‘Beginning a story of the novel with the beginning of the eighteenth century is an arbitrary choice’, declares Patricia Meyer Spacks.1 The criticism that I have organized into a narrative about the developing idea of the rise of the novel validates this point. However, the connection between this historical period and this literary genre is hard to sever, and given the weight of criticism behind it I would question the usefulness of doing so. Perhaps Watt’s account seems so enduringly satisfying because it is a simplification. As far as simplifications go, it is remarkably capacious, but simplifications always need to be complicated. I want to conclude this book not with summary, but with a comparison of two recent books, each generously offered as resources for non-specialists and students, which take different, but I would argue complementary, approaches to the development of the novel, indicating the current state of critical understanding.
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