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pare the problems of systematic literary study with similar problems in other fields. In Walker's Political Economy (Briefer Course, page 18), several sections are devoted to "the obstacles which Political Economy encounters." Some of these obstacles, such as the fact that most persons "feel themselves competent, irrespective of study. . . to for opinions" on all phases of the subject, and the difficulty of finding a clear, precise terminology, are very familiar to the teacher of literature.
The question of the right relations of extensive and intensive study is often harassing. A fairly complete analysis of some single novel seems desirable; but there is no work which represents adequately all the values of the type, and such a study, pursued in a spirit of real interest in details, would require almost an entire course. On the other hand, some of the richest cultural values of the novel are to be gained only by a liberal reading which brings before one a wide area of historical and social interests. The best general method is perhaps a combination of the two kinds of study in a single course. In an historical course, there are some novels which ought to be examined without complete reading, others which may be read entire, but scarcely repay detailed study. The present volume is intended mainly as a guide to the consecutive and extended study of the individual novel, though the analysis could be distributed among several works, in accordance with their specific values. The experience of the writer has been that it is best, for mature students, to attain as great a general familiarity with a work as possible before a systematic study is attempted. This practise may help to dispel the conception that one who has simply read a work of literature has "had it."
The study of the novel offers an opportunity for a
review of the formal rhetorical study of exposition, narration, and description. It may give the mind elasticity and a sense of freedom in considering the relations of these rhetorical types, which are liable to become somewhat artificially viewed in prolonged separate study. Any previous study of the short story ought to be advantageous in the examination of the closely allied, but more complicated, form of the novel. The short story has this advantage, that critical study and practical composition can go hand in hand; but many detached exercises in novelistic composition might be profitable, at least for advanced students. The intimate relations of the novel to the drama and the epic are obvious, and suggest a frequent reference to masterpieces already familiar, or to new material.
In spite of considerable criticism, and even ridicule, the study of comparative literature seems to be making progress in America and in Europe, as a well-defined spirit, aim, and method. In an ideal arrangement, a course in the history of the novel would probably be undertaken from this point of view. It is impossible to gain a satisfactory view of the development of any national fiction without constant reference to the general European development of fiction. No adequate work in the latter subject exists in English, but the revised editions of Dunlop, with the assistance of various monographs, will furnish a valuable background. In the matter of translations, while acquaintance with the originals is always desirable, there is probably less loss through a translation for the novel than for any other type of literature - especially for lyric poetry. If a spirit of coöperation exists among the modern language teachers of a school, combined effort can offer some instruction in comparative literature, without offense to the dignity of scholarship.
One reason why the study of the novel has made slow progress, until recent years, is that it could not follow the traditional methods of criticism for the classics. Some classical teachers seem scornful of the study of modern literature, at least in the mother-tongue of the student. These conditions are not entirely discouraging. They may prove a stimulus in the development of a study of literature for its own sake, and in relation to social, ethical, and psychological interests rather than to philology, in its narrower meaning. When the novel is considered as the modern epic, moreover, even Homer and Vergil have a legitimate place in the wide comparative view of fiction; and Coleridge suggests a tempting study when he writes, "Upon my word, I think the Edipus Tyrannus, The Alchemist, and Tom Jones the three most perfect plots ever planned" (Table-talk, July 5, 1834).
An intensive study of any art ought to increase interest in other arts, and to prove a good introduction, episode, or epilogue in a course of general æsthetics. The novel is often considered the most characteristic art-form of the nineteenth century. It offers one an inviting field for the concrete study of many important principles and problems of æsthetics, some of which have been brought into recent prominence because of its large vogue. Like music, fiction has the advantage of offering its masterpieces to communities remote from the great art centers.
The willing, if feminine, assistance the novel may give to ethics, history, psychology, and sociology ought not to be despised. Such studies as are outlined in Chapters X and XI directly concern the last two subjects, which are also touched at many points in the analysis of the form and matter of the novel itself. The psychology of characterization, if it does not yield real scientific data, furnishes
an interesting literary comment on the science of the mind. The writer has known an instructor to analyze some of Poe's tales in a course in logic. For such a purpose a technical examination of the methods of motivation would not have come amiss.
President King, of Oberlin College, makes contact with the complexity of life one of the three or four essentials of a real educational process. If this judgment is accepted, the large educational value of the novel can scarcely be denied. Complex in its origin, development, form, subject, and appeal, it introduces the mind to a world which has to some degree the aspect of a chaos rather than a cosmos, and yet is not without its laws. Fiction, in its ethics and its æsthetics, its exhibition of the individual, of society, and of religion, challenges the student to review his opinions; to distinguish truth from error, the significant from the insignificant; to search for the fundamental values of art and the essential meaning of experience. A study of the novel brings one face to face with strong and often restless minds, and invites one, by a slow and patient effort, to learn to know himself.
Never perfect as a form of art, never presenting a perfect individual or a perfect society, fiction represents the limitations, but also the living qualities, of romantic art, as conceived in a broad contrast to the classical ideal, by Browning:
To-day's brief passion limits their range;
It seethes with the morrow for us and more.
They are perfect how else? they shall never change: