This chapter introduces the book's main arguments. It presents current thinking about democracy across the humanities and social sciences and argues that within it, literature's contribution to the history of democracy has not been fully acknowledged. Literature has helped us to imagine what democratic life might be, not least when it has been afraid, and/or critical, of democracy. More than that, literature has been important to the history of democracy for a more particular reason, namely because under democratic regimes the concept of “experience” comes to play a key role. And the novel form in particular was and is an instrument for depicting experiences in society. So the novel is the genre in which democratic life is most concretely and richly imagined.
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