The Novel, Education, and Experience
This introduction provides an overview of the book's arguments and theoretical underpinnings, including the need to move beyond new historicism and embrace the insights that can be provided by cross-period literary studies. The introduction then traces the early-nineteenth-century origins of a trend linking the novel to education and knowledge, rather than experience or the sensory. In our time, this trend has yielded an increased instrumentalization of literature and, in teaching, a distorting focus on measurable outcomes that can be objectively assessed. Joining together the concepts of style and singularity suggests a way to resist this trend while also moving beyond the hermaneutics of suspicion. “Reading for style,” playfully emblematized by Sterne's marbled page, is an approach to teaching and reading novels which pays special attention to the features that individuate a literary work (or a person), allowing us to cultivate, recognize, and value singular styles.
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