Leon (Joseph) Edel Mark Schorer - Essay

Mark Schorer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Edel [in "The Psychological Novel, 1900–1950"] is intent on examining the developments in fiction since the break that, according to Virginia Woolf, occurred in December, 1910, that break at which the novelists whom she called "materialists"—Wells, Bennett, Galsworthy, etc.—fell back into the dark pit of the nineteenth century where they belonged, and the novelists whom she called "spiritualists"—Proust, Joyce, Eliot (significantly), and by implication, herself—leaped upward into the airy realms of light where they joined the poets. His chief exemplars are Proust, Joyce, and—no, not Virginia Woolf, who was not really an original—but Dorothy Richardson, with long turnings to Henry James and William Faulkner for incidental support. His general argument is that these writers, in their determination to develop techniques whereby they could render unique states of consciousness in prose, joined the novel to the purposes of symboliste poetry. The argument is not new, but it has seldom been so lucidly presented.

The topical steps by means of which Mr. Edel arrives at his conclusions are familiar, too…. Along the way one encounters continual brilliances of device and of insight: the juxtaposition, for example, of the small boy Proust in the world of the theatre with the small boy James in the same world…. The whole comprises a fine example of extended critical definition.

Mark Schorer, "Airy Realms of Light," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1955 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 19, 1955, p. 4.