Even the aspiration to write the great American novel…is now disappearing. So, I think we’re dealing with a dodo here.
Click play to listen. Recorded on November 1, 2008.
The idea of The Great American Novel—that all-defining American literary work—has fixated generations of writers and readers. When and how did this notion enter our national cultural life? Is it a uniquely American preoccupation—or a distinctly male one? Is the pursuit of this white whale of American letters a silly and meaningless exercise?
Panelists discuss the beginnings of the great American novel and its goal of encompassing all regions, people and social issues of America. Conversation steers to the differences in American literary tradition compared to English literature and how the notion of a sweeping national novel is uniquely American. What are the criteria of the great American novel? Is the whole concept just a myth?