10. The history of the chapter

Pick up a novel today, and it’s almost guaranteed to be divided up into chapters. But that hasn’t always been the case. The chapter had to be invented. English professor Nick Dames has been studying this history. In this episode, he talks with us about how the chapter first came to be — and how writers have reinvented it over the centuries.

Bonus clip

Listen to Nick discuss the hidden rhythms of Middlemarch’s chapters

Works mentioned

The Bible

– Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews

– Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister

– James Joyce, Ulysses

– Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu)

– Whit Stillman (director), Love & Friendship

– George Eliot, Middlemarch

Further reading

Nicholas Dames at The New Yorker – The Chapter: A History

Jonathan Russell Clark at The Millions – The Art of the Chapter

John Rentoul at The Independent – The Top 10: Chapter Titles

John Mullan at The Guardian – Scaffolding not provided

Ted Gioia at Los Angeles Review of Books – How to Win at Hopscotch: The 50th Anniversary of Julio Cortázar’s Novel

Thomas Storey at Culture Trip – Victorian Post Modernism: Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Winner The Luminaries

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