Monday, February 28, 2011

The Miraculous Return of Crowned Princes

“It is also worth noting that the rise of literary scholarship is roughly contemporaneous with the move of the realistic novel to the center of literary experience, and it is not the place of the realistic novel to emphasize invention. The highly inventive writer does not represent everyday reality but rather imagines a new reality, or, to borrow Sidney’s phrase, grows into another nature. Of course, the defender of inventive stories would say that in the deepest and truest sense Spenser or Sidney or Ariosto can hold the mirror up to nature — human nature — as well as Tolstoy or George Eliot. But they do not do so by following the canons of realistic fiction, and so come to be seen, by certain serious-minded critics anyway, as less than fully serious. There’s something undignified and perhaps even irresponsible in cheerfully ignoring probabilities and the furniture of daily life in order to make up stories about winged horses, improbable escapes from the fiercest of prisons, or the miraculous return of crowned princes kidnapped as infants and long thought dead.”

— Alan Jacobs, “The Brightest Heaven of Invention,” in Wayfaring, pp. 57–58

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