ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On the Origin and Progress of the Novel

Understanding the Novel: A Theoretical Overview by Albeena Shakil; New Delhi: Primus Books, 2015; pp xxi+264, ₹1,195, hardback.

It is difficult to imagine a world without novels. In the 21st century, where reading materials and methods are proliferating profusely, it is rather difficult to imagine the network of “events,” mostly sociocultural and political in nature, which defined the “rise” of the novel some four centuries ago. Now a literary form that pervades literature racks in libraries and bookstores, makeshift shops on sidewalks, wheeled carts on railway stations, bags of amateur salespersons at traffic signals, must-read lists on webpages and even the most modest of personal book collections, the novel has come a long way in terms of its development, acceptance and popularity.

Embraced by most languages, classical and modern, the novel has found patrons among reading populace across the world. Despite being comparatively young as a form, the novel has been a subject of heated debates and arguments since its inception. These debates, keeping pace with the fast evolving form, have often addressed the class, gender, national and moral moorings of the novel. In the past few decades, intellects like Mikhail Bakhtin, Ian Watt, Raymond Williams, Frederic Jameson, Umberto Eco and Terry Eagleton, to name a few, have occupied themselves with criticism of the form.

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