When Achilles dons his armor, gods and readers alike kw the outcome, as does the hero himself. But when the commoner becomes the hero, when, as Dr. Johnson remarked in 1750, the heroes of modern fiction are leveled with the rest of the world - w that's a different story. In this ambitious work, Stewart Justman ranges across Western literature from the Iliad and the Odyssey through Cervantes and Shakespeare to Dickens, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky to show how such a leveling t only changed the appearance of literature, but made possible new ways of constructing a tale. Only when influenced by the principle of equality does a narrative deliberately deny readers kwledge beyond those they are reading about - privileged kwledge. This book argues that such a turn, in the hands of masters of the vel, changed narrative itself into an exploration of the limits of kwledge; that the portrayal of persons unkwn to history transformed the vel into an investigation of the unkwn. If the vel is the literary form of limited kwledge, the fullest expression of that form is found in the great fictional experiments of the nineteenth century, the age when the social question - the question of human equality - broke upon the world. Justman looks into some of those experiments for their own sake, but also for the light they cast on the nature and history of the vel. Focusing on Great Expectations , War and Peace , The Death of Ivan Ilych , and The Brothers Karamazov , Justman explores what happens when we, as readers, are denied kwledge t only for the sake of suspense, but because igrance belongs to what we have in common, the human condition.
Stewart Justman is a professor in the Liberal Studies Program at the University of Montana. He is the author of Fool's Paradise: The Unreal World of Pop Psychology (Ivan R. Dee, 2005), Seeds of Mortality (Ivan R. Dee, 2003), and The Springs of Liberty (1999) and The Psychological Mystique (1998), both published by Northwestern University Press. He is the recipient of the 2004 PEN Award for the Art of the Essay.