Rise of fictionality

Novels, we say, are long prose fictions, but general the terms of that definition are left unexamined. What is “prose” after all? What, Catherine Gallagher wants to ask, is fiction? And how did fictionality become established as the matter-of-factly defining characteristic of the novel. . . . . Continue Reading »

The Novel

Several of my recent posts were taken from essays in Franco Moretti’s recent collection, The Novel (Princeton). The two-volume English translation abridges the six volumes of the Italian original. The essays are so suggestive that one is tempted to take some time off to learn Italian. . . . . Continue Reading »

Chinese novels

During the sixteenth century, a little before the novel took shape in Western Europe, a very similar form of prose fiction was being developed in China. According to Andrew Plaks, “The significant areas of convergence between what we customarily call the classical novel in China and its . . . . Continue Reading »

Ancient Greek Novels

Greek novels appear in the late Hellenistic period. One scholar suggests the “typical” Greek novel followed something like the following story-line: “These are novels of travel, adventure, and romantic love, taking place in a vaguely realistic Mediterranean or Near Eastern . . . . Continue Reading »

The Novel’s Late Arrival

Goody asks why it took so long for the novel form to develop in Europe. If it’s simply a matter of a shift from oral to written, or the technology of printing, that was all in place centuries before the novel took recognizable form. He argues that the main obstacle to its earlier rise had to . . . . Continue Reading »

Oral and Epic

Epic poetry is often seen as characteristic of orally based cultures, but Jack Goody argues that epic more normally appears at the beginning of literate cultures rather than in purely oral cultures. Referring to the research of Parry and Lord on Yugoslav oral poets, he comments “Yugoslavia . . . . Continue Reading »

Eucharistic meditation

1 John 3:17: Whoever has the world’s goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? John insists, as we’ve seen, that love must take specific, concrete form among believers. Love is not just fellow-feeling, or sympathy, or . . . . Continue Reading »

Baptismal exhortation

1 John 3:24: The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. John emphasizes throughout his letter that Christians must obey God’s commandments. In this, he only repeats what Jesus said. Jesus said, If you love Me, keep My commandments. That’s all that John is saying. . . . . Continue Reading »


Sacrifice is built into human life. It’s unavoidable. Even though we don’t slaughter animals in worship, sacrifice still happens every day. We either sacrifice other people, or we offer ourselves in sacrifice for them. That’s what John is saying when he contrasts Cain with Jesus. . . . . Continue Reading »

Nice and Hot Disputes

For a number of years, I have wanted a historical study of the decline of Trinitarian theology between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. James Buckley tells part of that story in his history of atheism, but his interests are broader. Philip Dixon has produced the book I’ve been looking . . . . Continue Reading »