The Novel Network


The Novel Network comprises scholars from across the Faculty who engage with the novel from a range of disciplinary perspectives: from the literary critical, through the socio-historical and philosophical to the ethnographic. The group seeks to investigate the role of the novel in a digitised society. How does the global novel function politically and socially? Is periodicity a useful way of classifying novels, or can they be historicised in other, more compelling ways? What is the current state of novel theory? Can there still be a more than nostalgic place for the novel’s particular readerly pleasures; for deep absorption, for the framework of the page and the tactile rhythm of its turning?

The group hosted its first conference, The Prosaic Imaginary in 2014, with keynote speakers Maud Ellmann, Julie Park and John Plotz. Over three days, local and international delegates examined the relationship between the novel and the ‘everyday’. Two special issues and an edited collection are in production which were developed from papers presented at this event. We host public lectures and masterclasses for leading visiting international theorists of the novel, including Nancy Armstrong (2013), Sharon Marcus (2014) Jonathan Arac (2016).

The Novel Network supports the work of the postgraduate Novel Studies Reading Group, which meets across semesters for detailed discussion of specific authors or novel theorists.

The Novel Network is formally affiliated (via a Memorandum of Understanding) with the Society for Novel Studies, USA.

Network Members

Mark Byron’s research includes an interest in the various challenges to the novel form in Modernism, ranging across experiments in genre, narratology, theories of the novel, and the materiality of the text as an object of bibliography, publishing and marketing. His current research also concerns the material genesis of the novel as a textual process, from notes, glosses and annotations and manuscript drafts, to published texts, versions, and various kinds of scholarly editions. He is completing the Watt module of the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, in which the manuscript notebooks and partial typescript of Beckett’s wartime novel will be published in an online interactive edition, with an accompanying monograph. Mark has also written on, or is currently conducting research on such authors as George Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Stefan Zweig, Saul Bellow, Thomas Bernhard and J. M. Coetzee.

Reclining reading

John Frow's most recent book Character and Person includes extended discussions of Defoe, Richardson, Sterne, Dickens, Goethe, Nabokov and Saramago, and deals both implicitly and explicitly with one of the novel's central categories. His book Genre also has implications for novel theory. He has a continuing interest in narrative theory: his current ARC Discovery Project, "Regimes of Reading", will deal with particular cases of interpretive conflict that will include the novel.

Sarah Gleeson-White's research focuses on American regionalist cultures from, roughly, the 1880s through the 1940s. To date, she has written on William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy and other Southern US writers, always with an interest in the ways in which their fiction might have been inflected by industrial culture – its forms and institutions. Her new project, “The Mechanics of Regionalism,” more comprehensively investigates regionalism's interactions with modernity by examining the novels of a diverse group of American regionalists (e.g. Hamlin Garland, Oscar Micheaux, Willa Cather, Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Sinclair Lewis) alongside their really quite significant but frequently overlooked contributions to cinema, radio, mass publishing and so forth.

Boy reading book

Françoise Grauby is working on a project on literary vocation that addresses the birth of vocation in French Literature by studying the novels, diaries and autobiographies of a selection of French writers, from nineteenth to twenty-first century, who devoted an important part of their writings to tracing the origins of their calling. The project is a continuation of a book, Le Roman de la création, which focuses on the rites and practices of writers at work and on the social, cultural and symbolic representation of the writer in the novels of Catherine Millet, Pierre Michon, Henry Bauchau. She has recently published on Proust, on George Sand and on crime fiction. She is currently supervising PhDs on self-translation in the childhood narratives of Nancy Huston and Raymond Federman and on the work of Drieu-la-Rochelle.

Melissa Hardie is working on a project called "novel objects" that addresses the Anglophone novel mid-century. The project considers publication, translation, distribution, remediation, citation, collection, pricing, as forms of circulation. It analyses the ways in which the novel form came to be embodied or remediated in a variety of other contexts: television and film, but also through habits of collection and reading. Its aim is to propose an alternative history of the relationship between popular/bestselling novels and literary experimentalism, as well as between the novel and its variations: novelisations, non-fiction novels, and other minority forms. The telemovie is a "novel object" of particular interest. She has recently published on Djuna Barnes' novel Nightwood, on true crime (legacy genre of the non-fiction novel), on middlebrow culture and Mad Men, is currently working on Jacqueline Susann and the airport novel.

Woman reading 50 Shades

Isabelle Hesse is interested in the novel as a political form, and in narrative works that ‘redefine our sense of reality,’ to borrow Franco Moretti’s phrase. In her current work, entitled Palimpsestic Tropes: The Holocaust, Israel, and Palestine in Contemporary British and German Culture, Isabelle considers the aesthetic strategies that authors (including Markus Flohr, Linda Grant, Marina Lewycka, Mark Thomas, and Louisa B. Waugh) use to engage with the Holocaust, Israel, and Palestine since the first Palestinian intifada and how these tropes can be seen as challenging or confirming political and historical representations. Moreover, she examines the position of the author in the novel form and asks to what extent the narrator is used as a focaliser and mediator for the author’s political concerns in fiction, memoirs, and travelogues. She has published on novels from a range of geopolitical contexts, including Anita Desai, David Grossman, Sahar Khalifeh, Caryl Phillips, and Raja Shehadeh.

Fiona Lee is interested in the uses of the novel form to depict the historical processes of decolonisation in ex-colonial contexts. Her current research explores how writers and artists in British Malaya and postcolonial Malaysia deploy realist modes of representation in historical and graphic novels to grapple with the mutating forms of colonial racial knowledge that persist in the life of the nation. In examining these uses of realism to capture what might be called the experience of postcolonial racial modernity, she is interested in asking how literary cultural production from the global periphery might revise prevailing assumptions underpinning broader literary history, which generally posits realism as a 19th-century aesthetic formation displaced by 20th-century modernism. In so doing, she highlights the need to understand the aesthetic production of cultural difference in accounting for the significance of realism in literary modernism.

Peter Marks teaches and researches on twentieth and twenty-first century literature, particularly–but not exclusively–on British Literature. His interest in the novel includes the study of film adaptations; the political novel (broadly defined); surveillance, utopia and dystopian fiction; modernist fiction, and questions surrounding realism as a mode. He has supervised PhDs on the work of Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford; Iain Sinclair, and Ian McEwan, and currently is supervising PhDs on narrative theory and self-reflexive fiction, and on the work of Philip K. Dick and Aldous Huxley.

Asian reader

Peter Morgan works on comparative narrative traditions in several European linguistic, cultural and socio-political environments. While earlier work focused on German, English and French novelistic traditions of the 18th century in particular, Peter Morgan now focuses on aspects of the twentieth-century and contemporary novel in the context of developments in world literature studies. Comparative study of the novel as a form of literary communication under the post-war European dictatorships has been a central area of research and publication. Most recently Peter Morgan is working on a book-length study of the novel as a form of exploration of emerging male homosexual identities in the context of European, particularly German modernism.

Nicola Parsons' research focuses on the early eighteenth century novel. She is currently finishing up an ARC funded project that uses the twinned careers of Eliza Haywood and Daniel Defoe as a means of re-thinking the connections between gender and genre in the formative decades of the novel. As part of this work, she has begun to think about the role romance plays in the early novel. This has led to the development of a new project, entitled Revisiting Romance: Form and Matter in Early Eighteenth Century Women’s Writing that considers the persistence of romance in early eighteenth century novels by women. She is particularly interested in examining novels that are often considered conservative – and juxtaposed to the scandalous example of amatory fiction – and thinking about the strategic ways they engage pastoral romance, specifically the Sidneian tradition. In addition to allowing her an opportunity to think through questions she has been preoccupied with for some time, this project also provides her with an excuse to return to figures who have long fascinated her, such as Elizabeth Rowe and John Dunton.

Brigid Rooney's project "The novel and the suburb in Australia: 1901 to the present" investigates a productive nexus between fictional and real suburbia in Australian novels over the past century. She is researching novels by Christina Stead, Eleanor Dark, Patrick White, Elizabeth Harrower, George Johnston, David Malouf, Melissa Lucashenko and Steven Carroll, among others. Her questions concern how fictional works are sourced in and evoke specific times and places (i.e. suburbs and suburban communities), and how they form a longitudinal fictional archive of lost places. Most of all she's interested in how novels transform and reinvent source material through fictional autobiography, non-linear or modernist temporalities or other experimental forms of narration.

Girl reading to dog

Vanessa Smith's current research project, "Toy Stories: object relations from Defoe to Winnicott", links novel writing with British object relations theory via representations of juvenile writing and reading. It considers novelists from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, including Defoe, the Brontes, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. She has previously published on Defoe's, Melville's and Stevenson's novels, on the novel in English in Oceania to 1950, and on books (from religious tracts to pulp fiction) as objects of exchange in scenarios of intercultural contact.

Carolyn Stott’s research focuses on the contemporary French novel with a particular emphasis on French detective fiction and the roman noir featuring Paris, and more specifically the north-eastern quartier of Belleville. An initial interest in Daniel Pennac’s Malaussène series (1985-1999) sparked a more widespread study of the representations of Belleville in literature and popular culture. The focus of current projects include Belleville as décor for film noir, and the role of authenticity in contemporary French roman noir.

Matthew Sussman's current research focuses on the aesthetics of prose fiction as understood through the history of style and rhetoric. His book manuscript, Stylistic Virtue in Victorian Fiction, unearths how Aristotelian virtue ethics profoundly influenced nineteenth-century ideas of aesthetic appreciation and response, leading its major novelists to imagine their work in terms of ethico-aesthetic categories such as the easy, the lucid, and the sincere. In addition to his central interest in the Victorian novel, he has two current projects: on moral and artistic stupidity in the late work of Henry James, and on the tension between criticism and creativity in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Anne L Walsh’s main area of interest is in contemporary Spanish narrative, specifically the popular novel of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The link between society, and how society expresses itself through fiction, reveals much about the everyday concerns of the general population. At present, Spain is going through a time of crisis that is not just economic but also one of identity, with themes emerging to do with migration, violence, the changing face of war, unemployment, economic challenges and the power of the individual to affect change. Spain’s fiction has long been a place to contemplate challenges posed by reality, and has been shaped by the particular environment created by almost thirty years of censorship (1939-1977). Now, in a post-censorship era, the novel remains a method of communication, of recuperation of memory and of modeling a future where the circle of history might just be broken. These are the developments that form the basis of present research into the novel of the Spanish Transition (1975-1982) and how they are reflected, developed or enhanced in more recent novels of the twenty-first century.