Should Little Women be in International Relations? A dialogue between the Opposing Traditions of the Novel and International Relations1






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Should Little Women be in International Relations? A Dialogue between the Opposing Traditions of the Novel and International Relations1 
Vanessa Pupavac

School of Politics and International Relations

University of Nottingham

NG7 2RD

vanessa.pupavac@nottingham.ac.uk  
 

Abstract 
The article discusses the opposing traditions of the novel and the discipline of International Relations and the need for dialogue between IR and the key literary genre of modern society. The article highlights the gendered public and private spheres, and the tensions between the individual and history, which underpin their opposition, drawing upon Hannah Arendt’s reading of Kant’s political philosophy. The novel’s consciously domestic and sentimental character, associated with women’s historically restricted lives, opposed its inclusion in International Relations. Nevertheless a shared sense of the tragic human condition unites the traditions of the novel and International Relations. The novel tradition found the individual to be a site of conflict and questioned cultural representations of women as ‘angels in house’. The novel offers insights for critically analysing women’s entry into International Relations as idealised subjects and global governance: its understanding of the individual, human feelings and relationships; and its erosion of the divisions between the international and the national, and the public and the private domains. 
Novel approaches to International Relations 
I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy, and it’s worse than ever now, for I’m dying to go and fight with papa, and I can only stay at home and knit like a poky old woman’, and Jo shook the blue army-sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room2
So Louisa Alcott’s classic Little Women introduces her impatient heroine Jo March. Little Women has been stereotyped as sentimental drivel (unread its advocates suspect), but inspired feminists including Simone de Beauvoir and Elaine Showalter.3 The power of Alcott’s Little Women for generations of women has been how it asserts women’s independence through lively, strong-willed sisters, acting in a supportive community of women, striving to integrate their creative ambitions and their personal relations. The novel as a proto-feminist text legitimises claims for women’s independence and paid work from the heart of the home decades before women’s suffrage began to be recognised internationally.4
The history of the novel and the history of women’s emancipation in the West are closely linked. Women developed consciousness of their condition through the novel, while any history of the novel cannot ignore women’s role in the genre’s development. Feminist writing has strongly identified with the novel and its special affinity with women’s experience. The rise of feminist approaches in International Relations may encourage its use as a familiar source in feminist writing. However the novel does not have an established presence in International Relations, although it is commonly studied in cognate disciplines like history, area studies and post-colonial studies.  Could Little Women contribute to our understanding of global governance and its gender politics?
The article discusses the opposing traditions of the novel and International Relations. My analysis deliberately emphasises the differences between the two traditions and selects examples of the classic English novel to draw out their distinct characteristics before identifying underlying commonalities. I begin by highlighting the novel’s significance for women’s writing and philosophical thinking. Little Women’s heroine is tempted by Kantian philosophy until warned away by her future husband. To Jo’s frustration, women were not supposed to write philosophical books or be actors in war. I discuss the novel’s relative absence from International Relations and how the novel’s consciously domestic and sentimental character, associated with women’s historically restricted lives, opposed its inclusion in International Relations. I then consider the historical novel, alongside Kant’s explicit endorsement of historical transformation, and his contrary equal condemnation of its horrors.5 I discuss the longing to retreat into the private world of feeling and the contrary longing to escape into the public world of action. I observe how the novel discovers the individual to be a site of conflict and how a shared sense of the tragic human condition unites the traditions of the novel and International Relations. The novel questions cultural representations of women as ‘angels in house’. Alcott, author of Little Women, Good Wives and other wholesome family fiction, also wrote melodramatic fiction portraying satanic figures behind angelic domestic masks. Finally I conclude how the novel offers insights for critically analysing women’s entry into International Relations as idealised subjects. The novel may help us explore the limitations of global governance’s understanding of individuals, their feelings and relationships; and the implications of its erosion of the divisions between the international and the national, and the public and the private domains, which have informed the traditions of both the novel and International Relations. 
Women’s consciousness and the novel  
Virginia Woolf’s influential A Room of One’s Own describes the shelves of women’s writing as being almost exclusively novels until the twentieth century.6 The novel genre, evolving from women’s letter writing, became pivotal for women to explore artistic expression, personal experiences, social problems and philosophical ideas.7 The genre’s strong association with women encouraged both female and male writers like Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, Mary Hays, Mary Wollstonecraft and others to address the women’s question through novels. Many feminist autobiographical writings like Simone de Beauvoir allude to the defining influences of Alcott’s Little Women and other novels.8 Plays including Henrik Ibsen’s The Doll House and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie have also been important. Indeed Aristophanes’ Lysistrata has been considered the first international feminist text. But the novel was the genre above all, which women not only used, but shaped and made their own.9 Symbolically the female identity of the novel is captured in the many novels, which bear individual women’s names: Emma, Evelina, Indiana, Jane Eyre, Lelia, Ruth, and Shirley. This close identification includes novels by male writers: Pamela, Clarissa, Madame Bovary, Tess of D’Urbervilles, Anna Karenina and Effi Briest to name just a few classic works.10 Women, whether as writers or readers, propelled the novel’s establishment and development as the dominant modern literary form.
Women’s philosophical and social engagement through the novel helped advance women’s voices and claims in the public sphere. Historically female writers like Alcott, Frances Burney or George Eliot used fictional genres rather than direct philosophical writing, even if they were embedded in intellectual circles and were ‘not by nature novelists’.11 Alcott’s intellectual ambitions are reflected in her attempts to resist pressure from publishers to write safe light fiction. Jo in Little Women is almost seduced by Hegelian and Kantian metaphysics.12 But ‘intellectual freedom depends on material things’, Woolf bluntly stated in her essay A Room of One’s Own.13 Or as Jo is advised by her sister, ‘when you’ve got a name, you can afford to digress, and have philosophical and metaphysical people in your novels’.14 Alcott wrote popular fiction to support her family, allowing her father, Branson Alcott, to pursue his philosophical writing, while constraining her own.15
Yet exclusion from the public sphere alone cannot explain why the novel became so important to women writers to address philosophical ideas and social problems. Crucially women writers found the novel could recognise women’s struggles and the importance of the private sphere in its own right. As Jean Elshtain’s seminal Public Man, Private Woman (1981) argues:
To affirm a vision of the private-familial experiences as having its own dignity and purpose is to insist that particular experiences and spheres of social relations exude their own values and purposes, and have ends not attainable by, or within, other spheres. To assert the continued necessity of such relations and a particular notion of their reconstructed vitality is to recognise that we are all impoverished if all of life falls under a single set of terms.16
Novel as lived philosophy 
The Platonic philosophical tradition sees the body and its senses of pain and pleasure as distractions from the mind, while the Aristotelian tradition acknowledges the senses as important for stimulating thinking. The novel has particularly lent itself to philosophical thinking, seeking to reconcile mind and body, and the individual and society. Kant’s philosophy, drawing upon the Aristotelian tradition, suggests cognition arises through the senses and intellect.17 Alcott’s Little Women alludes to Kantian philosophy and I will draw attention to Kant’s relevance to relation between the novel and International Relations. Here I apply Arendt’s reading of Kant, because Arendt engages with the tensions in Kant’s moral philosophy and philosophy of history, while her own writing extensively engaged with the characteristics of the public and the private, and the individual and history, which are significant to the opposing traditions of the novel and International Relations.18 Kant’s philosophy, founded on human ‘unsociable sociability’, is interested in how frictions between individuals and different spheres develop human understanding and sociability.19 Reason and sentiment are often represented as belonging to different gendered spheres, including by Kant,20 and are extensively addressed in feminist writing from Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women21 to Jean Elshtain’s Public Man, Private Woman. Kant sees philosophy as fundamentally about evaluating life, and since life concerns everybody, philosophy is something that anybody may potentially do, not just philosophers.22 And to evaluate life, the philosopher needs to live among fellow citizens, not just fellow philosophers, for Kant believes that sociability, communication and the capacity to imagine other’s standpoints are vital for thinking and allowing us to appeal to community sense and achieve relative impartiality.23 Impartial judgement does not stand above society, but is achieved through engagement with society, while examples synthesising the general and the particular help develop judgement.24 Kant believes philosophical thinking should be popularised through society and contribute to the rights of man,25 while Wollstonecraft’s Vindication shows how philosophy has degraded women and denied them rights. Kant’s own philosophy denies women the possibility of full citizenship rights.26 And yet his philosophy, not withstanding his prejudices against women, logically implies women’s involvement in making philosophical judgements.
Here we come to the novel’s relevance to philosophy for all and the struggle for women’s emancipation. Kant is sceptical of the genre’s philosophical potential.27 And he is no champion of women’s emancipation and believes women threaten masculine virtue, although they have a role in cultivating and refining society.28 Yet Kant’s philosophy gives importance to the imagination, which liberates us from private experiences and helps us enlarge our minds towards developing relative impartiality and good judgement.29 The novel represents ‘ethics in action’ or at least imaginative action. Novels allow us to visit other places and other standpoints and develop our general understanding, beyond our particular experience, yet appealing to us through the novel’s portrait of particular lives. Philosophers like Rousseau used the novel to outline how a philosophy could be applied in individuals’ lives.30 Novels’ merits over traditional historical or philosophical writing were explicitly debated at the end of the eighteenth century. The writers Joanna Baillie, Maria Edgeworth and William Godwin among others argued for the moral superiority of romances against the dry or bellicose character of historical accounts.31 Individual stories striking the imagination enlarge understanding of human nature and foster better judgement and justice.32 Understanding individuals’ strengths and weaknesses, their motives and personal experiences helps us learn historical lessons for the benefit of humanity. Historical romances, following historical figures into the closet or showing ordinary private individuals, touch our sympathies and leave lasting (moral) impressions. 33
Kant’s philosophy seeks to give dignity to individuals and is concerned the idea of infinite historical progress denies their importance.34 Kant believes an individual’s life should be treated as a meaningful story, whereas infinite historical progress contradicts individual stories with a beginning and an end. The novel as a genre gives importance to individual stories and has consciously sought to portray ordinary women and men, neglected or caricatured by traditional philosophy. Historically the novel has offered women a voice and an audience in which to assert women’s dignity and contest the degraded role assigned to them by society and male philosophers like Kant and Rousseau. The novel has been used to explore the course of a woman’s life, her relations, and how society fosters her degradation or self-realisation. Wollstonecraft observed women could not develop general thinking or interest in wider public affairs because their restricted lives, restricted forms of polite conversation and lack of solitude discouraged thinking from other standpoints.35 The novel engaged women with particular characters whose preoccupations they could recognise and take them beyond their narrow perspectives. The novel could thereby help women to bridge the gap between their limited personal outlook and abstract writing, and enlarge their minds and potentially develop their philosophical thinking.36
Significant feminist thinking continues to be conducted in novels as lived ethics, whether Maya Angelou’s explorations of race and gender or Margaret Atwood’s explorations of gender and environmentalism. Consequently the novel remains important in gender studies. Nevertheless the novel, as the dominant modern literary form and its centrality in feminist writing, has not translated into International Relations.

 

The novel’s neglect in International Relations 
International Relations as a discipline has historically been influenced by approaches from diverse disciplines, notably history, political philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology. The discipline in the last two decades has opened up to alternative approaches, but has been slow to embrace the novel as the dominant modern literary form. The novel is still not quite respectable in International Relations as a substantial source to analyse international politics. The sub-genre of science fiction has gained interest,37 but the discipline tends to regard these contributions as light-hearted exercises from the main business of International Relations – such as its reception of Harry Potter and International Relations.38 Literary sources tend to be used in International Relations as incidental decorative colour. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is an enduring metaphor in International Relations writing on Africa.
[Reference to the novel by International Relations scholars is more common in monographs or edited books than International Relations journals. The International Relations journal Millennium seems the most receptive to the novel with its 2001 special issue on Images and Narratives in World Politics. Jutta Weldes’ edited volume on science fiction and world politics indicates how much more could be mined from the sub-genre.39 Generally though, we have to search hard for the novel’s substantial rather than incidental use in International Relations journals.40 Articles on themes such as the relationship between the American spy novel and the Cold War are more likely to appear in history journals.41
The novel’s lack of attention in International Relations is striking when compared with cognate disciplines, particularly its prominence in post-colonial studies for understanding trans-national relations and the post-colonial experience. The genre appears to have allowed post-colonial subjects an international voice that has carried better than other forms of writing, echoing the experience of women writers up to the twentieth century. Postcolonial and feminist studies have extensively explored how the novel intertwines concerns about race and gender.42 Indeed the novel’s dominance in the field has made post-colonial studies synonymous with post-colonial literary studies.
Herbert Butterfield, an influential figure in British International Relations, wrote The Historical Novel, supporting the genre’s value for historical understanding.43 His interest demonstrates that International Relations did not have to wait for the rise of postmodernism to endorse the novel,44 and that the novel’s application is not necessarily tied to postmodern theories, although they have dominated aesthetics in International Relations.45 Postmodern theories on textuality blurring the distinction between fiction and non-fiction obviously lend themselves to the novel’s use,46 but other genres such as film have been more readily included in International Relations than the novel.  Why has the novel not translated as readily as film into International Relations, despite the advancement of feminist approaches in International Relations over the last two decades? The feminist International Relations scholars Ann Tickner and Cynthia Weber have highlighted the marginal status in International Relations of narrative and other methods favoured in feminist research and how feminist approaches have been more readily absorbed where they have kept to traditional methodologies.47
Could the genre’s association with the ‘feelings of women in the drawing room’ make International Relations overlook the novel?48 Wollstonecraft warned against the novel’s sentimental illusions as she strove to overcome the dichotomy between reason and feeling.49 George Eliot attacked the triviality of much women’s fiction in her essay ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’.50 Are there lingering Platonic or puritanical anxieties in International Relations over the novel as fiction? Aristostlean philosophy challenged Platonic antipathy to fiction and suggested the special capacity of poetry or drama to express the human condition and embody historical truths. Indeed Plato’s desire to exclude fiction arguably related less to questions over its veracity than his fears over its corrupting influence and implications for political authority.51
The novel’s neglect, as a genre, suggests continuing gendered methodological norms in International Relations. Without the novel, swathes of women’s philosophical or historical writing are effectively excluded from International Relations. Reference to women writers like George Eliot remains an anathema in International Relations, while reference to her contemporaries Mill or Feuerbach would not raise an eyebrow. Could fictional classics like Little Women seriously contribute to International Relations? Is there more to International Relations’ spurning of Little Women than prejudice? If classical drama is where ‘the political sphere of human life [is] transposed into art’, 52 what is the novel? Are there reasons integral to the novel as opposed to drama or film, that make the genre less relevant to International Relations? The sub-genre of science fiction, with its inter-galactic worlds, speaks most obviously to international politics and is gaining attention in International Relations,53 while the core tradition of the novel remains absent. If we leave aside ‘Silly novels by Lady Novelists’, are the concerns of the novel tradition simply incompatible with the concerns of International Relations? Are the concerns of the novel ‘too small an affair’ for International Relations?54
Little Women against International Relations  
The novel’s history has been influenced by women’s restricted social roles, exclusion from the public sphere, and the social position of women who could take up writing. As Eliot observes:  
A loving woman’s world lies within the four walls of her own home; and it’s only through her husband that she is in any electric communication with the world beyond.55 
The novel’s ‘perennial interests of domesticity’ have been shaped by the domestic circumstances of women novelists who have overwhelmingly come from the middle classes.56 In the words of Woolf, ‘all the literary training a woman had […] was training in the observation of character, in the analysis of emotion. Her sensibility had been educated (…) by the influences of the common sitting room’.57 Consider the symbolic geography of the Little Women cooped up sewing sheets, imagined by them into a map of world:  
They adopted Jo’s plan of dividing the long seams into four parts, and calling the quarters Europe, Asia, Africa and America, and in that way got on capitally, especially when they talked about the different countries as they stitched their way through them.58 
Kant, like the Little Women, only travelled in the imagination,59 but even women’s imagination was constrained by their narrow domestic realm. Indicatively the frustrated Madame Bovary, nurtured on a diet of silly novels, merely imagines herself shopping in the capital when she buys a map of Paris and walks its streets in her imagination.60
The dominant feminine domestic character of the novel defines the genre’s tradition as the antithesis of International Relations. The genre’s domestic inclination evolved from the eighteenth century novel of manners, concerned with cultivating polite society and civilised conversation, and distancing itself from violent political conflict. Its mode ‘deals with human nature in the drawing-room of civilized men and women, where we have no dust of the struggling outer world, no mire, no violent clashes’.61 The common domestic themes of the novel compliment how the genre is fundamentally ‘the art of the housed and private man’ or woman: a privately-enjoyed art form, read by individual readers to themselves in their own rooms.62 The novel’s private character contrasts to the public character and collective experience of other genres: the oral recitation of epic poetry in pre-literate or semi-literate communities, theatrical performance of drama, or cinematic screening of films. Michael Shapiro (2001) discusses the physical space of the novel, but not its gendered aspect.63 The gendered space is mapped out by the rebellious Maggie in Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, with whom de Beauvoir strongly identified64
So it has been since the days of Hecuba, and of Hector, Tamer of horses: inside the gates, the women with streaming hair and uplifted hands offering prayers, watching the world’s combat from afar, filling their long, empty days with memories and fears; outside, the men in fierce struggle with things divine and human, quenching memory in the stronger light of purpose, losing the sense of dread and even of wounds in the hurrying ardour of action.65 
An unhistorical domestic private world of reproduction is separated from an international world of historical destruction and creation. And a feminine world of sentiment and enforced passivity is contrasted to a masculine world of agency and action. Sometimes the domestic realm is represented as the civilised sphere against masculine wildness as in Laura Wilder’s Little House series, sometimes as the natural, maternal refuge against alienating modern industrial society, as in Charles Dickens’ writing, 66but however traditionally represented, divisions are gendered. Meanwhile the tomboy Jo hates being a girl and wants to escape domesticity for war, but symbolically the nearest she gets to fighting is knitting army socks.67  
The novel’s development was closely entwined with women’s fate and its typical narrative framework reflected their expected social paths. The novel plot became framed by the quest to marry successfully because marriage remained the primary way that women could secure or better their social position in Western societies until the twentieth century. Eliot’s essay ‘Silly Novels’ parodies the novel’s stereotypical plot: 
The men play a very subordinate part by her side. You are consoled now and then by a hint that they have affairs, which keeps you in mind that the working-day business of the world is somehow being carried on, but ostensibly the final cause of their existence is that they may accompany the heroine on her ‘starring’ expedition through life.68  
The novel, enjoyed primarily as a private literary form, explored the inner world of individuals against the great social and political changes. The very name of the genre is linked to its exploration of novel feelings.69 The novel’s elevation of sentiment sought to expand beyond the early Enlightenment’s foregrounding of reason and defend humanity’s soul against the alienating mechanisation of people into hands. The novel has often been deliberately anti-heroic, narrating ordinary unhistorical lives. The social novel developed by Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Dickens and others suggested the polite society of refined feeling enjoyed by the minority-privileged sections of society depended upon the oppression of the many.70  However they did not abandon the genre’s domestic interest and considered the feminine private sphere as crucial to social improvement, intertwining the causes of women and their domestic roles in social reform. Synthesis between reason and feeling, action and sentiment also implied greater synthesis between the sexes. Thus the novel historically both reflected women’s exclusion from the world of action and asserted a feminine world of feeling against an unfeeling alienating world. 
The novel has classically preferred a domestic feminised interior world, even when protagonists’ lives have been touched by wider political conflicts or wars. Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is defined by the cultivated space of the country estate and her heroine’s moral development.71 The Napoleonic Wars, the international slave trade, the British navy’s expansion and imperial mission are absent presences in her fiction.72 Similarly Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley, set during the Napoleonic Wars and Luddite unrest, avoids the spaces of political conflict and is dominated by confined domestic spaces and the inner world against the outer world.73 War is pointedly kept off-stage in the ‘Great Tradition’ of the novel, especially the English novel.74 Returning to Little Women, its action is deliberately domestic and symbolically begins when the father enlists in the American Civil War. Both the father and the war are excluded from the novel, although Alcott had brief wartime experience nursing wounded soldiers, she could have drawn upon. Little Women’s absence from International Relations is therefore unsurprising.
This pattern is not just observable among women writers, but male novelists not domestically constrained as their female counterparts, even where the novel’s protagonists are involved in war.75 Walter Scott’s acclaimed historical novels proved to be an exception to the dominant English novel tradition.76 His novels lost critical literary favour and were excluded from the Great Tradition, along with works like Fennimore Cooper’s popular The Last of the Mohicans, which exposes a nation’s violent history. International conflict was typically addressed by English novelists such as Dickens or Thackerey at a safer, temporal distance in the historical novel.
The historical novel, although developed by Scott to European acclaim, arguably flourished more in Russia and America than Europe, the former with its dread of social catastrophe, the latter with its sense of being a frontier society and civil war.77 The external world violently forced itself into national literatures where the social position of the middle classes and their enjoyment of ‘the art of the housed and private man’ were more precarious.78 [War dominates novel themes in postwar Yugoslav literature]. The novel’s range was contained where the stabilised post-revolutionary conditions of mid-nineteenth Europe allowed for the domestication of themes.79 International and colonial affairs were commonly ‘absent presences’ in the English novel whose relation to the domestic sphere are mystified, whether the colonial relations which underpin the tranquillity of Austen’s Mansfield Park or haunt Bronte’s Jane Eyre80.81  
Temptations of history and the novel
Despite the ‘Great Tradition’ of the novel marginalizing war, the genre pioneered analysis of modern warfare, notably in Scott’s historical novels and Wells’ science fiction.82 Georg Lukacs’ seminal study of The Historical Novel links the rise of historical consciousness and the historical novel to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, which made history ‘a mass experience’ and posed ‘problems of social transformation’, connecting ‘national and world history’.83 Hegelian dialectics, Clausewitz’s science of war84 and Scott’s historical novel appeared in a period of heightened historical consciousness, but Scott’s Waverley, published in 1814, preceded both publication of Clausewitz’s On War and even some of Hegel’s major works. Scott’s pioneering historical novels address how a nation and society are developed through conflict and may be counted among the first historical sociology texts, before even the term ‘sociology’ had been coined. According to Lukacs, the historical novel’s significance is to depict the evolving historical consciousness and broad historical change, rather than a comprehensive account of specific historical events.85 The best historical novels are those which juxtapose the ‘heroic and the domestic’.86 They explore how ordinary individuals at a specific historical juncture are torn between conflicting historical forces; they narrate war’s victors and casualties and how conflict transforms popular life.87 The artistic need to intensify action and clarify character may lead to a cavalier approach to historical records, but the effort to capture historical consciousness remains.88
The historical novelist epitomises Kant’s world citizen or Hegel’s philosopher as world-spectator who does not make history, but narrates its significance after the events are over.89 Here we see tensions between Kant’s moral philosophy and philosophy of history.90 Kant believes in historical progress and endorses historical revolution, but sees history working behind individuals - analogous to Adam Smith’s hidden economic hand.91 Kant gives no guide to historical action and condemns its protagonists for engendering horrific violence.92 Kant’s world citizen is conscious of the opposing positions of the individual and history, and war and peace. Kant asserts a duty to promote peace and defend individuals’ dignity against universal history’s demands.93 Yet Kant’s philosophy of history believes that war may be sublime and better than ‘soulless despotism’ of a universal autocracy.94 Antagonism, pain, war and disaster, according to Kant’s historical philosophy, are necessary to propel human cultural advancement and prevent humanity sinking back into an animal existence.95 Perpetual peace, were it realised, would resemble the eternal peace of the grave.96
Kantian philosophy does not resolve the tensions between ethics and history, or between the public and private worlds. But the frictions between them may be viewed as creative. Arendt’s The Human Condition and Elshtain’s Public Man, Private Woman assert the distinct characters of the public and private spheres enrich human lives and encourage imagination of different ways of living. Kantian opposing ideals point to both sublime and tragic potential, following Hegel’s definition of tragedy as conflict between opposing rights.97 The tragic novel addresses irreconcilable clashes between personal desires, social morality and historical social conditions and reminds us of the limits of (women’s) emancipation in given historical material conditions.98
Kantian political philosophy did not affirm actual political movements. The novel, including the historical novel, too has struggled to portray collective action positively and create ‘positive’ characters ‘who takes an active part in public life’.99 Many historical novels impose the perspectives of the privatised individual of late modernity onto very different social conditions, making history incidental to the conflict and resolution of the novel.100 If novels seek to convey the feelings of war as individual protagonists,101 and Kant is correct that the protagonists do not understand the historical significance of events,102 novels will emphasise war’s incomprehensible horrors for individuals. The war novel has taken from the novel tradition its interest in ordinary, unhistoric people, their inner feelings and personal relations within the historical action. Many twentieth century classic war novels suggest war’s absurdity and historical actions as purposeless at the micro level. Meanwhile just as characters in the historical novel have sought to escape the pressures of history, so the historical novel has come under pressure to offer readers escapism and yielded to the historical romance. The historical romance continues the novel of sentiment and is organised around the archetypal courtship plot, which makes history a colourful romantic backdrop.
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