IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young or Old Innovator: Measuring the Careers of Modern Novelists


  • David W. Galenson


Some important novelists have written a great novel early in their careers and have produced lesser works thereafter, whereas others have improved their work gradually over long periods and have made their major contributions late in their lives. Which of these patterns a novelist follows appears to be systematically related to the nature of his work. Conceptual writers typically have specific goals for their books, and produce novels that emphasize plot; experimental writers' intentions are often uncertain, and their novels more often stress characterization. By examining the careers of twelve important modern novelists, this paper demonstrates that conceptual novelists - including Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway - are generally those who have declined after writing landmark early novels, while in contrast experimental novelists - including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf - have typically arrived at their most important work later in their careers. As is the case for modern painting and poetry, the ranks of great modern novelists have included both conceptual young geniuses and experimental old masters.

Suggested Citation

  • David W. Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young or Old Innovator: Measuring the Careers of Modern Novelists," NBER Working Papers 10213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10213
    Note: LS

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David W. Galenson, 2005. "The Methods and Careers of Leading American Painters in the late Nineteenth Century," NBER Working Papers 11545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David W. Galenson, 2003. "The Life Cycles of Modern Artists: Theory, Measurement, and Implications," NBER Working Papers 9539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David Galenson, 2000. "The Careers of Modern Artists," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 24(2), pages 87-112, May.
    4. David Galenson, 2002. "The Life Cycles of Modern Artists," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 3(3), pages 161-178, July.
    5. David W. Galenson, 2003. "Literary Life Cycles: The Careers of Modern American Poets," NBER Working Papers 9856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bruce A. Weinberg & David W. Galenson, 2005. "Creative Careers: The Life Cycles of Nobel Laureates in Economics," NBER Working Papers 11799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bertacchini Enrico & Friel Martha, 2013. "Understanding creativity and innovation in industrial design: an historical and empirical assessment," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201311, University of Turin.
    3. Benjamin F. Jones, 2005. "Age and Great Invention," NBER Working Papers 11359, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. David W. Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Very Young or Very Old Innovator: Creativity at the Extremes of the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 10515, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10213. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.