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Diaspora 2:1 1992 The Diaspora off the Novel Artemis Leontis The Ohio State University Travels of a Genre: The Modern Novel and Ideology. Mary N. Layoun. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Reflection on the history of the novel usually begins with consideration of the social, political, and economic transformations within society that favored the "rise" of a new type of narrative. This remains true even with the numerous and important studies appearing during the past ten years, which relate the novel to an everbroadening spectrum ofideological issues—gender, class, race, and, most recently, nationalism.1 Yet a history ofthe genre might reflect not just on the novel's national, but also its transnational, trajectory , its spread across the globe, away from its original points of emergence. Such a history would take into account the expansion of western markets—the growing exportation of goods and ideas, as well as of social, political, and cultural forms from the West—that promoted the novel's importation by nonwestern societies. Furthermore , it could lead one to examine the very interesting inverse relationship between two kinds ofmigration, both ofwhich are tied to the First World's uneven "development" of the Third. In a world system that draws out natural resources in exchange for technologically mediated goods, the emigration of laborers and intellectuals from peripheral societies to the centers ofpower ofthe West and the immigration of a western literary genre into these same societies must be viewed as related phenomena. To consider the diaspora of the novel in relation to the migration of human populations is, in fact, the challenge formulated and confronted by Mary Layoun's excellent book. Layoun deliberately positions her work at the outset. Her critical commentary on six nonwestern novels—one from Greece, one from the Greek diaspora in Germany, one from Egypt, one from the Palestinian diaspora, and two from Japan—is directed to "a largely Western or at least English -speaking audience"; furthermore, it is "published and circulated by an American academic press" (Travel 18-19). Because her presentation of the novels "is arrayed and represented for the con131 Diaspora 2:1 1992 sumption ofthe usually Anglo or European purveyor" (19), it cannot but operate within the same economic system that extracts resources from the non-West in order to reshape them for world markets . Two apparently contradictory facts about present-day literary and critical production in the West are relevant to Layoun's project. The markets for postcolonial Latin American, ethnic American, Asian, and African novels have grown in direct proportion to the ability ofthose novels to satisfy a growing American and European appetite for the nonwestern. Yet American publishers' interest in academic treatises on works from less commonly taught national traditions still depends on critics' ability to appropriate works into dominant critical practices and so to treat them as marginal to their own national tradition. In both cases, however, the touchstone of market value for publishers is the translatability of a work and, more important to this study, of an entire national tradition, into the current discourse of "English." This theoretical, academic discourse of "English" now happens to be occupied with its ability to accommodate the "Other" within a pluralist framework that proves its tolerance by such accommodations. This remains true even in the slightly transformed American academic milieu ofthe past 20 years, in which the representation ofthe world's diaspora intellectuals has increased but whose real interest in the substance ofethnicity continues to be an uncertain one, linked at bottom to demographic and political pressures rather than to a genuine and final reassessment of intellectual and pedagogic categories. Layoun's book does not pretend to ignore the demands of the publishing industry. Indeed, Travels ofa Genre is careful at every turn to relate its analysis of nonwestern novels to contemporary theories about the ideology ofthe novel's production in the West. It opens with "fictional genealogies" not of the "genre of the modern novel" (3) as it promises, but of theories of the European, and particularly the English, novel that have gained force during the past decades.2 These theories have linked the novel's "rise" to numerous social, economic, philosophical, and cultural developments in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 131-146
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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