Arguing that genre must play a role in our study of narrative fiction, this tour of the novel examines interactive storytelling scenes in which characters argue about how to tell a tale that meets their respective social and aesthetic expectations. Through intense readings of interactive storytelling scenes in works spanning the 17th through 20th centuries, Halevi-Wise demonstrates how dramatized arguments about storytelling open a window on social and generic dilemmas affecting the narrative of each novel at the time of its composition. Examined in detail are Cervantes' Don Quixote, Sterne's Tristam Shandy, Austen's Northanger Abbey, Dickens's Little Dorrit, Conrad's Lord Jim, Yehoshua's Mr. Mani, and Esquivel'sI Like Water for Chocolate.
Redressing an imbalance between sociological approaches that displace aesthetic considerations and aesthetic analyses that bracket cultural phenomena, the author shows why both genre and culture must be taken into account when we analyze the formation and reception of a narrative. Each interactive storytelling event illustrates how social and aesthetic interests compete and reinvent themselves within their framing texts and those texts' respective national and historical contexts. Just as social interactions cannot be indefinitely displaced in the study of narrative fiction, genre cannot be ignored in the study of identity politics. What emerges from this unique examination is a postmodern poetics of the novel that takes genre and history into account.
The book is very smart and wide-ranging and well-informed, and offers an excellent introduction to the novel as a form, and to comparative literature as a discipline.
A valuable and timely study of scenes of storytelling within the novel, with an impressive temporal and geographical sprawl. . . . This is a rich, well-pondered, and topical study.
'Metafiction' is usually assigned to the postmodern era, but Yael Halevi-Wise's ^IInteractive Fictions^R perceptively shows how the interaction of text and commentary, of content and storytelling, occurs through the history of the novel. Beyond its illuminating readings of an impressive range of novels from ^IDon Quixote^R to ^ILord Jim^R, it provides a new lens through which to understand the genre of the novel--which has never been one, but always interactive.
Yael Halevi-Wise has taken on the formidable job of tackling a familiar subject--the story within the story--and treated it to a wonderfully refreshing reading. Not only refreshing but over-arching: though her text focuses on some ten writers from Cervantes to Laura Esquivel, 'with special reference,' as they say, to the English eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novelists, she displays an astonishing familiarity with the whole house of fiction. And Halevi-Wise is thoroughly up on the post-modernists, whose theories she deploys with exemplary tact. Her book should become mandatory reading in the areas of fiction and comparative literature generally.