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Atlas of the European Novel: 1800-1900 [Paperback]

Franco Moretti
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 17 1999
In this pioneering study Franco Moretti presents a fresh and exciting perspective by mapping the often unexpected relations between literature and geography.

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Review

“With intellectual elegance, Moretti invites us to use maps, not as all-encompassing solutions, but as generators of ideas.”—Umberto Eco

“Moretti ... is a seductive, stylish guide. One has the powerful sense of reading the results of concentrated thought: every page contains an aphoristic insight ... The reader is smuggled across borders that flash by in the dark ... The Atlas of the European Novel is a wonderful achievement: a visual pleasure as much as a textual one; a work in the vanguard of a new critical school that marries grand theory with a punctuating wit.”—Steven Poole, The Guardian

“A genuine and useful and inspired work of aesthetic investigation ... it will have a massive importance, not only to critics, but more importantly, to writers.”—New York Press

“. . . a frequently brilliant and almost always eye-opening book.”—Washington City Paper

About the Author

Franco Moretti teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Signs Taken for Wonders, The Way of the World and Modern Epic, all from Verso.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Steps towards a literary geography Aug. 6 2000
Format:Paperback
Although I enjoyed it immensely, this book somewhat disappoints in that its themes aren't taken far enough. As Terry Eagleton said in the TLS "the way is paved for a 'literary geography'. But such a geography is not established here. Chapter one concentrates on the social issues implied by location, movements and class in Austen, Scott, and in Spanish and French 19th century works. In the second chapter, Moretti looks at what we can imply about London and Paris from Dickens and Balzac. Finally, Moretti looks at how different geographical markets have different tastes by charting the publishing history of classic texts, how quickly they were translated into other languages, and by examining the catalogs of the big circulation libraries. Along with the classics, Moretti uses some very obscure texts for his examples, which can be frustrating. Still, the ninety or so maps are fascinating, as is the methodology they use, which opens up the possibilities of new methods of analysis for the future. Umberto Eco's Six Walks in the Fictional Woods does some similar things with diagrammatic analysis, and John Sutherland's series of literary puzzles essay (starting with 'Is Heathcliff a Murder') show up some similarly unexpected sidelights on 19thc texts. For a coffee table, but still interesting and useful guide to the locations used by authors in their works, Malcolm Bradbury's Atlas of Literature is recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Map of More Than You Think Dec 5 1999
Format:Paperback
Charting the ebb and flow of intellectual life is a fun pasttime, if one has the inclination. Franco Moretti's new book, Atlas of the Historical Novel, is interesting because it is another example of the current ebb. In 1998 W. J. T. Mitchell published The Last Dinosaur Book, which contained a plea for a "synthesis of Darwin and those other two great early modern thinkers ... Marx and Freud." Such a statement of need is astonishing to hear from a professor of the humanities, that sector of the university that has always prided itself on its refusal to hear Darwin's case, for that case has been dismissed as an improper importation of economics into other fields-and, not so veiledly, as a cover for a particular political agenda. Now, however, the tide has turned, and apparently biology and science are making headway in the humanities. Moretti's book, with its talk of London as a "self-organizing system" and its other metaphors drawn from chaos theory and such, is a good example. There is, also, the use of statistics, as in the charts of the amounts of foreign novels in British libraries. It is also interesting that Moretti's book is written in a very clear prose, quite the opposite of the sort of jargon-filled texts we have come to expect from our "Critical Theory" professors. Something, it seems, is in the air. In any case, a student of the novel should find this work a kind of updating or commentary upon Ian Watt's justly famous Rise of the Novel-and for those with more sophisticated tastes, I think this book supplies a great lesson about the movements of a culture. For it shows, I think, how the revolutionary insights of a previous generation must be absorbed by the culture before they may become a part of its mental furniture, as this book attempts to do. This book understands that a far better model for the revolutionary intellectual is the sapper, and not the bomb-thrower.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steps towards a literary geography Aug. 6 2000
By John Abbott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although I enjoyed it immensely, this book somewhat disappoints in that its themes aren't taken far enough. As Terry Eagleton said in the TLS "the way is paved for a 'literary geography'. But such a geography is not established here. Chapter one concentrates on the social issues implied by location, movements and class in Austen, Scott, and in Spanish and French 19th century works. In the second chapter, Moretti looks at what we can imply about London and Paris from Dickens and Balzac. Finally, Moretti looks at how different geographical markets have different tastes by charting the publishing history of classic texts, how quickly they were translated into other languages, and by examining the catalogs of the big circulation libraries. Along with the classics, Moretti uses some very obscure texts for his examples, which can be frustrating. Still, the ninety or so maps are fascinating, as is the methodology they use, which opens up the possibilities of new methods of analysis for the future. Umberto Eco's Six Walks in the Fictional Woods does some similar things with diagrammatic analysis, and John Sutherland's series of literary puzzles essay (starting with 'Is Heathcliff a Murder') show up some similarly unexpected sidelights on 19thc texts. For a coffee table, but still interesting and useful guide to the locations used by authors in their works, Malcolm Bradbury's Atlas of Literature is recommended.
10 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Map of More Than You Think Dec 5 1999
By D. Joseph Lane - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Charting the ebb and flow of intellectual life is a fun pasttime, if one has the inclination. Franco Moretti's new book, Atlas of the Historical Novel, is interesting because it is another example of the current ebb. In 1998 W. J. T. Mitchell published The Last Dinosaur Book, which contained a plea for a "synthesis of Darwin and those other two great early modern thinkers ... Marx and Freud." Such a statement of need is astonishing to hear from a professor of the humanities, that sector of the university that has always prided itself on its refusal to hear Darwin's case, for that case has been dismissed as an improper importation of economics into other fields-and, not so veiledly, as a cover for a particular political agenda. Now, however, the tide has turned, and apparently biology and science are making headway in the humanities. Moretti's book, with its talk of London as a "self-organizing system" and its other metaphors drawn from chaos theory and such, is a good example. There is, also, the use of statistics, as in the charts of the amounts of foreign novels in British libraries. It is also interesting that Moretti's book is written in a very clear prose, quite the opposite of the sort of jargon-filled texts we have come to expect from our "Critical Theory" professors. Something, it seems, is in the air. In any case, a student of the novel should find this work a kind of updating or commentary upon Ian Watt's justly famous Rise of the Novel-and for those with more sophisticated tastes, I think this book supplies a great lesson about the movements of a culture. For it shows, I think, how the revolutionary insights of a previous generation must be absorbed by the culture before they may become a part of its mental furniture, as this book attempts to do. This book understands that a far better model for the revolutionary intellectual is the sapper, and not the bomb-thrower.
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