AskDefine | Define novelist

Dictionary Definition

novelist n : someone who writes novels

User Contributed Dictionary



novel + -ist


  1. an author of novels


author of novels



hr-noun m

Extensive Definition

A novel (from, Italian novella, Spanish novela, French nouvelle for "new", "news", or "short story of something new") is today a long written, fictional, prose narrative. The seventeenth-century genre conflict between long romances and short novels, novellas, has brought definitions of both traditions into the modern usage of the term.


World wide view

The modern novel can no longer be seen as an entirely European product. It is not – as critics like Ian Watt had pointed out in the 1950s – an early 18th century invention of English literature. The era of "romances" had ended before 1719 and "novels" had been appreciated as an alternative as early as 1613, the date when the Novelas Exemplares were published. Extended fictions with modern historical backgrounds were fashionable on the French international market before Robinson Crusoe appeared. A field of diverse sources and parallel histories had been established by that time. Pierre Daniel Huet's ground breaking study Traitté de l'origine des romans (1670) took the first steps looking for origins of the novel in the ancient Mediterranean cultures and in medieval Europe, in the epic tradition and in the traditions of shorter fictions.
Our notion of the epic tradition has grown since then: the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Indian epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata were unknown in Europe in the 1670s as were the European epic tales. Huet already noted Petronius' Satyricon, the incredible stories of Lucian of Samosata, and Lucius Apuleius' proto-picaresque The Golden Ass and a heroic strain with the romances of Heliodorus and Longus. The ancient Greek romance was revived by Byzantine novelists of the twelfth century. All these traditions were rediscovered in the 17th and 18th centuries where they influenced the modern book market. The novella is, however, related to universal oral traditions. Jokes would fall into a broad history of the "exemplary story" which gave rise to the more complex form of novelistic story telling. Fiction has its still wider context with the Bible being filled with similes and stories to be interpreted. Fiction is, as Huet noted, a rather universal phenomenon, though not a phenomenon with a single cause.
The history of prose fiction remains heterogeneous with parallel developments all around the globe. Early examples of prose novels include The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century, Philosophus Autodidactus by Ibn Tufail in the 12th century, Theologus Autodidactus by Ibn al-Nafis in the 13th century, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century. The inventions of paper and movable letters became, however, key factors the genre needed to step from isolated traditions into a market of exchange and awareness of the genre. Spanish, French, German, Dutch and English became the first languages of the new market. The national risings of the USA, Russia, Scandinavia and Latin America widened the spectrum in the 19th century. A wave of new literatures has brought forth novels with Asian and African authors since then. Their novels quickly became contributions to the history of world literature in the 19th century and in the 20th century were nourished with international awards such as the Nobel Prize in Literature; they make it problematic for any nation to remain unvoiced and unheard of. The novel has become a medium of national awareness on a global scale. The establishment of literature as the realm of fictions to be discussed, a 19th century development, became the moving force behind this development.

The age of manuscript circulation

Anglophone histories of the novel have to cope with the special generic evolution which brought the word "novel" into the context of extended prose fictions.
  • The period 1200-1750 saw a rise of the originally short piece of fiction rivalling then with the original "romance" (the epic-length performance). The rivalry was European, yet only the Spanish and the English went one step further and allowed the word novel (Spanish: novela) to become their regular term for fictional narratives.
  • The period 1700-1800 saw a reversal, a rise of "new romances" in reaction to the production of potentially scandalous novels. The movement encountered a complex situation in the English market, where the term "new romance" could hardly be ventured, after all the novel had done to transform taste. The new genre adopted the name novel with the effect that the English (and Spanish) eventually needed a new word for the original short performance: The term novella was created to fill the gap in English; "short story" brought a further refinement.
The meaning of the term "romance" changed within the same complex process, becoming the word for a love story whether in life or fiction. Other meanings include the musicologist's genre "Romance" of a short and amiable piece, or Romance languages for the languages derived from Latin (Catalan, French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese).

Romance, 1000-1500

The word romance seems to have become the label of romantic fictions because of the "Romance" language in which early (11th and twelfth century) works of this genre were composed. The most fashionable genres developed in southern France in the late twelfth century and spread east- and northwards with translations and individual national performances. Subject matter such as Arthurian knighthood had already at that time traveled in the opposite direction, reaching southern France from Britain and French Brittany. As a consequence, it is particularly difficult to determine how much the early "romance" owed to ancient Greek models and how much to northern folkloric verse epics such as Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied.
The standard plot of the early romance was a series of adventures. Following a plot framework as old as Heliodorus, and so durable as to be still alive in Hollywood movies, a hero would undergo a first set of adventures before he met his lady. A separation would follow, with a second set of adventures leading to a final reunion. Variations kept the genre alive. Unexpected and peculiar adventures surprised the audience in romances like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Gauvin et le Chevalier vert). Classics of the romance developed such as the Roman de la Rose, written first in French, and famous today in English thanks to the translation by Geoffrey Chaucer.
These original "romances" were verse works, adopting a "high language" thought suitable for heroic deeds and to inspire the emulation of virtues; prose was considered "low", more suitable for satire). Verse allowed the culture of oral traditions to live on, yet it became the language of authors who carefully composed their texts — texts to be spread in writing, thus to preserve the careful artistic composition. The subjects were aristocratic. The textual tradition of ornamented and illustrated handwritten books afforded patronage by the aristocracy or by the monied urban class developing in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, for whom knight errantry most clearly was a world of fiction and fantasy.
The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw the emergence of the first prose romances along with a new book market. This market had developed even before the first printing facilities were introduced: prose authors could speak a new language, a language avoiding the repetition inherent in rhymes. Prose could risk a new rhythm and longer thoughts. Yet it needed the written book to preserve the coincidental formulations the author had chosen. While the printing press was yet to arrive, the commercial book production trade had already begun. Legends, lives of saints and mystical visions in prose were the main object of the new market of prose productions. The urban elite and female readers in upper class households and monasteries read religious prose. Prose romances appeared as a new and expensive fashion in this market. They could only truly flourish with the invention of the printing press and with paper becoming a cheaper medium. Both of these achievements arrived in the late fifteenth century, when the old romance was already facing fierce competition from a number of shorter genres; most salient among these genres was the novel, a form that arose in the course of the fourteenth century.

Early novel, 1000-1600

It is difficult to give a full catalog of the genres that finally culminated - with the works of Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer, Niccolò Machiavelli and Miguel de Cervantes - in the original "novel", the production today generally categorized under the term "novella".
The early "novel" contrasting the early "romance" was basically any story told for its spectacular or revealing incidents. The original environment - living on with the typical frame settings - was the entertaining conversation. Stories of grave incidents could just as well augment sermons. Collections of examples facilitated the work of preachers in need of such illustrations. A fable could illustrate a moral conclusion; a short historical reflection could do the same. A competition of genres developed. Tastes and social status were decisive, if one believes the medieval collections. The working classes loved their own brand of drastic stories: stories of clever cheating, wit and ridicule levelled against hated social groups (or competitors among the storytellers). Much of the original genre is still alive with the short joke told in everyday life to make a certain humorous point in a conversation.
Artistic performances included the story within a story: situations in which a series of stories was allegedly told. They rejoiced in a broad pattern of tastes and genres. The Canterbury Tales constitute a classic example, with their noble storytellers fond of "romantic" stories and their lower narrators preferring stories of everyday life. The genre did not have its own generic term. "Novel" would simply denote the novelty of the accident narrated. The inclusion of frame stories, however, brought an awareness of the fact that genres were developing in this field.
The main advantage of the background story was the justification it put into the hands of the actual authors such as Chaucer and Boccaccio. Romances afforded lofty language and relied on an accepted notion of what deserved to be read as high style. Yet what if the taste in moral teachings and poetry changed? Romances quickly became outdated. Stories of cheats and pranks, illicit love affairs, and clever intrigues in which certain respectable professions or the citizens of another town were made fun of were, on the other hand, neither morally nor poetically justifiable. They carried their justification outside. The storyteller would offer a few words explaining why he thought this story was worth telling. Again, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales afford the best examples: the real author could tell stories without any other justification than that this story gave a good portrait of the person who told it and of his or her taste, and that justification would remain stable throughout history.
If lofty performances grew tedious - as they did in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with the old plots never leading to newer ones - the collections of tales or novels made it easy to criticise the lofty performances and to reduce their status: one of the group of narrators (created by the actual author) could start with the romantic story only to be interrupted by the other narrators listening within the story. They might silence him or order him to speak a language they liked, or they might ask him to speed up and to make his point. The result was a rise of the short genre. The steps of this development can be traced with the short story gaining in appreciation and value to rival romances in new versified collections at the end of the fourteenth century.

The novel on the early market of printed books, 1480-1800

Conflict between novels and romances, 1600-1700

The invention of printing subjected both novels and romances to a first wave of trivialization and commercialization. Printed books were expensive, yet something people would buy, just as people still buy expensive things they can barely afford. Alphabetization, or the rise of literacy, was a slow process when it came to writing skills, but was faster as far as reading skills were concerned. The Protestant Reformation created new readers of religious pamphlets, newspapers and broadsheets.
The urban population learned to read, but did not aspire to participation in the world of letters. The market of chapbooks developing with the printing press comprised both romances and short histories, tales and fables. Woodcuts were the regular ornament and they were offered without much care. A romance in which the heroic knight had to fight more than ten duels within a few pages could get the same illustration of such a fight again and again if the printer's stock of standard illustrations was small. As their stocks grew, printers repeated the same illustrations in other books with similar plots, mixing these illustrations without respect to style. One can open eighteenth century chapbooks and find illustrations from the early years of printing next to much more modern ones.
Romances were reduced to cheap and abrupt plots resembling modern comic books; neither were the first collections of novels necessarily prestigious projects. They appeared with an enormous variety from folk tales over jests to stories told by Boccaccio and Chaucer, now venerable authors.
A more prestigious market of romances developed in the sixteenth century, with multi-volume works aiming at an audience which would subscribe to this production. The criticism levelled against romances by Chaucer's pilgrims grew in response to both trivialization and the extended multi-volume "romances". Romances like the Amadis de Gaula led their readers into dream worlds of knighthood and fed them with ideals of a past no one could revitalize, or so the critics complained.
Italian authors like Machiavelli were among those who brought the novel into a new format: while it remained a story of intrigue, ending in a surprising point, the observations were now much finer: how did the protagonists manage their intrigue? How did they keep their secrets, what did they do when others threatened to discover them?
The whole question of novels and romances became critical when Cervantes added his Novelas Exemplares (1613) to the two volumes of his Don Quixote (1605/15). The famous satirical romance was levelled against the Amadis which had made Don Quixote lose his mind. Advocates of the lofty romance, however, would claim that the satirical counterpart of the old heroic romance could hardly teach anything: Don Quixote neither offered a hero to be emulated nor did it satisfy with beautiful speeches; all it could do was to make fun of lofty ideals. The Novelas Exemplares offered an alternative to the heroic and the satiric modes, yet critics were even less sure what to make of this production. Cervantes told stories of adultery, jealousy and crime. If these stories were to give examples, they gave examples of immoral actions. The advocates of the "novel" responded that their stories taught with both good and bad examples. The reader could still feel compassion and sympathy with the victims of crimes and intrigues, if evil examples were to be told.
The alternative to dubious novels and satirical romances were better, lofty romances: a production of romances modeled after Heliodorus arrived as a possible answer with excursions into the bucolic world. Honoré d'Urfé's L'Astrée (1607-27) became the most famous work of this type. The criticism that these romances had nothing to do with real life was answered through the device of the roman à clef (literally "novel with a key") — one that, properly understood, alludes to characters in the real world. John Barclay's Argenis (1625-26) appeared as a political Roman à clef. The romances of Madeleine de Scudéry gained greater influence with plots set in the ancient world and content taken from life. The famous author told stories of her friends in the literary circles of Paris and developed their fates from volume to volume of her serialized production. Readers of taste bought her books, as they offered the finest observation of human motives, characters taken from life, and excellent morals regarding how one should and should not behave if one wanted to succeed in public life and in the intimate circles she portrayed.
The novel went its own way: Paul Scarron (himself a hero in the romances of Madeleine de Scudéry) published the first volume of his Roman Comique in 1651 (successive volumes appeared in 1657 and, by another hand, in 1663) with a plea for the development Cervantes had introduced in Spain. France should (as he wrote in the famous twenty first chapter of the Roman Comique imitate the Spanish with little stories like those they called "novels". Scarron himself added numerous of such stories to his own work.
Twenty years later Madame de La Fayette took the next decisive steps with her two novels. The first, her Zayde (published in 1670 together with Pierre Daniel Huet's famous Treatise on the Origin of Romances), was a "Spanish history". Her second and more important novel appeared in 1678: La Princesse de Clèves proved that France could actually produce novels of a particularly French taste. The Spanish enjoyed stories of proud Spaniards who fought duels to avenge their reputations. The French had a more refined taste with minute observation of human motives and behavior. The story was firmly a "novel" and not a "romance": a story of unparalleled female virtue, with a heroine who had had the chance to risk an illicit amour and not only withstood the temptation but made herself more unhappy by confessing her feelings to her husband. The gloom her story created was entirely new and sensational.
The regular novel took another turn. The late seventeenth century saw the emergence of a European market for scandal, with French books now appearing mostly in the Netherlands (where censorship was liberal) to be clandestinely imported back into France. The same production reached the neighboring markets of Germany and Britain, where it was welcomed both for its French style and its predominantly anti-French politics. The novel flourished in this market as the best genre to purport scandalous news. The authors claimed the stories they had to tell were true, told not for the sake of scandal but only for the moral lessons they gave. To prove this, they fictionalized the names of their characters and told these stories as if they were novels. (The audience played its own game in identifying who was who). Journals of little stories appeared — the Mercure Gallant became the most important. Collections of letters added to the market; these included more of these little stories and led to the development of the epistolary novel in the late seventeenth century.
The novel had interested the English audience ever since Chaucer's days, it had been read in translations of Spanish and French novels throughout the 17th century. In the late 1680s English authors decided to create a modern English equivalent. Aphra Behn and William Congreve adopted the old term and wrote new "novels".

Embedded in the market of histories: 1650-1730

The early modern print market was roughly split into the fields of theology, history (and politics), the sciences, and poetry and plays. 17th century term catalogues would list fictions under the second rubric of “History and politicks”. Novels and romances appeared there among histories of the Roman empire, party propaganda, dubious scandalous revelations, travelogues and political memoirs. The vicinity of true and fictitious materials annoyed the authors of serious histories – fictions were "lies", they protested and therefore hardly justifiable at all. Learned criticism was at the same moment extremely partial as scholars, novelists and romancers still shared a common ground as soon as they spoke about their aims. True and fictitious histories claimed alike to teach morals and politics with lessons of examples to learn from.
Romancers and novelists responded to the ongoing criticism with hints at Aristotle's Poetics according to which prose fiction might be just a special sort of poetry comprising productions of a high and a low genre (and embracing with both options the genus medium of "novels". Romances taught through heroic or satirical heroes, novels through curious plots. The production of fictions remained even if the authors created their own poetics safely embedded in the field of histories as one could immediately utilise the poetic principles in order to publish entirely new histories.
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3.1Heroical Romances:Fénelon's Telemach (1699)
1Sold as romantic inventions, read as true histories of public affairs: Manley's The New Atalantis (1709) 2Sold as romantic inventions, read as true histories of private affairs: Menantes' Satyrischer Roman (1706) 3.2Classics of the novel from the Arabian Nights to M. de La Fayette's Princesse de Clèves (1678) 4Sold as true private history, risking to be read as romantic invention: Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) 5 Sold as true public history, risking to be read as romantic invention: La Guerre d'Espagne (1707)
3.3Satirical Romances:Cervantes' Don Quixote'' (1605)
The market of fictions remained embedded in the bigger market of histories as the very location provoked a production of cheats and scandal: On the one hand one had books which claimed to be romances, but which threatened to be fictitious. Delarivier Manley wrote the most famous of them, her The New Atalantis (1709), full of stories the author claimed to have invented. The censors were helpless: Manley had hawked stories discrediting the ruling Whigs, leaving the discredited politicians in doubts: should they open a libel case and prove that all these stories actually happened on British soil rather than on the fairytale island Atalantis? Delarivier Manley escaped the interrogations unscathed and continued her work with three more volumes of the same ilk. Private stories appeared on the same market, creating a different genre of personal love and public battles over lost reputations.
On the other hand, one had a market of titles which claimed to be strictly non-fictional — Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe became the most important of them. The genre-identification: "Sold as true private history, risking to be read as romantic invention" opened the preface:
IF ever the Story of any private Man's Adventures in the World were worth making Pvblick, and were acceptable when Publish'd, the Editor of this Account thinks this will be so.     The Wonders of this Man's Life exceed all that (he thinks) is to be found extant; the Life of one Man being scarce capable of a greater Variety.     The Story is told with Modesty, with Seriousness, and with a religious Application of Events to the Uses to which wise Men always ap[p]ly them (viz.) to the Instruction of others by this Example, and to justify and honor the Wisdom of Providence in all the Variety of our Circumstances, let them happen how they will.     The Editor believes the thing to be a just History of Fact; neither is there any Appearance of Fiction in it: And however thinks, because all such things are dispatch'd [later editions: disputed], that the Improvement of it, as well as the Diversion, as to the Instruction of the Reader, will be the same; and as such he thinks, without farther Compliment to the World, he does them a great Service in the Publication.
Robinson Crusoe'' (1719) claimed to be "true history of fact" — yet it hardly appeared as such: Not only did the "editor" address readers who would hardly believe their hero. The very design of the title alluded not to a scientific travelogue, nor to a novel, but to the one title educated readers throughout Europe were just celebrating as the turning point one had so long awaited: Fénelon's Telemachus (1699/1700) was a respectable prose epic rivaling if not surpassing the epics Homer and Virgil had written. Defoe's publisher formulated the title repeating and beating the very promise the English Fénelon publishers had had in stock for the famous "new romance":
Defoe's Robinson Crusoe claimed to be "true history of fact" but it was most certainly invented, "romance". It was striking at the same moment that Crusoe was not the comic anti-hero a satirical romance would have produced. The feigned author was serious: against his will his life had brought him into this series of most romantic adventures. He had fallen into the hands of pirates and survived years on an uninhabited island. He had survived all this — a mere sailor from York — with exemplary heroism. If readers read his work as a romance, full of sheer invention, he could not blame them, so Crusoe himself in the preface of his volume 2 in the summer of 1719.
Crusoe's travelogue was a neighbour of the histories of similar verisimilitude which had dived into the overtly political over the preceding decades. Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras (1644-1712) had become the most important author in this field with his first version of d'Artagnan's story, told again more than a century later by Alexandre Dumas the elder. Witty, and a distant precursor of Ian Fleming's fictional James Bond, is another book allegedly by his hand: La Guerre d'Espagne (1707), the story of a disillusioned French spy, who gave insight into French politics, and into his own love affairs, with little intrigues he managed wherever he had to do his jobs. Fact and fiction were mixed in all these titles, to the point that one could no longer tell where the author had invented and where he had simply betrayed secrets.
Journalists of the age defended the dubious production relying on an enlightened audience able to read with the necessary grain of skepticism if not with amusement if things became really incredible. The defendants of public morals demanded an improved production - a strictly fictitious production designed to improve the reader.

The novel as "literature" — the 18th and 19th century market reform

The moment for novels and romances to leave the market of potentially scandalous histories and to become "literature", though in an entirely new sense of the word — fiction as opposed to nonfiction and yet the most prestigious production an nation could presumably conceive — came in the second half of the 18th century. The development had been prepared by Pierre Daniel Huet's Traitté de l'origine des romans (1670), the short history of prose fiction which had first formulated the future canon of "literature", though for the time being not with a national but with a world wide perspective. The French theologian had dared to praise fictions: One could interpret novels and romances and analyse them as works which uniquely reflected the cultures and times which had first produced and consumed them.
The interpretation and analysis of classics became a new practice among readers of the belles lettres. It made a vast difference whether one read romances to get lost in dream worlds, so the warning of the ancient critics, or whether one read the same with the aim to better understand the Greek, Roman or medieval frame of mind or the Muslim world which had brought forward collections such as The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (first published in Europe from 1704 to 1715 in French, and translated immediately from this edition into English and German).

Classics of the novel: a morally justified production, 1670-1900

The reform of the early eighteenth century market of novels was not induced by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), a title which aroused an enormous scandal with its claims of historical truth and its reprint in a newspaper edition designed to support this grotesque claim. It came with the production of classics of modern fiction: The early 1720s saw the edition of the English Select Collection Novels in six volumes (1720-22). It contained the finest European "novels" from those of Machiavelli to Marie de LaFayette's two novels. Aphra Behn's prose fictions had appeared as "novels" in the 1680s and were reprinted in collections of her works which turned the scandalous authoress into a modern classic. Fénelon's Telemachus (1699/1700) had become a classic within three years after its publication. The works of Petronius and Longos appeared in the early 18th century, equipped with prefaces which praised Huet and the elegant new audience of the "belles lettres" or "polite literature" to use the English term.

Immediate modern classics, 1740-1800

The early eighteenth century market for classics of the novel inspired living authors. Delarivier Manley, Jane Barker and Eliza Haywood followed their famous French models at the beginnig of the 18th century and switched from anonymous to clear name publication to claim fame witrh their books as Madame d'Aulnoy and Anne-Marguerite Petit DuNoyer had done it before.
Most new novels and romances continued to be published anonymously. Authors hided and waited for the best moment to claim the public appreciation of their works. The anonymous publication continued at the same moment the old promise of suspense — what if Richardson's Pamela was not invented but a real person? The title page of Pamela or Virtue Rewarded left, none the less the ground Robinson Crusoe had claimed. The "narrative" founded in truth and nature was openly designed to move young readers toward better precepts of morality and virtue. Fiction had become an accepted medium authors were now expected to use to improve morals.
The public debate of "literature" changed as the new works appeared. Journals of the "belles lettres" began to rival the old literary journals with their customary focus on the sciences. New German journals reformatted the meaning of the word "literature" changing the subject area of their discussions from scientific publications to be reviewed to fiction and poetry. The new literary criticism provided a market reform in form of a market divide. Literature became the field of all written works. The debate would focus, however, on works of art separating now a field of popular fictions and from literary fictions worthy to be reviewed and discussed.
Design of title pages changed: new novels no longer pretended to sell fictions whilst threatening to betray real secrets. Nor did they appear as false "true histories". The new title pages pronounced their works to be fictions, and indicated how the public might discuss them. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) was one of the titles which brought the novel-title, with its [...], or [...] formula offering an example, into the new format: "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded – Now first published in order to cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes, A Narrative which has the Foundation in Truth and Nature; and at the same time that it agreeably entertains..." So the title page read, and made it clear that the work was crafted by an artist aiming at a certain effect, yet to be discussed by the critical audience. A decade later novels needed no status other than that of being novels: fiction. Present-day editions of novels simply state "Fiction" on the cover. It had become prestigious to be sold under the label, asking for discussion and thought.
Scandal as published by DuNoyer or Delarivier Manley vanished from the market of prose fiction — whether high or low culture. It could not attract serious critics and was lost if it remained undiscussed. It ultimately needed its own brand of scandalous journalism, which developed into the yellow press. The low market of prose fiction went on to focus on immediate satisfaction of an audience enjoying its stay in the fictional world. The high market grew complex, with works playing new games.
In the high market, one could eventually see two traditions developing: one of works playing with the art of fiction — Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy among them — the other closer to the prevailing discussions and moods of its audience. The great conflict of the nineteenth century, as to whether artists should write to satisfy the public or whether to produce art for art's sake, was yet to come.

Sentimentalism, psychology, and the new individual, 1750-1850

The second half of the 18th century was one of those eras in which the novel has been the dominant genre.
The mid- and late eighteenth century "novel of sentimentalism" produced an entirely new individual, one with a different attitude towards privacy and the public. Whereas the early eighteenth century heroine had been bold and ready to protect her reputation if necessary in a press war, her mid-18th century descendant was far too modest and shy to do the same. Early eighteenth century heroines had their secrets, they loved effective intrigues, they tried whatever they felt necessary to get what they wanted. Mid-18th century heroines developed a feeling of modesty. They suffered if they had to keep secrets and felt an urge to confess. They searched for friends and intimacy, for situations in which they could freely open their hearts and speak of their deepest wishes.
The eighteenth century audience saw these new heroes and heroines with amazement. When it came to their most secret wishes they dared to confide in their parents and friends — a trust which would have made them easy victims in the early eighteenth century world of fiction, libel, intrigue and scandal. Now, however, these weak heroines met an environment of compassion. Instead of making their affairs a public entertainment, the new heroes and heroines developed an intimacy into which the novel alone could take a careful look.
Special genres flourished with these protagonists who would not wash their dirty linen in public. Their letters or diaries were found and published only after their deaths. A wave of sentimentalism was the first result, leading to heroes like Henry Mackenzie's Man of Feeling (1771). A second wave followed with more radical heroes who could no longer dream of an environment understanding them. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) was at the forefront of the new movement, and yielded a wave of compassion and understanding with readers ready to follow Werther into his suicide.
Critics embraced the new heroes as the best sign of a new literature which aimed at discussions. The understanding these heroes craved for afforded a secondary discussion — a discussion of the nature of the human psyche so much better observed by these new novels.
The novel, with these developments, had turned advocacy of individual and societal moral reform into a genre. With the romantic movement beginning in the 1770s, the development went one step further: the novel became the medium of an avant garde, the genre where emotions found their test cases. German authors developed the Bildungsroman, a novel focussing on the development of the individual, their education and their way into individuality and society. New sciences like sociology to psychology developed along with the new individual and influenced the discussions surrounding the novel in the nineteenth century.

19th century

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the novel had been a genre of realism fighting the romance with its wild fantasies. The novel had turned first to scandal before undergoing reform over the last decades of the eighteenth century. Fiction eventually became the most honourable field of literature. This development culminated in a wave of novels of fantasy at the turn of the nineteenth century. Sensibility was heightened in these novels. Women, overwrought and prone to imagining worlds beyond their appointed one, became the heroines of the new world of "romances" and "gothic novels" creating stories in distant times and places. Renaissance Italy was a favorite setting of the gothic novel.
The classic gothic novel is Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). As in other gothic novels, the notion of the sublime is central. Eighteenth-century aesthetic theory held that the sublime and the beautiful were juxtaposed. The sublime was awful (literally, "awe-inspiring") and terrifying while the beautiful was calm and reassuring. Gothic characters and landscapes rest almost entirely within the sublime, with the heroine the great exception. The "beautiful" heroine's susceptibility to supernatural elements, integral to these novels, both celebrates and problematizes what came to be seen as hypersensibility.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the overwrought emotions of sensibility, as expressed through the gothic sublime, had run their course. Jane Austen with Northanger Abbey (1803) parodied the gothic novel, reflecting its death. Moreover, while sensibility did not disappear, it was less valued. Austen introduced a different style of writing, the "comedy of manners". Her novels often are not only funny, and particularly likely to satirize individuals of high social status, but they also display a wariness of city influences which are often portrayed as having a tendency to corrupt established social values. Her best known novel, Pride and Prejudice (1811), is her happiest, and has been a blueprint for much subsequent romantic fiction. Austen's novels still retain a wide following, despite the distance between their heroines' dilemmas and those of the reader today.

Separation of high and low production

The market for novels in the nineteenth century was clearly separated into "high" and "low" production. The new high production can best be viewed in terms of national traditions. The low production was organized rather by genres in a pattern deriving from the spectrum of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century genres.
1. The novel as a literary production, promoted by critical discourse
Spanish Literature French Literature German Literature English Literature language and nation
2. Popular Fiction, not promoted by criticism
1The modern roman à clef (a recent example is Primary Colors'') 2Sex, including soft "romantic" pornography for the female audience 3Historical settings (the tradition of heroic romances), crime (the tradition of the seventeenth century novel) 4Adventure, science fiction 5Espionage, conspiracy
The position of authors attained its modern form with the establishment of this pattern. The modern author can either aim at a broad market or write with an eye to serious critical discussion. The borders between the realms have developed differently in different nations. While this modern market divide came relatively late to the English-speaking world, Germany and France had an earlier and much stronger interest in creating national literatures — France in the wake of the French Revolution, Germany during its mid-19th century unification. Both of these nations experienced a division between high literature — that is, the literature of ruling social group, discussed in schools and newspapers, and celebrated in public life — and a low production — not worthy to be mentioned in such circles — while the vast commercial market of the English-speaking world still resisted this artificial divide.
The novel proved to be a medium for a communication both intimate (novels can be read privately whereas plays are always a public event) and public (novels are published and thus become a matter touching the public, if not the nation, and its vital interests), a medium of a personal point of view which can get the world into its view. New modes of interaction between authors and the public reflected these developments: authors giving public readings, receiving prestigious prizes, giving interviews in the media and acting as their nations' consciences. This concept of the novelist as public figure arose in the course of the nineteenth century.

Articles of further importance


Further reading

Contemporary views

  • 1651: Paul Scarron, The Comical Romance, Chapter XXI. "Which perhaps will not be found very Entertaining" (London, 1700). Scarron's plea for a French production rivalling the Spanish "Novels". Marteau
  • 1670: Pierre Daniel Huet, "Traitté de l'origine des Romans", Preface to Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne comtesse de La Fayette, Zayde, histoire espagnole (Paris, 1670). A world history of fiction. pdf-edition Gallica France
  • 1683: [Du Sieur], "Sentimens sur l’histoire" from: Sentimens sur les lettres et sur l’histoire, avec des scruples sur le stile (Paris: C. Blageart, 1680). The new novels as published masterly by Marie de LaFayette. Marteau
  • 1702: Abbe Bellegarde, "Lettre à une Dame de la Cour, qui lui avoit demandé quelques Reflexions sur l’Histoire" aus: Lettres curieuses de littérature et de morale (La Haye: Adrian Moetjens, 1702). Paraphrase of Du Sieur's text. Marteau
  • 1705/1708/1712: [Anon.] In English, French and German the Preface of The Secret History of Queen Zarah and the Zarazians (Albigion, 1705). Bellegarde's article plagiarised. Marteau
  • 1713: Deutsche Acta Eruditorum, German review of the French translation of Delarivier Manley's New Atalantis 1709 (Leipzig: J. L. Gleditsch, 1713). A rare example of a political novel discussed by a literary journal. Marteau
  • 1715: Jane Barker, preface to her Exilius or the Banish’d Roman. A New Romance (London: E. Curll, 1715). Plea for a "New Romance" following Fénlon's Telmachus. Marteau
  • 1718: [Johann Friedrich Riederer], "Satyra von den Liebes-Romanen", from: Die abentheuerliche Welt in einer Pickelheerings-Kappe, 2 ([Nürnberg,] 1718). German satire about the wide spread reading of novels and romances. Marteau
  • 1742: Henry Fielding, preface to Joseph Andrews (London, 1742). The "comic epic in prose" and its poetics. Munseys

Secondary literature

  • Erwin Rohde Der Griechesche Roman und seine Vorläufer (1876) [un-superseded history of the ancient novel]
  • The Theory of the Novel
  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1981. [written during the 1930s]
  • The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding Watt reads Robinson Crusoe as the first modern "novel" and interprets the rise of the modern novel of realism as an achievement of English literature, owed to a number of factors from early capitalism to the development of the modern individual.
  • The Novel To-day
  • The Novel Now: A Student's Guide to Contemporary Fiction
  • Ben Edwin Perry The Ancient Romances (Berkeley, 1967) review:
  • Popular Fiction before Richardson. Narrative Patterns 1700-1739
  • Burgess, Anthony (1970). "Novel, The" – classic Encyclopædia Britannica entry.
  • Miller, H. K., G. S. (1970) Rousseau and Eric Rothstein, The Augustan Milieu: Essays Presented to Louis A. Landa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970). ISBN 0-19-811697-7
  • Arthur Ray Heiserman The Novel Before the Novel (Chicago, 1977) ISBN 0226325725
  • A Primer of the Novel: For Readers and Writers Updated edition of pioneering typology and history of over 50 genres; index of types and technique, and detailed chronology.
  • Spufford, Magaret, Small Books and Pleasant Histories (London, 1981).
  • Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel
  • Spencer, Jane, The Rise of Woman Novelists. From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen (Oxford, 1986).
  • Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel
  • The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740
  • Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction
  • Seductive Forms: Women's Amatory Fiction from 1684-1740
  • The True Story of the Novel
  • Relihan, Constance C. (ed.), Framing Elizabethan fictions: contemporary approaches to early modern narrative prose (Kent, Ohio/ London: Kent State University Press, 1996). ISBN 0873385519
  • Reconsidering The Rise of the Novel - Eighteenth Century Fiction, Volume 12, Number 2-3, ed. David Blewett (January-April 2000).
  • McKeon, Michael, Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
  • Marteaus Europa, oder, Der Roman, bevor er Literatur wurde: eine Untersuchung des Deutschen und Englischen Buchangebots der Jahre 1710 bis 1720 A market study of the novel around 1700 interpreting contemporary criticism.
  • The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot from Leah Price
  • Rousseau, George (2004). Nervous Acts: Essays on Literature Culture and Sensibility (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). ISBN 1-4039-3454-1
  • Mentz, Steve, Romance for sale in early modern England: the rise of prose fiction (Aldershot [etc.]: Ashgate, 2006). ISBN 0-7546-5469-9
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novelist in Min Nan: Siáu-soat
novelist in Bosnian: Roman
novelist in Bulgarian: Роман
novelist in Catalan: Novel·la
novelist in Czech: Román
novelist in Welsh: Nofel
novelist in Danish: Roman
novelist in German: Roman
novelist in Estonian: Romaan
novelist in Modern Greek (1453-): Μυθιστόρημα
novelist in Spanish: Novela
novelist in Esperanto: Romano
novelist in Basque: Eleberri
novelist in Persian: رمان
novelist in French: Roman (littérature)
novelist in Irish: Úrscéal
novelist in Scottish Gaelic: Nobhail
novelist in Galician: Novela
novelist in Korean: 소설
novelist in Croatian: Roman
novelist in Indonesian: Novel
novelist in Icelandic: Skáldsaga
novelist in Italian: Romanzo
novelist in Hebrew: רומן
novelist in Swahili (macrolanguage): Riwaya
novelist in Latin: Mythistoria
novelist in Latvian: Romāns
novelist in Luxembourgish: Roman
novelist in Lithuanian: Romanas
novelist in Hungarian: Regény
novelist in Dutch: Roman (literatuur)
novelist in Japanese: 小説
novelist in Norwegian: Roman
novelist in Norwegian Nynorsk: Roman
novelist in Piemontese: Romanz (literatura)
novelist in Polish: Powieść
novelist in Portuguese: Romance
novelist in Romanian: Roman (literatură)
novelist in Quechua: Kawsay rikch'a
novelist in Russian: Роман
novelist in Sicilian: Rumanzu
novelist in Simple English: Novel
novelist in Slovak: Román
novelist in Slovenian: Roman
novelist in Serbian: Роман
novelist in Finnish: Romaani
novelist in Swedish: Roman
novelist in Thai: นวนิยาย
novelist in Vietnamese: Tiểu thuyết
novelist in Turkish: Roman (edebiyat)
novelist in Ukrainian: Роман (жанр)
novelist in Walloon: Roman
novelist in Yiddish: ראמאן
novelist in Chinese: 長篇小說

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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