Generic Conditions of the Novel and Nation

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Published in Journal of School of Letters, JNU, Delhi, Volume 13, 2010.

This article aims to rework two very famous formulations on novel and nation. It has become necessary for students of literary discourses to take into account Benedict Anderson and Frederic Jameson while studying novels. In this essay reviewing their positions, I try to rework their theses by tracing certain commonality between nation and the novel as structures of organisation. I argue that novel is a parasitic category forming itself through forms other than itself just as nation as an identity category devours and re-configures pre-existing forms of collective identities. This generic similarity alerts us to the historical connections between the novel and nation and requires us to deploy this factor in our studies of novels. In connecting the novel with the exclusionary conditions of the production of national identity via the generic commonality between the novel and nation we also begin to notice that novels position themselves in the conflictual site of the ideological battle between contesting nationalisms. Therefore, novels may be studied to discover the implicit construction and contestation of nation.

 

The novel is one kind of narrative with which we world our worlds. Narratives do not just word our worlds but also world our words. Our cognition of our own being in the world is enabled by the stories we gather up in our existence in the world. This ‘worldliness’ enters into our structure of feeling and our structures of expressing. It is in this sense that our words are already a part of the world we inhabit.

This paper examines one of the ways in which the study of the novel as a genre may be contextualised in the figure of ‘nation’. I aim to rework two very famous formulations on novel and nation. It has become necessary for students of literary discourses to take into account Benedict Anderson and Frederic Jameson while studying novels. In this essay reviewing their positions, I try to rework their theses by tracing certain commonality between nation and the novel as structures of organisation. I argue that novel is a parasitic category forming itself through forms other than itself just as nation as an identity category devours and re-configures pre-existing forms of collective identities. This generic similarity alerts us to the historical connections between the novel and nation and requires us to deploy this factor in our studies of novels. In connecting the novel with the exclusionary conditions of the production of national identity via the generic commonality between the novel and nation we also begin to notice that novels position themselves in the conflictual site of the ideological battle between contesting nationalisms. Therefore, novels may be studied to discover the implicit construction and contestation of nation…

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