The belief that the art of the novel can be discussed and evaluated only after its narrative techniques or ‘‘devices’’ have been identified and enumerated launches novel theory into an Adamic ecstasy of naming. The first thing to notice about the essays in this section is how many terms they coin, how the novel’s particular literary form seems to require a new literary-critical vocabulary. The aesthetics of the novel have been missed, it seems, not because the novel isn't an aesthetic form, but because critical language derived from other literary genres can't register the novel's distinguishing formal features. James's prefaces to the New York edition of his work (1907-9) offer plain-speech terms like "picture," "scene," and "center of consciousness" to describe the compositional effects he most valued. This rough vocabulary only whets the appetite of percy Lubbock, James's most influential follower, who almost twenty years later is driven to write "The Craft of Fiction"(1921) because of his felt "want of a received nomenclature" (90) in the Anglo-American study of fiction.

Does "compositional effects" mean: this way of using words?

and I don't know why writer in the next sentence says:"rough vocabulary" because in the lines before she mentions that James offer plain-speech terms. what does "rough vocabulary" really mean?

Source: The Novel: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory 1900-2000

  • The author is female, so it should be "she" not "he".
    – Eddie Kal
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


Here "composition" is used in the sense of "work of literature", and "effects" means results. So the "compositional effects he most valued" are the things you can accomplish through writing that he thought were most important.

In the next sentence, "rough" means "not refined" (not polished, not precise). So the "rough vocabulary only whets the appetite" because it gives you the idea that you could name all of these ideas about composition, but it doesn't satisfy because you could refine them more. Like a rough draft. This is being contrasted with a "received nomenclature" which is an (unnecessarily) fancy way of saying "a commonly understood vocabulary [for discussing composition]".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .