Ernst, Tragisch, Problematisch – Guido Mazzoni on Late Capitalism and the Theory of the Novel

Guido MazzoniGuido Mazzoni is a poet, essayist and a founding editor of Le parole e le cose, Italy’s leading cultural webzine. He is a professor at the University of Siena. In 2011 he published Teoria del romanzo, which has now been translated into English for Harvard University Press.

Interview by Chris Fenwick

Guido Mazzoni, you gave a talk at the Freie Universität summarizing ideas from your new book, Theory of the Novel. Could you tell us in more detail about the argument of your book and how it differs from past theories of the novel?

In my view the novel is defined by two elements. One element is linked to a language game: the novel is something that narrates; the novel tells a story. The second element is the fact that the novel has become the genre in which you can narrate anything in any way whatsoever.

To turn to the first element – what does it mean to narrate a story? In the twentieth century, narratology established one ahistorical answer. My answer has a historical starting point.