Utopia on the Horizons of Time in Lukács's The Theory of the Novel

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Utopia on the Horizons of Time in Lukács's The Theory of the Novel

Time is a pivotal term in Georg Lukács's The Theory of the Novel for two reasons: the text's "time" describes the time of the novel (the time depicted in novels as described by Lukács), but it also bears reflexively on the chronology, or the history of literary forms, which the text itself describes. These readings are not easily separable; The Theory of the Novel must be read as a self-description, as a "theoretical novel" itself (as Freud called Moses and Monotheism), though one whose plot is about the history of forms or the development of plot in human history. That is, both meanings of the title's double genitive must be sustained in a reading of this text; we must
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This philosophical periodicity was lost in later times. Artistic genres now cut across one another, with a complexity that cannot be disentangled, and become traces of authentic or false searching for an aim that is no longer clearly and unequivocally given... (40-41)

The philosophical periodicity of the Greeks "was lost in later times." But this account is itself a periodization of literary or philosophical history, albeit one that declares its own impossibility. It is a neat paradox: we live after the end of history, Lukács seems to be saying, but this is demonstrated by a historical argument. It has become impossible to narrativize the unfolding of form, to "disentangle" the knotted threads of chronology which once ran side by side in "the old parallelism." One can no longer produce a coherent account of the history of genres, because they overlap spatially and exist simultaneously. The loss of immanent meaning or narrative is marked by the divorce of history from the philosophy of history, the fact that history is no longer immediately lived in by its subjects; action must be mediated through thought. It is a deceptively simple story, but one whose plot deals with the very impossibility of telling stories. The day of a simple history of forms is over; its sun has set, casting the Greeks' "sundial of the mind" into shadow, and its "fundamental image" is "no longer visible on the
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