A shelf of books

Three English academics launch major international book series

6 August 2021

First ever major book series devoted to Novel Theory

A new book series, edited by University of Sydney staff from the Novel Network, will explore the critical themes of novel theory and the relationship between the novel and society.

Launching with Oxford University Press, Approaches to the Novel, is the first book series of its kind dedicated to the study of the novel.

The series will focus on theoretical work on the novel as a genre, while paying attention to issues of diversity, history, dissemination, and social impact. It’s a departure from the traditional period-based literary scholarship for which Oxford publishing is famous.

It’s very, very unusual for a press, particularly one as prestigious as Oxford, to offer the editorship of a book series to members of a single department
Professor Vanessa Smith, founder of the Novel Network.

The editorship is held by three members of the Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences: Professor John Frow, Associate Professor Melissa Hardie, Professor Vanessa Smith, who are also core members of the FASS research group The Novel Network.

A book series editorship in which all three academics are from within the same institution is extremely rare; a reflection of the reputation of excellence established by the department and its research. English Literature and Language is currently ranked first in Australia in the 2021 QS rankings.

“It’s very, very unusual for a press, particularly one as prestigious as Oxford, to offer the editorship of a book series to members of a single department” says Professor Smith, founder of the Novel Network. 

"The editors and other members of the English department have long been go-to academics for Oxford essay collections and guides on a wide range of literary topics. There’s an established reputation for literary expertise, on the basis of which the publishers were confident to endorse our editorship of this new series."

“We’ve also been able to attract a great editorial board, comprised of the top figures working in novel theory from institutions across the globe, and including experts in the African, Asian and Pacific novel,” she continues.

The series will explore a wide historical and geographical range of early and contemporary texts from a comparative perspective, including novels in literatures other than English, and in translation. Exploring how diversity affects the novel, and in turn how the novel influences societal norms of diversity will be one of the key themes the series aims to address.

Submissions to the series are now being accepted, with further details on how to submit a proposal available on the Approaches to the Novel website.

About the Novel Network

The Novel Network is made up of academics and researchers from across the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. It has to date run two major conferences, The Prosaic Imaginary in 2014, The Bildungsroman: form and transformations in 2018, from which it has produced four significant collections of essays, including special issues of premier journals NOVEL: a forum on fiction and Textual Practice. Core members of the network were invited to present their novel-focussed research at Harvard in 2018 and in 2021. The network examines the novel from a range of disciplinary perspectives: from the literary critical to the socio-historical, philosophical and ethnographic and is formally affiliated with the Society for Novel Studies in the United States. It has long been engaged with those questions of novel theory that are the key concerns of the Approaches to the Novel book series.