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The Family Novel

Ru, Yi-Ling

The Family Novel

Toward a Generic Definition

Series: American University Studies - Volume 28

Year of Publication: 1992

New York, Bern, Frankfurt/M., Paris, 1992. 221 pp.
ISBN 978-0-8204-1567-3 hardback  (Hardcover)

Weight: 0.420 kg, 0.926 lbs

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Book synopsis

This book is a comparative study of the family novel as a distinctive literary genre. It concentrates on three prototypical family novels, the Chinese trilogy, The Turbulent Trilogy (1906-1940) by Pa Chin; the British trilogy, The Forsyte Saga (1906-1921) by John Galsworthy; and the French novel, Les Thibault (1922-1940) by Roger Martin du Gard. The book argues for the establishment of a new generic category, the Family Novel as a sub-genre of the novel. It describes the four distinctive characteristics; its realism and use of chronology; its sense of ritual and community; the centrality of family conflict; and its unique form.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Yi-ling Ru is Professor of Chinese in the Department of Modern Languages at Denison University. She was born in the People's Republic of China and received her B.A. in both Russian and English from Beijing Foreign Studies University. She was awarded an M.A. in English from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Ru has published extensively in China and has concentrated her studies and presented papers on the literary comparisons between the east and west. Inspired by a contemporary Chinese novel, she has recently been researching the Moso ethnic group, an existing matrilineal society not known to the west.


«This is one of the most original studies of the family theme ever written. The typical study - and there are not many of these since the topic is a relatively new one - consists of a theoretical chapter on the family novel, followed by an analysis of one or several examples in a single national literature. Dr. Ru's study departs from this mononational formula to treat several different cultures, including Chinese. Her study is, therefore, interdisciplinary and intercultural as well as theoretical.» (A. Owen Aldridge, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
«The 'family novel' - not the novel of parent-child relationships - is now so much part of western tradition that one seldom thinks of the form outside it. Yi-ling Ru has shown that it has a firm hold, too, in Asia, and that, worldwide, it is basically a twentieth-century phenomenon, with few authentic earlier antecedents. Her study will make us reevaluate the genre.» (Stanley Weintraub, The Pennsylvania State University)
«Dr. Ru's study opens up a new dialogue between the eastern and western literary traditions. Arguing that the 'family novel' is a unique and viable genre, one that she defines in succinct fashion, Dr. Ru compares and contrasts representative works from China, England and France. In an age of ever more narrow and esoteric literary scholarship, Dr. Ru's study is refreshingly spacious in both scope and application. Well-written and convincingly argued, this work makes an important contribution to East/West literary studies.» (Earl E. Fitz, The Pennsylvania State University)


American University Studies: Series 19, General Literature. Vol. 28