This is a book about one sort of literary text — the novel — and its relation to society. It outlines a certain approach to novels in general and then refers to specific texts in order to illustrate that approach. The starting assumption is that in order to understand the nature and development of the novel form it is helpful to know more than just what is between the covers of given novels on the library shelf. The approach attaches great importance to the fact that novels do not simply ‘appear’ or drop out of the sky but are written by men and women with definable social origins and characteristics and are read by men and women who can be defined in similar terms. Between reader and writer various other social and economic factors may intervene and the whole process of committing words to print and conveying them to readers takes place in a specific socio-cultural context at a particular period of time. To use a shorthand term, the book is about the ‘socio-cultural approach’ to the study of fiction.
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- 1.The term is used by W. H. Bruford, ‘Literary criticism and sociology’ in J. Strelka (ed.), Literary Criticism and Sociology (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
- 2.F. R. Leavis, The Great Tradition (Penguin edn, 1972), represents this approach taken to extremes. However, all higher education courses in literature assume a ‘canon’ of accepted texts; Raymond Williams discusses this’ selecting out’ process in Writing and Society (Verso, 1984), pp. 193–4.Google Scholar
- 3.The standard ‘communication model’ is based on one developed by the mathematicians Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver. It is described in detail in David Berlo, The Process of Communication (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967).Google Scholar
- 4.The identity of B. Traven, author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, was not revealed as Herman Feige until ten years after his death in 1969.Google Scholar