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The Novel: An Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600 Paperback – October 27, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; Reprint edition (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441145478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441145475
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most literature courses begin the study of the novel in seventeenth century England. But Moore's exhaustive history of the form shows that it started far earlier than that. Moore meticulously explores its evolution as far back as 2000 BC Egypt, proving not only that the novel is a much older invention than previously thought, but that its origins are barely European. This treatise will come as a welcome addition to the library of any literature enthusiast, who will eagerly pour through the critical analysis, commentary, and well written plot summaries and use it as a springboard for their own reading lists. Moore's irreverent and thoughtful style will appeal to readers who want to be challenged by what they read; readers looking for spoon-feeding should look elsewhere. The author's quick dismissal religion and other organized beliefs can be forgiven in light of the incredible breadth of knowledge about these works that he brings to this book. Moore has done such a superb job that readers will be eager for volume two the moment they put the book down.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Everything we know about the origins of the novel is wrong. The novel did not spring from the minds of eighteenth-century English writers, nor did Cervantes invent it. Instead, the novel coalesced in the Mediterranean in the fourteenth century with “Greek romances and Latin satires.” And writers were creating “experimental,” internalized, mischievous, and wildly imaginative novels centuries before James Joyce. In his zestfully encyclopedic, avidly opinionated, and dazzlingly fresh history of the most “elastic” of literary forms, Moore shares his discoveries of ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and Christian fiction and analyzes with unflagging enthusiasm the novels of medieval and Renaissance Europe, followed by deep readings of Indian, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian, Japanese, and Chinese fiction. Reveling in the most innovative and daring creations, Moore energetically evaluates tales fantastic, chilling, hilarious, erotic, and tragic, comparing centuries-old novels to those of Barth, Gaddis, Pynchon, and Vollmann. Destined for controversy, Moore’s erudite, gargantuan, kaleidoscopic, and venturesome “alternative history” will leave readers feeling as though they’ve been viewing literature with blinders on. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Steven Moore--author, literary critic, editor, bookseller--was born outside Los Angeles in 1951, and moved to Littleton, Colorado, in 1963. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado (1973, 1974), and later a Ph.D. from Rutgers University (1988). From 1988 until 1996 he was Managing Editor of the Dalkey Archive Press/Review of Contemporary Fiction, and has at various periods in his life worked as a bookseller for both independents and chains. He lives alone in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He is the author/editor of several books and essays on modern literature, especially on William Gaddis--his edition of Gaddis's letters was published in February 2013--and for decades Moore has reviewed new books for a variety of periodicals, primarily for the "Washington Post." In April 2010, Continuum published the first volume of his "The Novel: An Alternative History"; Bloomsbury published volume 2, 1600-1800, in August 2013.

Website: www.stevenmoore.info

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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Peter Mathews on November 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
My research interests have been turning increasingly toward a deeper understanding of the theory of the novel, and it is for this reason that I added Steven Moore's recent book to my library. Unfortunately, though, it is an unmitigated disaster, a work that should not be taken seriously by anyone.

Let's begin with Moore's central thesis. He argues that the scholarly consensus, which places the rise of the novel genre at around the beginning of the eighteenth century, is completely wrong, that novels have in fact existed for centuries before that time. Such a hypothesis is provocative, but there's one immediate problem that Moore largely circumvents: it's an argument that's already been made, more than a decade earlier and much more convincingly, by Margaret Anne Doody in The True Story of the Novel. While Moore does make a passing reference to Doody in his book, another curious thing that is missing from his analysis is any recognition of the actual scholars who have written about the history of the novel. Astoundingly, Moore makes no allusion at all to groundbreaking works like Ian Watt's The Rise Of The Novel or Michael McKeon's The Origins of the English Novel, books that have set the standard in this field and, even though they tell a narrative that differs from Moore's, surely require him at least to address why these famous scholarly precursors are wrong. After all, it is they who created this "myth" about the novel's invention in the eighteenth century.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Artzineonline.com on August 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The word "NOVEL" still conjures up visions of "forgot-to-finish-the-required-reading-before-class" jitters in me; yet Mr. Moore's Alternative History of the "N-word" is unfolding as the perfect antidote for the "heebie jeebies." I like that Mr. Moore has not forgotten "the common reader," at least in style and construction of his book: I actually laughed out loud (LOL) when reading portions of it. This is turning out to be a damn enjoyable history of the n, o, v, e, l, I guess I'm just pleading to the "common reader" when I say that folks interested in an erudite, yet FUN history of the "en-oh-vee-ee-elle" should get Mr. Moore's book now, and not wait for the pesky paper back!

Cheers!
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Lebling on March 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A reviewer recently said a new translation of the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh "reads as effortlessly as a novel." Maybe that's because it is a novel. Steven Moore would like to claim that it is the world's first novel, but he concedes its language is closer to poetry than prose. Gilgamesh, the pinnacle of Akkadian literature, has many novelistic traits - it's a coming-of-age tale packed with action - and should probably be called a "novel in verse."

Moore's book, the first volume of two, takes a fresh, bold and thoroughly irreverent look at the great works of world literature before 1600. The novel, he says, did not begin, as many think, in 18th-century England, or even with Cervantes' Don Quixote in the early 17th. The earliest novels were probably fictional tales (from "mini-novels" to book-length efforts) written anonymously in ancient Egypt's Middle Kingdom. By the 19th century BCE, all the elements of the novel were in place in Egypt: sustained narrative, dialogue, characterization, metafiction, even magical realism.

Moore gives us a new perspective on the early writings of many peoples, including the Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Celts, Britons, Scandinavians, Arabs, Persians, Indians, Chinese and Mesoamericans. Of particular interest is his analysis of the classic Arabic frame-tale collection, the Thousand and One Nights, Persian in origin but thoroughly Arab in its present form.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey A. Cohen on December 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Steven Moore does much more than cogently argue for his alternative view--he backs it up with example after example of what we've been taught didn't exist both where and when he shows us it did. Very compelling.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Seikprof on August 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had no idea that ancient novels could be so interesting. The author clearly loves his work. He writes clearly and with a delightful sense of humor - lots of asides - and doesn't seem to hesitate to skewer some of his contemporaries in literary analysis. I look forward to the second half.
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