- article - Literature - Rise of the Novel

Rise of the Novel

The Novel envolved out of the Romance during the 18th century. Social changes, the rise in literacy and the rise of the middle class are generaly seen as the causes for this literary emergence.
Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Richardson’s Pamela are highly regarded as the first texts of this new genre which made their authors to “the fathers of the novel”.

What is the diffference?
A Romance is a long prose narrative drawing on myth or traditional plots. The characters are usully not very much developed (so called stock-characters) and exist within social stereotypes. Romances were highly popular in France and Italy in the 17th century and read majorly by the educated higher class. Furthermore, the romance has always a happy ending.
A Novel is also a long prose narrative but it draws its plot majorly from the day to day experiences of the 18th century. The characters are highly developed, have to make moral decisions and are concious about their past and present. The plot relies on cause and effect, is plausible and envolves without a deus ex machina (without the supernatural / help of the Gods). The setting is realistic, usually England in the 18th century. Novels are written for everyone who is literate which is sometimes reflected in a rather vulgar language.

Nevertheless, the development was not clearly straight forward and draw backs did take place. Hence, romantic features mix up with novel characteristics and some texts need to be situated in between the novel and the romance. One example for such an “in-between-text” would be Cleland’s Fanny Hill or Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield.

Sentimentalism and the Gothic genre have also to be mentioned as developments within the rise of the novel. Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is the first Gothic novel (published in 1764) and the forerunner of the still popular Horror Genre.

Further texts, which contributed to the development of the novel during the 18th century are:

Jonathon Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
Samuel Johnson, Rasselas
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

A quite interesting book:

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