Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Downright vulgarity

From Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel:
It would appear, then, that the function of language is much more largely referential in the novel than in other literary forms; that the genre itself works by exhaustive presentation rather than by elegant concentration. This fact would no doubt explain both why the novel is the most translatable of the genres; why many undoubtedly great novelists, from Richardson and Balzac to Hardy and Dostoevsky, often write gracelessly, and sometimes with downright vulgarity; and why the novel has less need of historical and literary commentary than other genres--its formal convention forces it to supply its own footnotes.

1 comment:

  1. In other words:

    The Divine Comedy has no footnotes, because Dante knows you know who all those forgotten local politicians are and exactly why they belong in hell.

    The Human Comedy supplies its own footnotes, because Balzac can't resist giving you his spin on the shady dealings of the Baron de Nucingen, whether you think you know it or not!