The book begins by tracing the history of naturalist fiction from the 1860s into the twentieth century and the reasons it spread around the world. Hill explores the development of three naturalist figures—the degenerate body, the self-liberated woman, and the social milieu—through close readings of fiction from France, Japan, and the United States. Rather than genealogies of European influence or the domination of cultural “peripheries” by the center, novels by Émile Zola, Tayama Katai, Frank Norris, and other writers reveal conspicuous departures from metropolitan models as writers revised naturalist methods to address new social conditions. Hill offers a new approach to studying culture on a large scale for readers interested in literature, the arts, and the history of ideas.
1. Literary Travels and Literary Transformation
2. The Degenerate Body
3. The Unbound Woman
4. Plains, Boats, and Backwaters
Conclusion: Figures In and Of the World
“Figures of the World: The Naturalist Novel and Transnational Form is an incredibly impressive book. The combination of Hill’s clear, elegant style with the depth and complexity of his background work, on one hand, and the fine-grained quality of his close readings, on the other, make this a model for all literary critical work of its type.” —Eric Hayot, author of On Literary Worlds
"Figures of the World: The Naturalist Novel and Transnational Form should be welcomed by everyone who wants a more cosmopolitan comparative literature and better theoretical models for understanding genres, periods, movements, and cultural frameworks. It renews the meaning of 'naturalism' through a bigger set of examples, a more open-minded attitude toward definitions, and a resistance to historical, cultural, and economic determinisms." —Haun Saussy, author of Translation as Citation
". . . demonstrates beautifully how naturalism was a transnational literary movement that captured the zeitgeist of an age and influenced writers into the 20th century." —R. Mulligan, emeritus, Christopher Newport University, CHOICE
“Figures of the World is the most ambitious and measured comparative study I have read in recent years. Presenting the rise and demise of the naturalist novel in several languages and on more continents than one would have thought a single scholar could cover, the book may seem at first blush to be pitched at that dauntingly abstract theoretical level of ‘world literature’ (indeed, world in the title might be read that way by some). But Christopher Laing Hill argues against the call of ‘world literature’ as it has been discussed since the 1990s to offer a grounded and concrete series of methods, techniques, and interventions for studying literature on a broad scale that nevertheless refuses the totality of claims about the world and worldedness.” —Jonathan E. Abel, MLQ: A Journal of Literary History
“An immensely impressive work . . . We live in an overhyped age, when blurbs are rarely to be trusted, but Figures of the World is the real thing, and I learned an enormous amount from it.” —Stuart Burrows, Novel
“Hill’s image of naturalism as a field is productively capacious . . . Because Hill’s transnational definition of naturalism embraces amalgams and aberrations, I believe that it has the potential to provide scholars with new insights into naturalism’s defining contradictions: its simultaneous biological determinism and social reformism, its equal interest in untamed and urban environments, its elision of political economy with both nature and the monstrously unnatural, and its juxtaposition of meticulous documentary details with outsized metaphors.” —Patti Luedecke, Studies in American Nationalism
This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of Michigan State University. Learn more at the TOME website, available at openmonographs.org.
To visit the TOME edition of Figures of the World: The Naturalist Novel and Transnational Form, visit https://doi.org/10.21985/n2-g76h-b559.