Fall 1946 • Vol. VIII No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1946 |

The Life of the Novel

Nowadays we hear a great deal about the decay of the novel, and people often speak of it as it were a natural thing, the inevitable petering-out of a form that has been with us too long. But the natural and the inevitable should always be suspected, and it is much more useful to suppose that the present bad condition of the novel is not a last stage in its autonomous life-cycle but rather the result of a present condition of our minds. The novel, it need scarcely be said, is based in an interest in morals and manners and we have shut our minds to that interest, no doubt because we do not like to look at ourselves. We can think about morality only when it is contained in a solution of science, calling it sociology, psychology, or anthropology—that is, we can think about it only without joy and without reference to personal action. But morality is a word that is always in danger of being read as antithetical to politics1. Let me then define it so as to include politics but polit

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Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) was an American literary critic, author, and University Professor at Columbia University. Among the most influential of his many works are two collections of essays, The Liberal Imagination and The Opposing Self; a critical study of E. M. Forster; and one novel, The Middle of the Journey.

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Little Dorrit

By Lionel Trilling

Nowadays we hear a great deal about the decay of the novel, and people often speak of it as it were a natural thing, the inevitable petering-out of a form […]

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