Department Chair

Dr. Ralph L. Wahlstrom, Associate Professor of English

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

English, M.A.


English Department


Dr. Aimable Twagilimana, Professor of English

Department Home page

First Reader

Dr. Barish Ali, Assistant Professor of English


The novel is a problematic literary genre, for few agree on precisely how or why it rose to prominence, nor have there ever been any strict structural parameters established. Terry Eagleton calls it an “anti-genre” that “cannibalizes other literary modes and mixes the bits and pieces promiscuously together” (1). And yet, perhaps because of its inability to be completely defined, the novel best represents modern thought and sensibility. The narrative form speaks to our embrace of individualism while its commodification seems so natural, perhaps even democratic, to a capitalist economy. A historical look at the novel’s inception reveals that the medium is inextricably linked with shifts in cultural hierarchy and class division. As a result of the volatility in which it was conceived, I argue that the novel has always been an extremely self-conscious genre, self-conscious to a degree of neuroticism, expressing anxieties about its existence, believability, and relationship with society. Today, literary fiction continues to express anxieties, though it is mainly concerned with its ability to survive in an age of digital media and a fledgling publishing industry. The purpose of this thesis is to study the spectrum of novel’s anxieties and discuss its relationship to existing theories of postmodernism.