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Title: The Sociality of Novelistic Consciousness: György Lukács, Henry James, and the Practice of Novel Theory
Authors: Wu, Eaming
Advisors: Brooks, Peter
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: abstraction
novel theory
social value
Subjects: Aesthetics
Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation argues that, in the early 20th century, when novel theory was first being developed by the now-influential thinkers Henry James and György Lukács, the novel was approached by both thinkers as a genre that had a unique ability to offer experimental forms for consciousness and to allow readers to experience the social possibilities for a consciousness that could come to think by way of such forms. In Chapter 1, I explain how, for Lukács, the novel allows the search for self-consciousness by way of abstraction to be distributed across characters; in constituting its world of characters who engage in what I call an “intersubjective mistake” of applying their abstractions about the self to others, a glimpse of the self’s implicatedness in its social engagements and its participation in constituting the world it lives in can be had. In my reading of James’ The Golden Bowl and The New York Edition of Prefaces, in Chapters 2 and 3, I show how James experiments with different forms for consciousness through his characters, who are also engaged in representing one another to themselves. I argue that he is interested in the experiential consequences a representational practice of consciousness can have in the context of other consciousnesses. In advancing this new understanding of novel theory, I not only demonstrate that the often opposed founders of novel theory James and Lukács actually have compatible views of the novel, but that their practices of novel theory have surprising commonalities. I advance the notion that their projects of theorizing the novel—for James, in The New York Edition Prefaces, and for Lukács, in Die Theorie des Romans—are both phenomenological presentations of thinking and experiencing subjects who have taken on a “novelized” consciousness. That is, having seen how the novel experiments with a plurality of characterological consciousnesses and considers how these consciousnesses experience themselves and one another, both “theorists” seek to offer their own consciousnesses as legible in their social continuity with the novelistic world of characters.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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