The search for the origins of the novel now bears comparison to the quest for the Holy Grail. Part of the problem is to do with the very terms in which such investigations are couched. Almost inevitably, the search for origins assumes the evolutionary connotations of Darwin's classic account, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Several unfortunate consequences ensue. First, the search for origins insinuates that the novel is in some obscure sense a natural phenomenon, when it quite clearly is not. Second, the evolutionary overtones that accompany the search make it difficult to avoid offering an account of the novel that is not uncompromisingly teleological, the part played by human agency in the novel's development downplayed, if not discounted altogether. Finally, the overall effect is to imply that, whatever it is, "the novel" is not a construct.
"The Making of the English Novel,"
3, Article 1.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol9/iss3/1