Theses Doctoral

The Retrospective Novel: The Romance of the Self

Mecozzi, Lorenzo

This doctoral dissertation, «The Retrospective Novel: The Romance of the Self,» focuses on the relationship between literary genres, ideology, and history. The novels I analyze are widely regarded as masterpieces of the last two centuries of Western literature. They include works by authors such as Melville, Conrad, Gide, Pirandello, Svevo, Roth, Faulkner, and Mann. All these novels present a biographical structure, in which the life of the protagonist is narrated retrospectively either by the hero himself (like in Pirandello’s Mattia Pascal) or by one of his friends (as in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus).

The research aims to examine the relationship between the retrospectivity of these novels and the rise of modern bourgeois society. The goal is to define the retrospective novel as a genre that, by continuing the Romantic tradition, reacts to Western ideas of modernity and to the realist novel. The dissertation discusses the formal features of retrospective novels to investigate the relationship between the crisis of linear plots and the existence of tragic heroes. The analysis takes into consideration the tension between polyphony and monologism, the combination of essayism and narration, and the importance of a centralized moral point of view that questions the predominant moral discourse of society.

The discussion of these formal aspects of retrospective novels lets emerge the craving for epic anti-bourgeois heroes that characterizes retrospective novels. By employing a novel theoretical framework, the dissertation aims to reappraise capital texts of the Western canon and to reevaluate the underestimated influence of Romanticism on the development of the modern Western novel.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2027-06-22.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Leake, Elizabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2022