In the last few decades, reading habits of people around the world have changed dramatically. Technological advances have altered what media we consume and especially how we comprehend what we read. Thoughtful reflections and careful deliberations are on the decline, as is art in general. Ideology has taken over the public square as well as the art world. It’s no longer enough for art to be political (as false as that philosophical assertion is), it must be purely ideological. The intention of art is to act as a big canvas for propaganda that neither elevates the humanity nor seeks the truth, but that renders the mind captive.
According to Joseph Bottum, this rather disorienting change in how we view the novel is not accidental, and it didn’t materialize out of nowhere. In The Decline of the Novel, Bottum tells us that the novel as an art form is in serious trouble and has drastically changed. Novelists are no longer interested in leading us into the interior lives of the character. Instead, we are witnessing deconstruction and abandonment of novel’s existential purpose. Bottum proposes that “The novel was an art form—the art form—of the modern Protestant West, and as the main strength of established Protestant Christendom began to fail in Europe and the United States in recent decades, so did the cultural importance of the novel.” For Bottum, the fact that the novel no longer holds an important place in people’s imaginations is not merely a problem of the novel but of our overly secular culture. The loss of the novel stems from the loss of religion.