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‘Normal Man’ and the Modernist Long Novel: Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans and Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities

‘Normal Man’ and the Modernist Long Novel: Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans and Robert... <jats:p> This article argues that the principles organizing the long novels The Making of Americans and The Man Without Qualities can be compared on the grounds of a shared origin in the empirical and experimental sciences of the nineteenth century, and that both authors address the problem of how to narrate featureless statistical or average persons. Stein and Musil develop similar techniques of presenting characters as elements of a mass and as a mass of provisionally related elements that differ in key respects from earlier, nineteenth-century representations of ‘normal man’, for example in the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and George Eliot. I argue that short fictional forms (as well as the realist long novel) privilege the epistemological function of narrative in order to come to terms with the dissolution of character implicit in the notion of statistical persons. The long modernist form, by contrast, abandons narrative in order to explore the scope and the limits of quantitative perspectives on human beings in society, and introduces nonlinear structures that bring the significance of long and short forms, and the micro- and macropoetic dimensions of texts into a productive tension. </jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

‘Normal Man’ and the Modernist Long Novel: Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans and Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities

Modernist Cultures , Volume 10 (3): 316 – Nov 1, 2015

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
© Edinburgh University Press 2015
Subject
Articles; Film, Media and Cultural Studies
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2015.0117
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p> This article argues that the principles organizing the long novels The Making of Americans and The Man Without Qualities can be compared on the grounds of a shared origin in the empirical and experimental sciences of the nineteenth century, and that both authors address the problem of how to narrate featureless statistical or average persons. Stein and Musil develop similar techniques of presenting characters as elements of a mass and as a mass of provisionally related elements that differ in key respects from earlier, nineteenth-century representations of ‘normal man’, for example in the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and George Eliot. I argue that short fictional forms (as well as the realist long novel) privilege the epistemological function of narrative in order to come to terms with the dissolution of character implicit in the notion of statistical persons. The long modernist form, by contrast, abandons narrative in order to explore the scope and the limits of quantitative perspectives on human beings in society, and introduces nonlinear structures that bring the significance of long and short forms, and the micro- and macropoetic dimensions of texts into a productive tension. </jats:p>

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Nov 1, 2015

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