Putting real people into novels

“Most of the great English novels of the 20th century come crammed with supercharged versions of real people,” claims D.J. Taylor in The Guardian. Prompted by the appearance of a thinly veiled caricature of V.S. Naipaul in Hanif Kureishi’s new novel, The Last Word, Taylor points to a rich heritage of real-life characters walking straight…

Hardy’s pessimism

Can pessimistic novelists change the way they write? Thomas Hardy was one whose work seems to say “no”. Shortly before starting work on The Return of the Native, Hardy wrote down in his notebook a quote from the the poet-critic Theodore Watts: “Science tells us that, in the struggle for life, the surviving organism is…

Literary maps

In his book Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Peter Turchi argues that the relationship between literature and map-making has been unfairly overlooked, and that it may offer scholars a new lens for literary analysis. Writers, Turchi argues, often rely on imagined landscapes to inspire their narratives. Robert Louis Stephenson’s 1881 invention of…

Jane Austen the game theorist

In recent years, several studies have examined the links between literature and science, a relationship known as “consilience”. Most prominent of these is Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist, which quickly became a bestseller after its release in 2012. More recently, Michael Suk-Young Chwe’s argues in Jane Austen, Game Theorist, that “game theory” – the…