The Theory of the Novel
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Theory of the Novel (1916) by György Lukács is a work of literary theory and theory of genre. The book is a history of the novel as a form, an investigation into its distinct characteristics and a defense of literary realism.
Lukács later repudiated The Theory of the Novel, writing a lengthy introduction that described it as erroneous, but nonetheless containing a "romantic anti-capitalism" which would later develop into Marxism. (This introduction also contains his famous dismissal of Theodor Adorno and others in Western Marxism as having taken up residence in the "Grand Hotel Abyss".)
Lukács's later literary criticism includes the well-known essay "Kafka or Thomas Mann?", in which Lukács argues for the work of Thomas Mann as a superior attempt to deal with the condition of modernity, while he criticizes Franz Kafka's brand of modernism. Lukács was steadfastly opposed to the formal innovations of modernist writers like Kafka, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett, preferring the traditional aesthetic of realism. He famously argued for the revolutionary character of the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Honoré de Balzac. Lukács felt that both authors' nostalgic, pro-aristocratic politics allowed them accurate and critical stances because of their opposition to the rising bourgeoisie (albeit reactionary opposition). This view was expressed in his later book The Historical Novel, as well as in his 1938 essay Realism in the Balance.