Tag Archives: novel

Individual Reception of Art

“The reception of courtly art also remains collective, although the content of the collective performance has changed. As regard reception, it is only with bourgeois art that a decisive change sets in: its reception is on by isolated individuals. The novel is that literary genre in which the new mode of reception finds the form appropriate to it.”

Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-garde. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1984. Print.

The development for individual reception of art is so important for the novel as it is akin to the connection between the author’s thoughts and the reader’s mind. A one-to-one correspondence is needed for this to occur, and many other forms of art does not provide this, except for the novel.

“Make-believe” is No Excuse

“It is still expected, though perhaps people are ashamed to say it, that a production which is after all only a “make-believe” (for what else is a “story”?) shall be in some degree apologetic–shall renounce the pretension of attempting really to represent life. […] The only reason for the existence of a novel is that is does attempt to represent life. When it relinquishes this attempt, the same attempt that we see on the canvas of painter, it will have arrived at a very strange pass” (James 377-8).

In this passage James addresses peoples’ fault in excusing “make-believe” stories from the normal practice of using stories to represent life. James believes that even the most fantastic stories are related to reality.

I like how James is not afraid to state what other people are ashamed to say.

 

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillion, 1894. Internet Archive. 424-463.  https://archive.org/details/partialportraits00jameiala

 

Novels as Impressions of Life and Reflections of Authors

“A novel is in its broadest definition a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression. But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and say. The tracing of a line to be followed, of a tone to be taken, of a form to be filled out, is a limitation of that freedom and a suppression of the very thing that we are most curious about. The form, it seems to me, is to be appreciated after the fact: then the author’s choice has been made, his standard has been indicated; then we can follow lines and directions and compare tones and resemblances. Then in a word we can enjoy one of the most charming of pleasures, we can estimate quality, we can apply the test of execution. The execution belongs to the author alone; it is what is most personal to him, and me measure him by that” (James 578).

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” Major Stories and Essays (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999), 578.

James expresses the novel’s power as a “direct impression of life”, providing readers with the opportunity to compare the quality of the execution, a process that he describes as being “one of the most charming of pleasures”.  James also stresses the novel’s ability to represent the author as it is the creation that is “more personal to him”.