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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.

For Speare the political novel is a unique genre, and the American political novel has its own individual character within the class of political novels. He was the first to insist that we not use the English or European political novel as a yardstick to measure the American political novel, since they were each working within different traditions, appealing to different readerly expectations. The American version, claimed Speare, has a more activist-pragmatic aim than the English: "A comparison [. . .] of the American with the English political novelist brings out one striking fact: that whereas in England the writers have often enough been interested in presenting the political panorama for the sake of panorama, —shall we say, for art's sake? —American novelists have been mainly concerned with Reform" (334). Some political novels lean toward political activism, some toward art for art's sake. Speare observes that American novelists in particular were distinguished by their zeal for reform. This activist difference could help to explain why the prejudice against political fiction is stronger in America than in other countries.

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]