Edward P. Jones, The Known World

In this lecture on Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Professor Hungerford at Yale University begins from the novel’s title, asking what counts as knowledge in the novel and why knowledge is central to the story. This leads to related questions: who is a knower, and what can be known? Highlighting several different versions of how knowledge of the past is communicated through storytelling within the novel, she draws distinctions between Jones’s model of historical knowledge and that of other writers on the syllabus. Professor Hungerford suggests that Jones revives a nineteenth-century form of the novel when his narrator takes on a God-like omniscience, but unlike the nineteenth-century novel’s narrators, Jones’s omniscient narrator provides little in the way of God-like consolation.

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