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Blackened Butterflies : On Fiction

Blackened Butterflies : On Fiction

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Published by Adam Fieled
A collection of pieces on and around fiction by Adam Fieled. Many were originally presented as seminar papers at Temple University in Philadelphia. Some have appeared elsewhere, including the UK site Eyewear.
A collection of pieces on and around fiction by Adam Fieled. Many were originally presented as seminar papers at Temple University in Philadelphia. Some have appeared elsewhere, including the UK site Eyewear.

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Published by: Adam Fieled on Apr 06, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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To a mind schooled in the rigors of philosophical, as well as literary, discourse, what the novel can do, what distinguishes it as a literary form, is a subject of great interest. Since the emergence of the novel in the eighteenth century, the body of work completed and compiled in this form has made a collective, totalized argument that what the novel can do (which poetry cannot) is to chart individuals rising and falling in relation to the society around them, and either coming to a place of peace with or coming apart from their individualized relationship to society, and the friction inherent in rising and falling on its waves. The easy thematic transition, especially in Europe, is from these complicated chiasmus situations to class, both as a gestalt and as a determinative hand crafting actively how things happen and are determined in the world. To boot: how the class system is structured in different societies, how it changes over time, what are the anomalies and anomalous situations which converge around individuals and individual sects as competitive contexts are worked, reconfigured, established, and dismembered over decades and centuries. As a site for class investigations, the family is usually what animates the novel; in opposition to lyric poetry, which isolates autonomous individuals and the consciousness which can be attained in one individual mind. The great geniuses of the novel form, Flaubert and Tolstoy, craft situations among families which have little competition in the history of the humanities other than Shakespeare and Greek tragedy. I have placed (perhaps frivolously) a movie representation of Emma Bovary on the cover of this collection, because the congeries of circumstances around Emma Bovary is so unique, so edifying, and so perpetually justified by the formal exquisiteness of
Flaubert’s prose that she,
even more than Anna Karenina, can be seen as a synecdoche of all that a novel might achieve. Were it to be the case that I would put novelistic prose (especially that of Flaubert and Tolstoy) in competitive relation to the highest achievements of poetry and drama, I would find myself overreaching ridiculously enough to have to retreat into platitudes; so I will not do it. What I will say is that, for its inquiries into class, the family, and adjacent issues (gender, sexuality, war, the passage of time, the weight of complex circumstances), the novel has earned its keep as a literary genre with as much gravitas and scope as any other. It is also the case that as the novel continues to evolve, along with (outside the province of literature) class and families themselves, new approaches will be investigated and new inquiries made. As for the pieces included in this collection: many were originally presented as seminar papers during the years I held the University Fellowship at Temple University in Philadelphia; also, some
have been formally published, as “Flaubert and the Great Recession” on the UK site Eyewear. All
were written in a spirit of solid support for fiction and fiction writers, rather than jousting from an artist working in a rival genre. I am a fan, and an earnest one, of novels and novelists, and I hope
that my fan’s enthusiasm shines through in the passionate, engaged tone of the pieces. I also look
forward, especially where Flaubert and Tolstoy are concerned, to extending my inquiries over the rest of my life as a literary voice. What you see here may be just the tip of the iceberg. Adam Fieled, 2014
Notes on Flaubert Adam Fieled

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