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Estranging the Novel

Poland, Ireland, and Theories of World Literature

For centuries, the standard account of the development of the novel focused on the rise of realism in English literature. Studies of early novels connected the form to various aspects of British life across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including the burgeoning middle class, the growth of individualism, and the emergence of democracy and the nation-state. But as the push for teaching and learning global literature grows, this narrative is insufficient for studying novel forms outside of a predominately English-speaking British and American realm.

In Estranging the Novel, Katarzyna Bartoszyńska explores how the emergence and growth of world literature studies has challenged the centrality of British fiction to theories of the novel's rise. She argues that a historicist approach frequently reinforces the realist paradigm that has cast other traditions as "minor," conceding a normative vision of the novel as it seeks to explain why historical forces produced different forms elsewhere. Recasting the standard narrative by looking at different novelistic literary forms, including the Gothic, travel writing, and queer fiction, Bartoszyńska offers a compelling comparative study of Polish and Irish works published across the long nineteenth century that emphasize fictionality, or the problem of world-building in literature.

Reading works by Ignacy Krasicki, Jan Potocki, Narcyza Żmichowska, and Witold Gombrowicz alongside others by Jonathan Swift, Charles Maturin, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett, Bartoszyńska shows that the history of the novel's rise demands a more capacious and rigorous approach to form as well as a reconceptualization of the relationship between fiction and its cultural contexts. By modeling such a heterogeneous account of the novel form, Estranging the Novel paves the way for a bracing and diverse understanding of the makeup of contemporary world literature and the many texts it encompasses—and a new perspective on the British novel as well.

About the Author

Katarzyna Bartoszyńska is an assistant professor of English and women's and gender studies at Ithaca College.

Reviews

"Such an invigorating book! This deftly argued work exposes conventional accounts of the history of the novel as narrow and provincial. Bartoszyńska finds in Poland and Ireland sophisticated, self-reflexive fictions that ask—and invite us to ask—searching new questions about what the novel is and does."—Caroline Levine, Cornell University, author of Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network

"At last! A comparative history of the novel, reading western with eastern Europe: Irish and Polish novels in illuminating dialogue over the picaresque and the fantastic, utopias, queer aestheticism, meta-modernism. These novels, Bartoszyńska demonstrates, create interlaced worlds."—Katie Trumpener, Yale University, author of Bardic Nationalism: The Romantic Novel and the British Empire

"Estranging the Novel is an original, lucid, and compelling contribution to the study of the novel as a capacious, formally various, and geographically wide genre. The book is beautifully conceived, clearly written, and thoroughly explicated."—Scott Black, University of Utah, author of Without the Novel: Romance and the History of Prose Fiction

"Bartoszyńska's alternative concept of novelistic mimesis is rich and thought-provoking. This is important and exciting work, and our sense of world literature will be the better for it."—Marta Figlerowicz, Yale University, author of Spaces of Feeling: Affect and Awareness in Modernist Literature

"[Bartoszyńska] uses an impressively wide-ranging analytic toolkit in her readings with recurring tropes such as metafictionality, irony, ekphrasis, temporality, the role of prefaces and footnotes....Not only does her book estrange the idea of the novel, but it also makes us think about the ruts we are stuck in when approaching literary works from different traditions."—Kasia Szymanska, Literature and History

"For the researcher, the way this book continually presses against insufficient accounts of the novel is invigorating. So too, the close readings are clearly written by a scholar who loves the capacities of fiction in all their complexity. As a scholar and reader, for me this book's biggest payoff was its sustained discussion of worlding—specifically, via Eric Hayot, of the ways that occluded complexities of fiction bring new possibilities of thought into being."—Daniel Dewispelare, Studies in the Novel

"The wider implication of the analysis in Estranging the Novel is that we need an account of novels which are 'anomalous or strange' that considers their strangeness on its own terms rather than how it accords with or departs from a single history of the nove...l. [Bartoszyńska] provides a compelling call for a new way of thinking about the novel's history and form, and the role of peripheral literatures within it."—Modern Language Review

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