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The Sense of a Beginning

Theory of the Literary Opening

The Sense of a Beginning is the first comprehensive exploration of the openings of novels. With a title that deliberately echoes Frank Kermode’s famous book on endings, the book addresses the formal challenge of opening lines, especially in modernism, and illustrates their significance to both literary creation and literary criticism. Niels Buch Leander’s approach is wide-ranging, examining how beginnings in fiction relate to beginnings in nature, how they work from a formal and narrative point of view, how modernist self-awareness plays out in openings, and how openings have altered criticism itself through intertextuality. Drawing on examples from D. H. Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Paul Valery, and more, as well as appraisals by critics like Roland Barthes and Edward Said, Leander fills a truly surprising gap in literary scholarship.

240 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 1/2

Literature and Literary Criticism:

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"Having received his PhD in comparative literature, Buch Leander previously enjoyed critical attention for his chapter in Narrative Beginnings: Theories and Practices, ed. by Brian Richardson (2008). The present title, a recasting of Buch Leander's dissertation, comes with the endorsement of the highly regarded Jonathan Culler, Buch Leander’s dissertation committee chair, who writes that "this book will become a standard reference point for people writing on the novel." Buch Leander ambitiously attempts a comprehensive taxonomy of the openings of novels, the first such study ever to be published. Consisting of four chapters, an epilogue, and an appendix that critiques the evolution of narrative openings from the Greeks through the emergence and ongoing development of the novel, the book is thorough in its examination of previous criticism. Focusing almost exclusively on American and European literature and criticism, the author pays particularly close attention to the impact of modernity on the openings of novels. Since it assumes near-expert familiarity with relatively complex literary theory, this study is not appropriate for nonspecialists. Recommended."


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