19. The Novel—An Alternative History: Steven Moore

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19. The Novel—An Alternative History: Steven Moore

Post  Patguy on Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:38 pm

Subtitled: Beginnings to 1600.

Most histories of the novel start at the early seventeenth century, with writers like Daniel Defoe, usually acknowledging Don Quixote as a sort of proto-novel. Moore takes a very different approach, and begins his history by discussing the long prose narratives of the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks and Hebrews, and going on from there (up to c.1600—this is volume one of a projected two-volume project). Most people would call many of these early narratives myths or religious texts, but Moore makes a good case that Greek works like "An Ephesian Tale" and "Chaereas and Callirhoe" should be considered novels. He’s on shakier ground when making the case for the books of the Old Testament and the like, but what the hell—I don’t much care what is or isn’t a “novel,” per se; I’m more interested in hearing about the development of long narrative forms in general. And Moore certainly provides that. He describes something like 200 “novels” in this book, including many I had never heard of. My Amazon wishlist is now full of things like the Medieval Jewish Book of Tahkemoni and the four “great novels of classical Chinese literature.” Thank you, Mr. Moore, for expanding my reading list by 50,000 pages, you bastard.

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