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The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture, New Edition Paperback – September 17, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


“A short, brilliant, provocative and often entertainingly upbeat book.”—New Society

“A pointed example of the nature of youth, as represented in the novels of Austen, Balzac, Dickens, Eliot, Flaubert, Goethe and Stendhal ... [Moretti] is undoubtedly a brilliant and searching critic.”—Independent

About the Author

Franco Moretti teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Signs Taken for Wonders, The Way of the World and Modern Epic, all from Verso.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (September 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842980
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Volkswagen Blues on September 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Franco Moretti is one of those rare critics who consistently churns out books that--though never unassailably argued or immaculately interpretive--nevertheless change forever the way you read a genre. In "The Way of the World," Moretti sets his sights on the European Bildungsroman.
Moretti's basic argument is that the Bildungsroman genre served, in its various national incarnations, both to reveal and modify the processes of socialization--of putting each member of society into his or her proper place within the society--specific to each culture represented. He begins with an innovative reading of Napoleon at Waterloo and its innumerable literary reproductions throughout the 19th century, arguing that societies embroiled in Napoleonic Republicanism developed radically different styles of envisioning the individual's position vis-à-vis society than were evident in the societies Napoleon didn't reach (namely England, whose Bildungsroman Moretti finds unpalatably reactionary, "far more elementary and limited than its continental counterparts"). This framework enables closer readings of Stendhal, Goethe, Brontë, Dickens, Flaubert, Balzac, Austen, Pushkin, etc.
Implicit in Moretti's thesis is a valorization of all things Napoleonic that gives slightly favorable treatment to those works whose individualism pits the protagonist against a repressive society (Stendhal's Sorel is a fave here), as against the less progressive tendencies of, say, Dickens, whose heroes are constantly checked--and who constantly ALLOW themselves to be checked--in their efforts to reach beyond the lot afforded them by a rigidly hierarchized industrial society (David Copperfield, Pip, etc.).
"The Way of the World" combines an amazing attention to detail with an equally amazing occasional lack of it.
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The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture, New Edition
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