From its inception, the novel has often been associated with attributes of democratic modernity. These include the rise of a literate middle class, print culture and a public sphere; the ascendancy of the vernacular and a privileging of quotidian reality; secularization and a turn to irony; the professionalization of letters; and the development of individualist or revolutionary ideologies. Bakhtin's reflections on the heteroglossic nature of voice and on the polyphonic nature of the novel, and his claims for the novel as the site of sobornost—an authentic community of equals—deepened the association of the novel with democracy. The essays in this special issue will examine the historical and contemporary limitations and possibilities of this paradigm in novel studies, and the unorthodox meanings of "democracy" and/or the "democratic" to which it gives rise. They pursue a number of questions that arise from the juxtaposition of democracy and the novel.