Technologies of the Novel: Quantitative Data and the Evolution of Literary Systems


Based on a systematic sampling of nearly 2000 French and English novels from 1601 to 1830, this book's foremost aim is to ask precisely how the novel evolved. Instead of simply "rising," as scholars have been saying for some sixty years, the novel is in fact a system in constant flux, made up of artifacts – formally distinct novel types – that themselves rise, only to inevitably fall. Nicholas D. Paige argues that these artifacts are technologies, each with traceable origins, each needing time for adoption (at the expense of already developed technologies) and also for abandonment. Like technological waves in more physical domains, the rises and falls of novelistic technologies don't happen automatically: writers invent and adopt literary artifacts for many diverse reasons. However, looking not at individual works but at the novel as a patterned system provides a startlingly persuasive new way of understanding the history and evolution of artforms.