Critical Histories Of Omniscience

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

New Directions In The History Of The Novel


This chapter of New Directions in the History of the Novel tells the story of the literary-critical invention of the Victorian novel’s narrative omniscience. Beginning with Victorian reviewers’ references to novelistic omniscience, the essay moves through early versions of narrative omniscience penned by post-Jamesian novel theorists and critics, who saw the talkative, inartistic, “omniscient author” as inessential to the novel and excluded it from their accounts of novelistic form. It marks a major shift in the 1960s, when the Anglo-American tradition began to see omniscience as formal and central to the Victorian novel’s form, tracing this shift through Foucauldian “panoptic criticism” of the 1980s. The chapter ends by drawing on recent criticism to argue that more historicized attention to the critical histories of the novel’s narrative forms can add both meaning and value to the novel.

Published By

Palgrave Macmillan


P. Parrinder, A. Nash, And N. Wilson

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