The Great American Novel

The phrase “The Great American Novel” means something more than the sum of its parts. There are plenty of great American novels that are not Great American Novels: Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady doesn’t qualify, and neither does Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, or Willa Cather’s The Lost Lady, even though everyone acknowledges them as classics. No, the Great American Novel—always capitalized, like the United States of America itself—has to be a book that contains and explains the whole country, that makes sense of a place that remains, after 230-odd years, a mystery to itself. If other countries don’t fetishize their novels in quite this way—if the French don’t sit around waiting for someone to write the Great French Novel—it may be because no country is so much in need of explanation. ... Adam Kirsch su harvardmagazine.

Vedi: Lawrence Buell, The Dream of the Great American Novel (Belknap Press). 

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