The shelf-life of a work of literary criticism is rarely long. For that reason, the essays in this number--even when in strong disagreement with Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel (1957)--constitute a tribute to the remarkable staying power of a book that may be said to have opened up eighteenth-century fiction as an area of serious scholarly investigation. That honour is shared, as is sometimes forgotten, with another fine study of the early novel published the year before, Alan Dugald McKillop's The Early Masters of English Fiction (1956), its comparatively innocuous title nowadays even more controversial than Watt's. But it was Watt's thesis, announced in his title, that set off a long line of responses, many with titles alluding to his--The Rise of the Woman Novelist, The Origins of the English Novel, Before Novels, Institutions of the English Novel, The Elevation of Novel Rending in Britain, and, not without a touch of exasperation, The True Story of the Novel. The shadow cast by The Rise of the Novel is so long that general studies of the early novel are still written in its shade.
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