General Theory of the Novel (小説総論)

"General Theory of the Novel" is the literary criticism by FUTABATEI Shimei. It appeared in the Chuo Gakujutsu Zasshi (Central Academic Journal) in 1886.

Under the influence of Shoyo TSUBOUCHI, he further deepened the content critically in order to compensate for shortcomings of "Essence of Novels." Although it is very short, this critique is of equal importance to "Essence of Novels" for the establishment of Japanese modern novels.

It categorized novels by using two terms, form and idea. It urged realism by insisting that novels should describe a variety of forms in real life in order to depict ideas directly, and criticized stories of poetic justice which deliberately provide two extremes of good and evil. It also commented that novels that only depicted forms and failed to express ideas were poor works, so it indicated the superiority of ideas over forms.