Morphology of the Novel
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CitationKatsma, Holst. 2021. Morphology of the Novel. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation takes, as its starting point, morphology in the literal sense: morphology as the visible outward shape of the novel, its unique techniques for spatially organizing the word on the page. It addresses, in other words, the spatialization of novelistic thought. For there emerges in the history of the novel, over the course of the eighteenth century, a series of notations around which novelistic language was recast. Here, for the first time, the never-ending blocks of text (so typical of the early novel) were replaced by pages chiseled with chapter numbers and paragraph indentations, quotation marks and indented dashes. We can learn a great deal about the novelistic imagination simply by enumerating the problems which these spatial forms tried to resolve, of which there are essentially two – on the one hand, the monologic problem of giving the individual voice shape; on the other hand, the dialogic problem of distinguishing between voices – and the first two parts of the dissertation echo this distinction: part one on the parceling notations of the paragraph and chapter (“Towards a theory of verbal bundling”); part two on the vocal notation of the quotation mark (“The novel as vocal system”). In both cases, the challenge was first to trace the evolution of these new notations; next to show how the language of the novel was radically reorganized around them; and third to show how these new ways for casting speech allowed novelists and readers to think, feel, and share in a fundamentally different way. These notations are then made additionally alluring by the fact that, though more or less absent in the novel before 1700, they had, by 1800, become indispensable, found in most novels and, for the most part, only in novels. This state of affairs has persisted to this day and, further still, these notations have now entered into the languages and scripts of the world, such that a majority of people have organized their thoughts and feelings according to these novelistic forms at some point in their life. In a uniquely direct way, these notations thus shed light onto the mechanism of genre formation and development. From a history of notation there thus emerges a theory of the novel and, what is more, a series of reflections on the interrelation between writing, genre, and thought: on how writing changed thought; on how language and genre limit what it is possible to say; and on how these limits have changed in a world where the rules of grammar have solidified. Visible though they may be, it is nevertheless remarkable how the novel’s emerging spatial morphology – its new chapters, paragraphs, and quotation marks – redirected our ancestral habits and patterns of thought; changing our ability to imagine voices and the passing of time; shaping, in turn, our very theories about events, thoughts, and persons.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370198
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