This dissertation uses archival sources to bring two previously marginalized bodies of literature—the Oriental Tale in English and the novels of the Translation Movement in Arabic—to the center of their respective traditions and reads them together to create a transnational history of the novel. While most studies of the novel in Europe and the Middle East focus on their role in consolidating a national literature or domestic imaginary, this study instead centers on widely popular yet critically overlooked early novels that think and imagine beyond the nation: English novels that imagine the East and Arabic novels that imagine the West. That these early novels in both traditions were interested in foreignness should lead us to question the importance of the domestic in the constitution of the novel. Thus, this dissertation seeks to examine the function of foreignness, as both a trope and a structural necessity of the novel. By placing translation, circulation, and exchange at its methodological and analytical center, in both their figurative and material senses, this study will examine the ways in which the incorporation of foreign characters, settings, and narrative modes helped the novel to imagine not merely national communities but what one might call “translated” sympathetic and textual communities beyond these borders. These first novels, that is, imagined themselves within a global literary sphere and constructed a global sphere for their readers. This alternative history of the novel, therefore, hopes to emphasize the novel’s transnational origins as integral to its development, examining not just the circulation of the novel as a literary form but more importantly, the novel as a literary form constituted in and by circulation.