaries of narrative voice; the uneasy linguistic wavering between demotic andkatharevousa; the narrative imbedding of proverbial peasant wisdom, herbal remedies, and folktales; the intimations of a pre-Christian (or almost anti-Christian) animism; the presumption of loaded significance and authenticity in what is designated as Greek tradition—these characteristic narrative maneuvers of Papadiamandis’s fiction are not rejected or abandoned in the work of Dimitris Hatzis;...

  8. Chapter 6 DESERTS OF MEMORY (pp. 177-208)

    “For me. For those others, as we said. For hope”—Costas’s closing dedication inTo Diplo Bibliocan also stand as a metaphor for the work of the Palestinian novelist, Ghassān Kanafānī (1936–1972).To Diplo Biblio’sattempt to map out, to prefigure, some alternate terrain for the novel and for its cultural and social contexts is also apparent in Kanafānī’s fiction. His novels and short stories as remarkable for their innovative language and structural narrative concerns as they are for their content. Kanafānī’s fiction, too, attempts a reformulation of the relationship between literature and society, between the word and...


    Nothing might seem farther from the dominant notion of the Japanese cultural tradition than the texts of Ōe Kenzaburo (b. 1935). Certainly, to many of his Japanese critics, Ōe’s fiction, and even his use of the Japanese language, are an affront of sorts to the “traditional” sensibility. That traditional sensibility, reformulated and assiduously maintained in contemporary Japan, prescribes lyric simplicity, brevity, and poetic vagueness and imagism as that which is culturally distinctive. And so, critical commentary on Ōe’s work insists that his prose is foreign influenced and not really Japanese or that it purposefully violates the “elegance and simplicity” of...


    There is something as suggestive as it is ominous in Othello’s injunction to Lodovico about constructing narratives. Othello’s statement suggests what Ellison points to as the dual symbolic power of the word—to imprison and to set free. The supposition of a liberating discourse, of words and narratives that “revive and set free” does not negate, but in fact iterates,the opposite possibility—of words and narratives that blind, disempower, and make impotent. To propose discourse(s) of liberation is, implicitly at least, to recognize the possibility of discourses that enslave. But Othello bases his injunction on an assumption of narrative efficacy...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 259-268)
  12. INDEX (pp. 269-271)