Studiu de specialitate – Changes in the Form of the Modernist Novel

Autor: prof. Andrei Elena
Colegiul Economic Buzău

The turn-of-the-century writers, whose works record the passage from the realist to the psychologically-oriented novel, agree that, if there should be a change in point of novel writing, this change should reside in a shift of focus from the description of the outer world to the representation of the inner world. This shift of interest is accompanied by an increased concern with the mechanisms of the art of writing.
Reseach results
The concept of art becomes central to the modern theory of the novel. The novelist is an artist, or a craftsman, whose condition of existence resides in his being capable of ‘speaking’, in expressing life through language. It is only by language that the artist can investigate and interpret outer and inner reality.
What gives the extent of a writer’s value is the power of seeing. The novelist is a keen observer endowed with imagination. To reach the status of the artist, the novelist should be in perfect control of the medium, of language and of form. Henry James theoretically expresses and practically proves by his novels that the novel represents a structure.
Character, incident, narrator, point of view, plot are relevant only to the extent to which they contribute to the interpretation of the novel as a whole. As a critic, he sees fiction as art only in the unity of form and content. The inseparability of form and content prevents the reader from judging the work of art by any other standards than the artistic ones. The rest of values (ideological, ethical, political or economic) present in the work, likely to produce various reactions on the part of the reader, of acceptance or rejection, should be subordinated to the artistic value. Conrad insists that art should be judged only by aesthetic standards.
One major problem for the modernist novelists is whether certain subjects are more poetic than others. The answer Woolf finds is that poeticity is inherent in the treatment of the subject itself and not in the subject as such. Whatever is life, no matter haw trivial or extraordinary, should become part of the novelist’s interest. James excludes that there are taboo subjects, that had been carefully avoided by the Victorian writers, and paves the way for the modernist literature in which the trivial and the vulgar are selected as subject-matter of the novel as peers of the exceptional or the extraordinary, yet all as part of the miracle of life.
Woolf has a glimpse of what distinguishes the modern novel from the realist one. Modernist writers attempt to comer close to life, and to preserve more sincerely and exactly what interests and moves them, even if to do so they must discard most of the conventions which are commonly observed by the novelist.
In Anca Mihaela Dobrinescu’s view, ‘The difference established by Woolf between the materialists, Bennet, Galsworthy and Wells, and the modernists, Joyce for example, does not reside in the different artistic value of their work, but in their different ability to grasp the meaning of a changing reality, of what the modern writers considered life to be. This ability implies, in Woolf’s view, the re-inventing of the form of the novel’.1 (fragment)