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Thread: Which is the greatest Great American novel and why?

  1. #16
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    Of course, Quixote is the national novel by excelence, but if you think well, Cervantes was hardly a single voice in that Spain. Lope de Vega was there and is a giant looming over Cervantes popular style, you had other names like Quevedo, that worked in quite different style and even language. Not to mention, as spanish, Cervantes was actually representative of the central governament. We can argument, He became the spanish novel because it is the one that is more universal, as the "national novel" is more a war banner in the cultural "battles" in the world.

    Borges would argue that often the national writers (Shakespeare, Goethe, Dante) are actually universal writers, with little or very few use for nationalism. Perhaps that would give Melville an advantage over Poe.

    I would like to counter that one is less or more american (Huck and Moby) american. I agree both works have a different movement, one that is expansive and the other that is intimist, after all, there is a river and there is the ocean, but I do not think any is less american than the other. Moby Dick is only possible in XIX America. It has all that dialogue with the previous american "tradition", just turns a bleak side. It is a prophecy of a nation and this nation is USA. If we compare with Quixote, Twain is more akim of the first part and Melville to the second part.

    Reggarding standing up wih Quixote or Ulysses, I think Moby Dick is one of the few works that can do the trick. In many aspects, Moby was doing russian novels before the russians. We cannot compare with Joyce verbal luxury, but that is style. Cervante language was not rich either, but exactly for this, him and Melville managed to pull greater characters on Sancho, Quixote and Ahab than Bloom, Molly and cia. I think both are rich when they use the scenary to be part of the story, but Melville has the edge here. The Pequod is a psyche and the variations of weather and speed of travel, etfc, are all psychological changes in the trip.

    Anyways, Danik, I agree Poe is very representative. He is the first one to think (or at least think and elaborate about it) on the production of texts for the mass, which is a quite an american vision. He has many links wiht Melville (both prophets denied by their peers), but americans may disagree with what we may see as non-american: poe is the most influential american writer, by far. And don't forget, he wrote one novel (Gordon Pym), that may or may not have been an influence over Melville.
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  2. #17
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    @Camilo- "Of course, Quixote is the national novel by excellence, but if you think well, Cervantes was hardly a single voice in that Spain. Lope de Vega was there and is a giant looming over Cervantes popular style, you had other names like Quevedo, that worked in quite different style and even language. Not to mention, as spanish, Cervantes was actually representative of the central government. We can argument, He became the Spanish novel because it is the one that is more universal, as the "national novel" is more a war banner in the cultural "battles" in the world."
    Yes of course, there were other and great voices, there was Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca and several poets, but they weren´t novelists. The play writers wrote specially for the court, so I should like to know what is the "national novel" for you, if it is the popular work of art?

    Maybe, using Ecurbs evaluation one could argue cautiously that the greatest novels are those that best combine "nationalism" with "universalism". That said, nothing at all is said, because both of these terms which intuitively seem so easy to recognize are both very difficult to define. You show how difficult it gets, when on tries to compare Moby Dick with Ulisses. The difficulty starts with the very different usage the two authors make of the English language. It goes so far as questioning how much of Ulisses ( and by that matter of Finnegans Wake) is actually written in English. In this matter I have only questions.

    I think Poe is representative, not as a novelist, but as an pioneer of the American short story, and by his very typical sort of fantastic and horror stories.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  3. #18
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    Melville loved Don Quixote, and thought he was one of the three great literary characters (along with Hamlet and Milton's
    Satan). Ahab shares the Don's mono-mania and madness, if not his sense of playfulness.

    Of course Don Quixote is universal in its meaning and appeal. However, it is also very Spanish, especially when we think of the Spanish century that preceded it (Don Quixote was published in 1605 and 1615). The famous chapter in which the barber and the curate burn the Don's chivalrous Romances to cure him of his madness mirrors what was actually happening in Spain. The great libraries and stores of knowledge that had been accumulated in Muslim Spain were being consumed in flames -- and those who possessed books written in Arabic (or in the Spanish vernacular using Arabic script) were often consigned to the flames themselves. Could Spain be cured of its "madness" (heretical beliefs) by burning all the books?

    If Don Quixote's madness involved playing at chivalry, the sanity (and life) of the conversos (Muslims and Jews who had to pretend to be Christians) was dependent on role-playing. Anyone might be other than he appeared. When Aldonza-Dulcinea is lauded as "the best hand at salting pork... in all La Mancha", Cervantes may be hinting that she is converso. Conversos often resorted to eating pork in public to show off their bona fides as Christians.

    Indeed, the narrator of Don Quixote finds the "True History" of the Don being sold as rags, and written in Arabic script. He must find a translator to render the book into Spanish. In Toledo books really were sold as rags, since paper and cloth were valuable, and the books had become illegal.

    So the game-playing, the pretense, and the valor of our Don were all played out in Christian Spain, and lampooned in Cervantes' masterpiece.

    In addition, the 1500s in Spain was a century of almost unimaginable knight-errantry. While knights were vanishing from the European scene, Spanish adventurers like Pizzaro and Cortez were conquering huge empires in the New World against all odds.

    Don Quixote is a comic figure -- but he shares the valor and the madness of Orlando Furioso, if not the strength or skill. Ahab shares much of that same valor and obsessive madness.

    "National Character" used to be accepted as a truism, and is now often regarded as a somewhat racist anachronism. However, since culture affects character, and since different cultures emphasize and value different traits, perhaps "National Character" has some basis in reality. Ahab's obsession with revenge (it seems to me) is more a Spanish (or old-fashioned Spanish, or Muslim, for that matter, like honor killings) trait than it is an American trait. Don Quixote wants to return to a romantic past of valor and knight errantry; Huckleberry Finn wants to "light out for the Territories" to avoid being civilized. Their quests (and Ahab's) are similar in some ways, opposites in others.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 04-23-2020 at 10:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    @Camilo- "Of course, Quixote is the national novel by excellence, but if you think well, Cervantes was hardly a single voice in that Spain. Lope de Vega was there and is a giant looming over Cervantes popular style, you had other names like Quevedo, that worked in quite different style and even language. Not to mention, as spanish, Cervantes was actually representative of the central government. We can argument, He became the Spanish novel because it is the one that is more universal, as the "national novel" is more a war banner in the cultural "battles" in the world."
    Yes of course, there were other and great voices, there was Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca and several poets, but they weren´t novelists. The play writers wrote specially for the court, so I should like to know what is the "national novel" for you, if it is the popular work of art?
    This is not important. Until the XIX century, nobody would consider prose novels (and authors) as representative of the culture. Cervantes is not exactly a novel writer either, it was his failures as playwriter and poet (not always failures) that lead him to, by accident, tackle prose. Iit is kind of an American thing, trying to imply a longer tradition, but without an epic national work, to have novels in the place of epics.

    Anyways, the "national novel", "national epics" are also flagships of a culture, they are representative enough but mostly, they are impressive to the others (or suppose to be). It is not about popularity, it is about significance to both inside and outside perception.

    Maybe, using Ecurbs evaluation one could argue cautiously that the greatest novels are those that best combine "nationalism" with "universalism". That said, nothing at all is said, because both of these terms which intuitively seem so easy to recognize are both very difficult to define. You show how difficult it gets, when on tries to compare Moby Dick with Ulisses. The difficulty starts with the very different usage the two authors make of the English language. It goes so far as questioning how much of Ulisses ( and by that matter of Finnegans Wake) is actually written in English. In this matter I have only questions.
    Melville exploration of different text forms is similar to what Joyce do, they are not that apart (not to mention, Melville reputation was recovered by european symbolists, which are precussors of Joyce. Of course, the language aspect is unique and rather only possible after Mallarmé.

    I think Poe is representative, not as a novelist, but as an pioneer of the American short story, and by his very typical sort of fantastic and horror stories.
    Poe is, but nobody seem him as such, because he does not "function" for americans at all. He is too anti-evertying to be the representative author. Anyways, I rarely think of Poe as a pioner. Mostly, as an organizer. You had, even considering only american, gothic precussors (such as Washington Irving), but the thing Poe did best, IMO, is to get elements of of popular litereture, who were used without much care and often and give them a more definitive, rounded-up use.

    Ecurd:

    Melville loved Don Quixote, and thought he was one of the three great literary characters (along with Hamlet and Milton's
    Satan). Ahab shares the Don's mono-mania and madness, if not his sense of playfulness.
    Ah, of course, Melville could write humorous stories too, in the Swiftlike manner (or even Washington Irving), which is the closer you get him to Cervantes humour. Funny enough, he has a short story that any brazilian would reckon, because it is basically a mockery of portuguese (they are the usual scapegoat in anedoctes here). But that ends the similarities. Ahab is more shakespearean character, his mania is much about him, Quixote goes opening the world, his mania is about reality.

    Of course Don Quixote is universal in its meaning and appeal. However, it is also very Spanish, especially when we think of the Spanish century that preceded it (Don Quixote was published in 1605 and 1615). The famous chapter in which the barber and the curate burn the Don's chivalrous Romances to cure him of his madness mirrors what was actually happening in Spain. The great libraries and stores of knowledge that had been accumulated in Muslim Spain were being consumed in flames -- and those who possessed books written in Arabic (or in the Spanish vernacular using Arabic script) were often consigned to the flames themselves. Could Spain be cured of its "madness" (heretical beliefs) by burning all the books?
    I think those details, what Peter Woods says that is a glance of reality, are inferior to Quixote. Of course, the scene is beautiful. Cervantes stabilishes himself as a critical judge of the literary genre he will destroy and at the sametime stabilishes his links - it is necessary for a Satyre to the previous tradtion (aptly, with Orlando Furioso, another work with strong satyrical purpose). It is sort like Dante placing Virgil as a guide: this is the tradtion I follow and the one I will abandon.

    I think at Cervantes time there was less need to consider the moors as anthing but a past thing, so they are target of his jokes, but at that momment, the great point was the unification. Quixote is sort witness of the lack of logical union in Spain, he is also a ghost from the past to a new age that is coming (with a new burocratic organization that excludes the knights). Cervantes asks - specially in the second part - what kind of character (the national character you say, not in the same of character/individual, but traits of a people) is emerging and the result is not good. The past is gone, but the present is chaotir, mad (Quixote is in the end sane, mad is the world, as Ortega Y Gasset would say, Quixote is "supersane" - something like this, the word was not in english of course).

    I do not think Cid Hamet was a comment on the book destruction, it seems to me to a satyrical trick, a way to replace the "once upon a time" or to give authenticity, since chivalirity novels are origem in historical chronicles, added with the knowledge Cervantes had as moors as sotytellers, at the same time calling them liars (or fabulits) and moving the narrarive to "a far away country", in the sense, the narrative come from there.

    Yeah, I know Cervantes is pretty much spanish (as Melville is american), but there is not one spain. That is central spain (Madri or Castela). Cervantes cannot be representative of all Spain, because he is representative of a part of Spain, the others had different languages and cultures. Borges was pretty much chastised when younger for professing him opinion that would be better if Quevedo or Vega had the honour to be spain's national writer exactly because of that. Not that I defend that the so called "national" work must represent all nation.

    "National Character" used to be accepted as a truism, and is now often regarded as a somewhat racist anachronism. However, since culture affects character, and since different cultures emphasize and value different traits, perhaps "National Character" has some basis in reality. Ahab's obsession with revenge (it seems to me) is more a Spanish (or old-fashioned Spanish, or Muslim, for that matter, like honor killings) trait than it is an American trait. Don Quixote wants to return to a romantic past of valor and knight errantry; Huckleberry Finn wants to "light out for the Territories" to avoid being civilized. Their quests (and Ahab's) are similar in some ways, opposites in others.
    Ahab obssession is not with revenge. It is with pursuing a great ideal. His vanished leg was the first relatory saying Moby has WMD, he was already after Moby before losing the leg. He is also able to unite and lead several different individuals in one task. That is quite american. (and the truth is those traits, also revenge, are really not a national trait. but universal. Quixote has no wish for revenge, Hamlet has. USA went after Al-Quaeda after all.). I would say, Quixote wants to find a reference to the fragmented world he was living. The books were his reference, but as soon nobles tried to impose him that world, he was more cautious. Quixote is not very romantic (in the sense, romantic movement renewed celtic old world), but perhaps it is a word imposed upon us (romantic).
    #foratemer

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    @Camilo- "Of course, Quixote is the national novel by excellence, but if you think well, Cervantes was hardly a single voice in that Spain. Lope de Vega was there and is a giant looming over Cervantes popular style, you had other names like Quevedo, that worked in quite different style and even language. Not to mention, as spanish, Cervantes was actually representative of the central government. We can argument, He became the Spanish novel because it is the one that is more universal, as the "national novel" is more a war banner in the cultural "battles" in the world."
    Yes of course, there were other and great voices, there was Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca and several poets, but they weren´t novelists. The play writers wrote specially for the court, so I should like to know what is the "national novel" for you, if it is the popular work of art?
    This is not important. Until the XIX century, nobody would consider prose novels (and authors) as representative of the culture. Cervantes is not exactly a novel writer either, it was his failures as playwriter and poet (not always failures) that lead him to, by accident, tackle prose. Iit is kind of an American thing, trying to imply a longer tradition, but without an epic national work, to have novels in the place of epics.

    Anyways, the "national novel", "national epics" are also flagships of a culture, they are representative enough but mostly, they are impressive to the others (or suppose to be). It is not about popularity, it is about significance to both inside and outside perception.

    Maybe, using Ecurbs evaluation one could argue cautiously that the greatest novels are those that best combine "nationalism" with "universalism". That said, nothing at all is said, because both of these terms which intuitively seem so easy to recognize are both very difficult to define. You show how difficult it gets, when on tries to compare Moby Dick with Ulisses. The difficulty starts with the very different usage the two authors make of the English language. It goes so far as questioning how much of Ulisses ( and by that matter of Finnegans Wake) is actually written in English. In this matter I have only questions.
    Melville exploration of different text forms is similar to what Joyce do, they are not that apart (not to mention, Melville reputation was recovered by european symbolists, which are precussors of Joyce. Of course, the language aspect is unique and rather only possible after Mallarmé.

    I think Poe is representative, not as a novelist, but as an pioneer of the American short story, and by his very typical sort of fantastic and horror stories.
    Poe is, but nobody seem him as such, because he does not "function" for americans at all. He is too anti-evertying to be the representative author. Anyways, I rarely think of Poe as a pioner. Mostly, as an organizer. You had, even considering only american, gothic precussors (such as Washington Irving), but the thing Poe did best, IMO, is to get elements of of popular litereture, who were used without much care and often and give them a more definitive, rounded-up use.

    Ecurd:

    Melville loved Don Quixote, and thought he was one of the three great literary characters (along with Hamlet and Milton's
    Satan). Ahab shares the Don's mono-mania and madness, if not his sense of playfulness.
    Ah, of course, Melville could write humorous stories too, in the Swiftlike manner (or even Washington Irving), which is the closer you get him to Cervantes humour. Funny enough, he has a short story that any brazilian would reckon, because it is basically a mockery of portuguese (they are the usual scapegoat in anedoctes here). But that ends the similarities. Ahab is more shakespearean character, his mania is much about him, Quixote goes opening the world, his mania is about reality.

    Of course Don Quixote is universal in its meaning and appeal. However, it is also very Spanish, especially when we think of the Spanish century that preceded it (Don Quixote was published in 1605 and 1615). The famous chapter in which the barber and the curate burn the Don's chivalrous Romances to cure him of his madness mirrors what was actually happening in Spain. The great libraries and stores of knowledge that had been accumulated in Muslim Spain were being consumed in flames -- and those who possessed books written in Arabic (or in the Spanish vernacular using Arabic script) were often consigned to the flames themselves. Could Spain be cured of its "madness" (heretical beliefs) by burning all the books?
    I think those details, what Peter Woods says that is a glance of reality, are inferior to Quixote. Of course, the scene is beautiful. Cervantes stabilishes himself as a critical judge of the literary genre he will destroy and at the sametime stabilishes his links - it is necessary for a Satyre to the previous tradtion (aptly, with Orlando Furioso, another work with strong satyrical purpose). It is sort like Dante placing Virgil as a guide: this is the tradtion I follow and the one I will abandon.

    I think at Cervantes time there was less need to consider the moors as anthing but a past thing, so they are target of his jokes, but at that momment, the great point was the unification. Quixote is sort witness of the lack of logical union in Spain, he is also a ghost from the past to a new age that is coming (with a new burocratic organization that excludes the knights). Cervantes asks - specially in the second part - what kind of character (the national character you say, not in the same of character/individual, but traits of a people) is emerging and the result is not good. The past is gone, but the present is chaotir, mad (Quixote is in the end sane, mad is the world, as Ortega Y Gasset would say, Quixote is "supersane" - something like this, the word was not in english of course).

    I do not think Cid Hamet was a comment on the book destruction, it seems to me to a satyrical trick, a way to replace the "once upon a time" or to give authenticity, since chivalirity novels are origem in historical chronicles, added with the knowledge Cervantes had as moors as sotytellers, at the same time calling them liars (or fabulits) and moving the narrarive to "a far away country", in the sense, the narrative come from there.

    Yeah, I know Cervantes is pretty much spanish (as Melville is american), but there is not one spain. That is central spain (Madri or Castela). Cervantes cannot be representative of all Spain, because he is representative of a part of Spain, the others had different languages and cultures. Borges was pretty much chastised when younger for professing him opinion that would be better if Quevedo or Vega had the honour to be spain's national writer exactly because of that. Not that I defend that the so called "national" work must represent all nation.

    "National Character" used to be accepted as a truism, and is now often regarded as a somewhat racist anachronism. However, since culture affects character, and since different cultures emphasize and value different traits, perhaps "National Character" has some basis in reality. Ahab's obsession with revenge (it seems to me) is more a Spanish (or old-fashioned Spanish, or Muslim, for that matter, like honor killings) trait than it is an American trait. Don Quixote wants to return to a romantic past of valor and knight errantry; Huckleberry Finn wants to "light out for the Territories" to avoid being civilized. Their quests (and Ahab's) are similar in some ways, opposites in others.
    Ahab obssession is not with revenge. It is with pursuing a great ideal. His vanished leg was the first relatory saying Moby has WMD, he was already after Moby before losing the leg. He is also able to unite and lead several different individuals in one task. That is quite american. (and the truth is those traits, also revenge, are really not a national trait. but universal. Quixote has no wish for revenge, Hamlet has. USA went after Al-Quaeda after all.). I would say, Quixote wants to find a reference to the fragmented world he was living. The books were his reference, but as soon nobles tried to impose him that world, he was more cautious. Quixote is not very romantic (in the sense, romantic movement renewed celtic old world), but perhaps it is a word imposed upon us (romantic).
    #foratemer

  6. #21
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    "This is not important. Until the XIX century, nobody would consider prose novels (and authors) as representative of the culture. Cervantes is not exactly a novel writer either, it was his failures as playwriter and poet (not always failures) that lead him to, by accident, tackle prose. It is kind of an American thing, trying to imply a longer tradition, but without an epic national work, to have novels in the place of epics."
    national work, to have novels in the place of epics."

    If think you are right about the time the novel reached a new status. Of course you remember that Lukács and before him Hegel I think described the novel as a "bourgeois epic". I don´t know If Ahab and his crew can be described as bourgeois, but they certainly are replacing the kings and the aristocratic wariours of the old epics.

    Unfortunately I don´t remember Moby Dick so well any more, it´s a long time that I have read it: all I remember about it is that Captain Ahab is obsessessively pursuing a white whale, which on a former journey caused the loss of his leg. If I rightly remember, the captain at last manages to kill the whale, but he loses his whole crew in the expedition, only the narrator Ismael survives. I don´t remember what happens to the captain himself. So I don´t think I am able to contribute to a more profound discussion of this novel.

    About the finding of the manuscript of D. Quijote, I think it was an irony on Literature in General and Travel Literature in particular. At that time a lot was written about manuscripts that got lost and lost manuscripts that were found. What regards the Travel Literature of the Renaissance it was often difficult to distinguish fiction from reality.

    The chapter on the Library where the books of the Quijote are "judged" is one of my favorites.Not the least of it because Cervantes uses the book judgment to poke fun at the inquisition, something that was rather dangerous at the time.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    This is not important. Until the XIX century, nobody would consider prose novels (and authors) as representative of the culture. Cervantes is not exactly a novel writer either, it was his failures as playwriter and poet (not always failures) that lead him to, by accident, tackle prose. Iit is kind of an American thing, trying to imply a longer tradition, but without an epic national work, to have novels in the place of epics.

    Anyways, the "national novel", "national epics" are also flagships of a culture, they are representative enough but mostly, they are impressive to the others (or suppose to be). It is not about popularity, it is about significance to both inside and outside perception.



    Melville exploration of different text forms is similar to what Joyce do, they are not that apart (not to mention, Melville reputation was recovered by european symbolists, which are precussors of Joyce. Of course, the language aspect is unique and rather only possible after Mallarmé.



    Poe is, but nobody seem him as such, because he does not "function" for americans at all. He is too anti-evertying to be the representative author. Anyways, I rarely think of Poe as a pioner. Mostly, as an organizer. You had, even considering only american, gothic precussors (such as Washington Irving), but the thing Poe did best, IMO, is to get elements of of popular litereture, who were used without much care and often and give them a more definitive, rounded-up use.

    Ecurd:



    Ah, of course, Melville could write humorous stories too, in the Swiftlike manner (or even Washington Irving), which is the closer you get him to Cervantes humour. Funny enough, he has a short story that any brazilian would reckon, because it is basically a mockery of portuguese (they are the usual scapegoat in anedoctes here). But that ends the similarities. Ahab is more shakespearean character, his mania is much about him, Quixote goes opening the world, his mania is about reality.



    I think those details, what Peter Woods says that is a glance of reality, are inferior to Quixote. Of course, the scene is beautiful. Cervantes stabilishes himself as a critical judge of the literary genre he will destroy and at the sametime stabilishes his links - it is necessary for a Satyre to the previous tradtion (aptly, with Orlando Furioso, another work with strong satyrical purpose). It is sort like Dante placing Virgil as a guide: this is the tradtion I follow and the one I will abandon.

    I think at Cervantes time there was less need to consider the moors as anthing but a past thing, so they are target of his jokes, but at that momment, the great point was the unification. Quixote is sort witness of the lack of logical union in Spain, he is also a ghost from the past to a new age that is coming (with a new burocratic organization that excludes the knights). Cervantes asks - specially in the second part - what kind of character (the national character you say, not in the same of character/individual, but traits of a people) is emerging and the result is not good. The past is gone, but the present is chaotir, mad (Quixote is in the end sane, mad is the world, as Ortega Y Gasset would say, Quixote is "supersane" - something like this, the word was not in english of course).

    I do not think Cid Hamet was a comment on the book destruction, it seems to me to a satyrical trick, a way to replace the "once upon a time" or to give authenticity, since chivalirity novels are origem in historical chronicles, added with the knowledge Cervantes had as moors as sotytellers, at the same time calling them liars (or fabulits) and moving the narrarive to "a far away country", in the sense, the narrative come from there.

    Yeah, I know Cervantes is pretty much spanish (as Melville is american), but there is not one spain. That is central spain (Madri or Castela). Cervantes cannot be representative of all Spain, because he is representative of a part of Spain, the others had different languages and cultures. Borges was pretty much chastised when younger for professing him opinion that would be better if Quevedo or Vega had the honour to be spain's national writer exactly because of that. Not that I defend that the so called "national" work must represent all nation.



    Ahab obssession is not with revenge. It is with pursuing a great ideal. His vanished leg was the first relatory saying Moby has WMD, he was already after Moby before losing the leg. He is also able to unite and lead several different individuals in one task. That is quite american. (and the truth is those traits, also revenge, are really not a national trait. but universal. Quixote has no wish for revenge, Hamlet has. USA went after Al-Quaeda after all.). I would say, Quixote wants to find a reference to the fragmented world he was living. The books were his reference, but as soon nobles tried to impose him that world, he was more cautious. Quixote is not very romantic (in the sense, romantic movement renewed celtic old world), but perhaps it is a word imposed upon us (romantic).
    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    "This is not important. Until the XIX century, nobody would consider prose novels (and authors) as representative of the culture. Cervantes is not exactly a novel writer either, it was his failures as playwriter and poet (not always failures) that lead him to, by accident, tackle prose. It is kind of an American thing, trying to imply a longer tradition, but without an epic national work, to have novels in the place of epics."
    national work, to have novels in the place of epics."

    If think you are right about the time the novel reached a new status. Of course you remember that Lukács and before him Hegel I think described the novel as a "bourgeois epic". I don´t know If Ahab and his crew can be described as bourgeois, but they certainly are replacing the kings and the aristocratic wariours of the old epics.
    Yeah, Hegel said. There is some sense on this, but not everything that happened with the novel is exactly burgoise. Hegel probally wasnt aware of Moby and wouldn't consider it seriously. American literature wasnt that respected outside America and Melville was first perceived (and Moby too) as an "adventure novel", they would not consider him as something remarkable. This saying makes more sense when you see something like Balzac-Flaubert. Of course, Ahab and his crew are not good representation of burgoise, but prose became more broader reader around that time. You may consider our José de Alencar and Machado de Assis and to whom they were writting - urban, middleclass or working class, to see the tendencies.

    Unfortunately I don´t remember Moby Dick so well any more, it´s a long time that I have read it: all I remember about it is that Captain Ahab is obsessessively pursuing a white whale, which on a former journey caused the loss of his leg. If I rightly remember, the captain at last manages to kill the whale, but he loses his whole crew in the expedition, only the narrator Ismael survives. I don´t remember what happens to the captain himself. So I don´t think I am able to contribute to a more profound discussion of this novel.
    Moby sinks with Ahab. Not being an hollywood movie, it doesn ot surface again to swallow Ishmal after the credits, so, it is probally alive.

    About the finding of the manuscript of D. Quijote, I think it was an irony on Literature in General and Travel Literature in particular. At that time a lot was written about manuscripts that got lost and lost manuscripts that were found. What regards the Travel Literature of the Renaissance it was often difficult to distinguish fiction from reality.
    Yeah, the same goes in the knight's adventures, which is an appeal to credibility (the narrator), so Cervantes is ironic as you say, he places a narrator without much credibility instead, which is pretty much a way to say "my tale is made up, so is yours".

    The chapter on the Library where the books of the Quijote are "judged" is one of my favorites.Not the least of it because Cervantes uses the book judgment to poke fun at the inquisition, something that was rather dangerous at the time.
    Quixote is always great when Cervantes is playing the metalinguist trumph card, like the many times he is talking about himself.
    #foratemer

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    "Yeah, Hegel said. There is some sense on this, but not everything that happened with the novel is exactly burgoise. Hegel probally wasnt aware of Moby and wouldn't consider it seriously. American literature wasnt that respected outside America and Melville was first perceived (and Moby too) as an "adventure novel", they would not consider him as something remarkable. This saying makes more sense when you see something like Balzac-Flaubert. Of course, Ahab and his crew are not good representation of burgoise, but prose became more broader reader around that time. You may consider our José de Alencar and Machado de Assis and to whom they were writting - urban, middleclass or working class, to see the tendencies."

    Yes, I agree with you, the concept of bourgeoisie had to be very flexible, for it usually meant something very different, depending the literature of the country it was applied to, something referring to one or several of the classes that separated the working class from the upper classes (that seems very general, but for me it is not a very strict concept).
    I guess the question if Moby Dick is the greatest US novel of all times written in English language and why hasn´t been answered yet. These list of "The hundred best" rarely seem to include more recent works. According to them it is as i if novel writing and reading stopped about the middle of the 20. C.
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    I'm English-British, not American, so this is an outsider perspective. I guess the first question is what does it mean to write 'the great American novel'? What is it you have to capture? Presumably, you mean which novel gets to the heart of America, expresses what it means to be an American, etc. The big themes are immigration, slavery, movement, the horizon and the realisation of the dream (and whether that brings happiness or pain).

    Many people would nominate The Great Gatsby, and I can understand why. Gatsby IS America: he begins poor and becomes rich. And, like so many Americans, he is a dreamer (or fantasist). One thing that strikes outsiders is America's dream-like character. To me, Americans often seem like actors. And that's what Gatsby is – an actor. He's playing a part. Plus, of course, you get that sublime passage describing the movement west, where the narrator recalls pulling out of Chicago station and seeing the pure snow of the midwest opening out before him. Again, that gets to the heart of the US – the sense of freedom, of the horizon, of something purer and cleaner and better 'over there', away from the east, away from Europe, etc.

    Personally, though, I would choose Huck Finn. It doesn't capture the immigrant experience (The Godfather movies do that as well as any novel I can think of), but it does deal with slavery and the frontier. The descriptions of life on the raft are the heart of America, of what it meant to people. And Huck, with his courage, resilience, energy and self-reliance, is the American character at its best. He also distrusts, and despises, what he calls civilisation. Again, that's very American. The story of America, certainly in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century, was one of escape and fresh beginnings. Leaving aside slavery, most Americans are descended from people who wanted to escape, to start afresh. They rejected the old world, meaning Europe, with its kings and aristocrats and so on. At the end, in possibly the greatest moment in American literature, Huck says he can't stand civilisation no more and is heading off to the frontier. That, I would say, is the essence of America. If I was myself an American, my two favourite passages in all literature would be the description of "pulling out into the snow, our snow" etc in Gatsby, and Huck's description of life on the raft, plus his final plan to leave.
    Last edited by WICKES; 05-11-2020 at 01:36 PM.

  10. #25
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    I reread Huckleberry Finn a year or two ago. While it used to be one of my favorite novels, it no longer is. I'd go with Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby right now.
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    Moby-Dick is the greatest I've read, and I think it tackles big enough themes and is written in such a grand style that it can easily qualify as "The Great American Novel. That all being said, I am no expert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I have not read them all, but for me it would either be Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn. I think Huckleberry Finn edges it. It is like nothing else I have read, and it really came alive. It is very funny. The best bit for me is when the clever girl keeps catching out Huckleberry Finn in his lies. Nevertheless, it nearly loses first place with its last few chapters. Moby Dick is very long and slow, but it picks up steam towards the end. I loved the discussions Ahab had with individual crew members; I seem to remember with a Manxman in particular.
    Interestingly enough never really thought about reading Twain's works until I watched Netflix's Dave Chappelle: Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It started me reading Tom Sawyer and got me purchased a copy of Huckleberry Finn (would have gone to my local library in post-covid 19 time).

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    Quote Originally Posted by ssubterranean View Post
    Interestingly enough never really thought about reading Twain's works until I watched Netflix's Dave Chappelle: Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It started me reading Tom Sawyer and got me purchased a copy of Huckleberry Finn (would have gone to my local library in post-covid 19 time).
    How was Tom Sawyer? I read Huck Finn and HS or college and loved it, but I don't consider myself as having really "read it," since it's been so long and I hate reading things for deadlines in school.

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    How about John Steinbeck’s East of Eden or Wallace Stegner’s Big Rock Candy Mountain?

    Both are big, sprawling, American novels. Chronologically speaking, both are post whaling ship tales, and post Huckleberry Finn. Both also deal the sort of things Huck may have dealt with when he “lit out for the territories.”

    It’s been a while since I’ve read either and I should probably reread both - you know, whenever I find the time.
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    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Underworld by Don Delillo - it's long - but it's a great stack of perfect vignettes describing post-modern life, in the West.

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