Novel Theory

The Novel and Media


John Frow
University of Sydney (Australia)

Melissa Hardie
University of Sydney (Australia)

Kelly Rich
Harvard University

Dennis Tenen
Columbia University


Rather than delimiting the sphere of inquiry to the text in isolation, the recent resurgence of formal analysis in literary criticism has multiplied the potential interfaces between literature and other disciplines—from design studies to political science, cognitive neuroscience to environmental history. Caroline Levine’s Forms is perhaps the most prominent example of this newly capacious formalism, which has already occasioned both praise and critique in journals such as PMLA and Critical Inquiry.

Aiming to contribute to this recent project of methodological self-reflection, we invite our speakers at “The Novel and Media” roundtable to think about the intersection of the novel form, novel theory, and media studies. When we expand our reading practices to incorporate the insights available from media studies, what new accounts of the novel’s history and form become available? How have perceptions of media and their practical uses shaped the novel, and vice versa? Below, we offer questions you might consider engaging. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage you to think about the topic in broad terms.

  • Is the novel a medium?
  • If so, what are its capacities and limits?
  • How do its alliances with other media change over time?
  • What is the relation between medium and genre?
  • What is the relation between the print novel and its digital others?
  • How is the history of the novel entangled with the history of communication technologies?
  • How, for instance, has the novel or narrative prose fiction developed alongside mediums of mass communication such as newspapers, radio, and television?
  • How does the novel function as an object of transmediation or remediation?
  • How does the novel function as a networked object, constituted through circulation and dissemination? What material infrastructures scaffold and maintain this status?
  • How have the meanings and uses of the novel evolved in relation to the meanings and uses of communication technologies?
  • What forms of personal or cultural connection do novels propose relative to those connections facilitated by the telephone, the post, or the internet, for example?
  • How do new media adopt narrative and formal strategies from the novel?
  • How does the novel respond to the extension of human perception, understanding, and feeling made available by media technologies?
  • How does the novel interact with medial concepts such as memory, storage, preservation, and duration? Erasure, corruption, and ephemerality?
  • How has communication technology been situated within existing debates about the future of the literary?

Cosponsored by the American Colloquium