Alberto Comparini, Between Philosophy and History: On Guido Mazzoni’s “Theory of the Novel”, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 15, 2017
BETWEEN 1995 AND 2010, Guido Mazzoni worked on three books: a study of modern poetry (Sulla poesia moderna, 2005); a collection of poems (I mondi [Worlds], 2010); and, finally, a theory of the novel (Teoria del romanzo, 2011).
In Mazzoni’s analysis, the novel emerges as a “game of truth.” In 1984, under the pseudonym “Maurice Florence,” the French philosopher Michel Foucault contributed an entry titled “Michel Foucault” to a dictionary of philosophers. In that entry, the term “game of truth” is used to describe the “discursive practices that define what is true and what is false, what form the discourse of truth must take, and who and what the subject and object of knowledge are.” Mazzoni is similarly concerned with the “structures of sense that still shape our discourses today,” namely those of mimesis (imitation) and concept (reflection), whose separation was ratified by Plato in Books II, III, and X of the Republic. Theory of the Novel can be read as a history of mimesis, whose rise coincides with the development of modern aesthetics, according to which truth can be represented in a medium different from that of the concept. In the absence of both meaning and telos from history, it is only the mimetic novel — not the concept — that is still capable of depicting the complexities of human consciousness as well as of society at large. It is a “genre in which one can tell absolutely any story in any way whatsoever.”