Sunday, January 18, 2015

Peak literature: the decline of the novel

Results of a Google Ngrams search for the term "novel"

In a previous post titled "Where have our dreams gone?", I argued that literature, as well as other forms of art, has declined starting with the 1980s, losing impact and interest in our society. This, of course, can only be a qualitative evaluation and it was challenged in some of the comments. Indeed, terms such as "impact" and "interest" can only be defined in qualitative terms and there is plenty of space for different interpretations.

Nevertheless, I did some experimenting on google's "Ngrams" and I think that my interpretation is shared by many others. You can see in the figure above, showing a clear peak for the term "novel" (*), around 1990 indicating a decline of interest in novels. Also this result is debatable, of course, but I think it does tell us something about the general cultural decline of our civilization.

(*) One problem with this search is that the term "novel" in English may also be an adjective, but the peak is visible also with unambiguous terms such as "novelist" and "novel", although in both cases it appears earlier. Also, in Italian, the term "romanzo" for "novel" is unambiguous, and it shows a similar peak - even clearer - as for "novel" in English. 


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)