Michael McKeon


When Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel was first published in 1957, it was recognizably a distinctive contribution to an already existent tradition of scholarship. By this I mean the scholarly effort to understand the novel not simply through the lens of an empirical literary history, or through the lens of an abstract literary theory, but through a method in which history and theory join together to inform each other. For this tradition of scholarship, to understand the novel required establishing an idea of the coherence of the novel genre as an historical phenomenon. To he "coherent" in these terms requires that the novel fulfil the demands that pertain to all historical things: namely, that it display both the continuity of an integral entity and, within that continuity, the discontinuity that confirms its existence over time and space, its capacity to change without changing into something else.