Introduction: Matter in motion in the modernist novel

Gregory Castle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In 1933, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary of her frustration with the novel. “The thing is to be venturous, bold, to take every possible fence. One might introduce plays, poems, letters, dialogues: must get the round, not only the flat. Not the theory only. And conversation argument.”1 A History of the Modernist Novel attempts to fill in this tantalizing and elliptical description of the novel, made at a time when experimentalism in the form was at its height. It confirms in sometimes surprising ways that the modernist novel has always been “venturous and bold,” from the era of the sensational aesthetic novel of Beauty to the late modernist tales of beautiful failures. It charts the myriad temporalities, lines of development, subgenres and styles that flourished in the modernist epoch (ca. 1880-1950).2 A multivoiced approach to literary history suits well a genre characterized by pluralism and a degree of aesthetic experimentation that frequently entailed collaboration, interdisciplinary borrowings, and hybrid literary forms. Its generic richness-which includes naturalist, aesthetic, fantasy, adventure, Gothic, comic, impressionistic, didactic and parodic styles and modes-is the result of a singular openness to the reality it strives to include. M. M. Bakhtin recognized this in the 1930s, in his examination of the novel as a dynamic and dialogic form. The novel, he wrote, is “the sole genre that continues to develop, that is as yet uncompleted,” the sole genre to occupy a zone of “maximally close contact between the represented object and contemporary reality in all its inconclusiveness.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA History of the Modernist Novel
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781139542395
ISBN (Print)9781107034952
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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