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The following discussion has been included in the Victorian Web with kind permission of the author from John Whalen-Bridge, Political Fiction and the American Self. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998.

The political novel in 1924 is a large and contentious collection of voices. One might suppose that the novelist need only acknowledge ideological variety in such a work, but Speare does not rest his case for the political novel on superficial inclusiveness and argues instead that the political novelist faces a tougher standard. As old-fashioned as Speare may at times sound, his demands of the novelist in some ways parallel Bakhtin's prerequisite, the "dialogic" aspect of fiction. For both Speare and Bakhtin, the political novelist must be more of an artist than the non-political writer, not less. Speare writes:

To portray these diversified beings dispassionately, to let each man have his say and none the entire platform, to treat all fairly and truthfully and succeed in steering between the Scylla of partisanship and the Charybdis of tractarianism, requires the most delicate craftsmanship on the writer's part, and a scholar's knowledge of the arguments, but withal an artist's delicate fancy and power of creation, if the result is not to be a creed disguised in the garments of a novel, a political platform hidden by a mountain of decoration. (26)

Though few would today agree that a novelist must be dispassionate or objective, most of the instruments agree that a single-sided presentation of a political controversy is just as deadly for the political novel as for other kinds of literature.

Related Material


Speare, Morris Edmund. The Political Novel: Its Development in England and in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1924.

Last modified 26 March 2002 [MB]