A novel is any relatively long piece of written narrative fiction, normally in prose, and typically published as a book.
- Defining the genre
- A fictional narrative
- Literary prose
- Content: intimate experience
- Early novels
- Chivalric Romances
- The novella
- Renaissance period: 1500 1700
- Heroic romances
- Satirical romances
- Cervantes and the modern novel
- 18th century novel
- Philosophical novel
- The romance genre in the 18th century
- The sentimental novel
- Changing cultural status
- The acceptance of novels as literature
- The Victorian period: 1837–1901
- Modernism and post modernism
- Genre fiction
The genre has also been described as possessing, "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years". This view sees the novel's origins in Classical Greece and Rome, medieval, early modern romance, and the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word used to describe short stories, supplied the present generic English term in the 18th century. Ian Watt, however, in The Rise of the Novel (1957) suggests that the novel first came into being in the early 18th century,
Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era; the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605.
The romance is a closely related long prose narrative. Walter Scott defined it as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents", whereas in the novel "the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society". However, many romances, including the historical romances of Scott, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a "kindred term". Romance, as defined here, should not be confused with the genre fiction love romance or romance novel. Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: "a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo."
Defining the genre
A novel is a long, fictional narrative which describes intimate human experiences. The novel in the modern era usually makes use of a literary prose style, and the development of the prose novel at this time was encouraged by innovations in printing, and the introduction of cheap paper, in the 15th century.
The present English (and Spanish) word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the Italian novella for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself from the Latin novella, a singular noun use of the neuter plural of novellus, diminutive of novus, meaning "new". Most European languages use the word "romance" (as in French, Dutch, Russian, Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian "roman"; Finnish "romaani"; German "Roman"; Portuguese "romance" and Italian "romanzo") for extended narratives.
A fictional narrative
Fictionality is most commonly cited as distinguishing novels from historiography. However this can be a problematic criterion. Throughout the early modern period authors of historical narratives would often include inventions rooted in traditional beliefs in order to embellish a passage of text or add credibility to an opinion. Historians would also invent and compose speeches for didactic purposes. Novels can, on the other hand, depict the social, political and personal realities of a place and period with clarity and detail not found in works of history.
While prose rather than verse became the standard of the modern novel, the ancestors of the modern European novel include verse epics in the Romance language of southern France, especially those by Chrétien de Troyes (late 12th century), and in Middle English (Geoffrey Chaucer's (c. 1343 – 1400) The Canterbury Tales). Even in the 19th century, fictional narratives in verse, such as Lord Byron's Don Juan (1824), Alexander Pushkin's Yevgeniy Onegin (1833), and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856), competed with prose novels. Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate (1986), composed of 590 Onegin stanzas, is a more recent example of the verse novel.
Content: intimate experience
Both in 12th-century Japan and 15th-century Europe, prose fiction created intimate reading situations. On the other hand, verse epics, including the Odyssey and Aeneid, had been recited to a select audiences, though this was a more intimate experience than the performance of plays in theaters.
A new world of Individualistic fashion, personal views, intimate feelings, secret anxieties, "conduct" and "gallantry" spread with novels and the associated prose-romance.
The novel is today the longest genre of narrative prose fiction, followed by the novella, short story, and flash fiction. However, in the 17th century critics saw the romance as of epic length and the novel as its short rival. A precise definition of the differences in length between these types of fiction, is, however, not possible.The requirement of length has been traditionally connected with the notion that a novel should encompass the "totality of life."
The length of a novel can still be important because most literary awards use length as a criterion in the ranking system.
Although early forms of the novel are to be found in a number of places, including classical Rome, 10th– and 11th-century Japan, and Elizabethan England, the European novel is often said to have begun with Don Quixote in 1605.
Early works of extended fictional prose, or novels, include works in Latin like the Satyricon by Petronius (c. 50 AD), and The Golden Ass by Apuleius (c. 150 AD), works in Sanskrit such as the 6th– or 7th-century Daśakumāracarita by Daṇḍin, and in the 7th-century Kadambari by Banabhatta, the 11th-century Japanese Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, the 12th-century Hayy ibn Yaqdhan (or Philosophus Autodidactus, the 17th-century Latin title) by Ibn Tufail, who wrote in Arabic, the 13th-century Theologus Autodidactus by Ibn al-Nafis, another Arabic novelist, and in Chinese in the 14th-century Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong.
Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji (1010) has been described as the world's first novel and shows essentially all the qualities for which Marie de La Fayette's novel La Princesse de Clèves (1678) has been praised: individuality of perception, an interest in character development, and psychological observation. Urbanization and the spread of printed books in Song Dynasty (960-1279) China led to the evolution of oral storytelling into consciously fictional novels by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Parallel European developments did not occur for centuries, and awaited the time when the availability of paper allowed for similar opportunities.
By contrast, Ibn Tufail's Hayy ibn Yaqdhan and Ibn al-Nafis' Theologus Autodidactus are works of didactic philosophy and theology. In this sense, Hayy ibn Yaqdhan would be considered an early example of a philosophical novel, while Theologus Autodidactus would be considered an early theological novel. Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, with its story of a human outcast surviving on an island, is also likely to have influenced Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), because the work was available in an English edition in 1711.
Epic poetry exhibits some similarities with the novel, and the Western tradition of the novel reaches back into the field of verse epics, though again not in an unbroken tradition. The epics of Asia, such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (1300–1000 BC), and Indian epics such as the Ramayana (400 BCE and 200 CE), and Mahabharata (4th century BC) were as unknown in early modern Europe as was the Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf (c.750–1000 AD), which was rediscovered in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Other non-European works, such as the Torah, the Koran, and the Bible, are full of stories, and thus have also had a significant influence on the development of prose narratives, and therefore the novel. Then at the beginning of the 18th century, French prose translations brought Homer's works to a wider public, who accepted them as forerunners of the novel.
Classical Greek and Roman prose narratives included a didactic strand, with the philosopher Plato's (c.425-c.348 BC) dialogues; a satirical dimension with Petronius' Satyricon; the incredible stories of Lucian of Samosata; and Lucius Apuleius' proto-picaresque The Golden Ass, as well as the heroic romances of the Greeks Heliodorus and Longus. Longus is the author of the famous Greek novel, Daphnis and Chloe (2nd century A.D.).
Romance or chivalric romance is a type of narrative in prose or verse popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight-errant with heroic qualities, who undertakes a quest, yet it is "the emphasis on heterosexual love and courtly manners distinguishes it from the chanson de geste and other kinds of epic, which involve heroism." In later romances, particularly those of French origin, there is a marked tendency to emphasize themes of courtly love.
Originally, romance literature was written in Old French, Anglo-Norman and Occitan, later, in English, in Italian and German. During the early 13th century, romances were increasingly written as prose.
The shift from verse to prose dates from the early 13th century. The Prose Lancelot or Vulgate Cycle includes passages from that period. This collection indirectly led to Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur of the early 1470s. Prose became increasingly attractive, because It enabled writers to associate popular stories with serious histories traditionally composed in prose, and could also be more easily translated.
Popular literature also drew on themes of romance, but with ironic, satiric or burlesque intent. Romances reworked legends, fairy tales, and history, but by about 1600 they were out of fashion, and Miguel de Cervantes famously burlesqued them in Don Quixote (1605). Still, the modern image of medieval is more influenced by the romance than by any other medieval genre, and the word "medieval" evokes knights, distressed damsels, dragons, and such tropes.
Around 1800, the connotations of "romance" was modified with the development Gothic fiction.
The term novel refers back to the production of short stories that remained part of a European oral culture of storytelling into the late 19th century. Fairy tales, jokes, and humorous stories designed to make a point in a conversation, and the exemplum a priest would insert in a sermon belong into this tradition. Written collections of such stories circulated in a wide range of products from practical compilations of examples designed for the use of clerics to compilations of various stories such as Boccaccio's Decameron (1354) and Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1386–1400). The Decameron (1354) one hundred novelle told by ten people, seven women and three men, fleeing the Black Death by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills, in 1348.
Renaissance period: 1500-1700
The modern distinction between history and fiction did not exist at this time and the grossest improbabilities pervade many historical accounts found in the early modern print market. William Caxton's 1485 edition of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (1471) was sold as a true history, though the story unfolded in a series of magical incidents and historical improbabilities. Sir John Mandeville's Voyages, written in the 14th century, but circulated in printed editions throughout the 18th century, was filled with natural wonders, which were accepted as fact, like the one-footed Ethiopians who use their extremity as an umbrella against the desert sun. Both works eventually came to be viewed as works of fiction.
In the 16th and 17th centuries two factors led to the separation of history and fiction. The invention of printing immediately created a new market of comparatively cheap entertainment and knowledge in the form of chapbooks. The more elegant production of this genre by 17th- and 18th-century authors were belles lettres; that is a market that would be neither low nor academic. The second major development was the first best-seller of modern fiction, the Spanish Amadis de Gaula, by García Montalvo. However, it was not accepted as an example of belles lettres. The Amadis eventually became the archetypical romance, in contrast with the modern novel which began to be developed in the 17th century.
A chapbook is an early type of popular literature printed in early modern Europe. Produced cheaply, chapbooks were commonly small, paper-covered booklets, usually printed on a single sheet folded into books of 8, 12, 16 and 24 pages. They were often illustrated with crude woodcuts, which sometimes bore no relation to the text. When illustrations were included in chapbooks, they were considered popular prints. The tradition arose in the 16th century, as soon as printed books became affordable, and rose to its height during the 17th and 18th centuries and Many different kinds of ephemera and popular or folk literature were published as chapbooks, such as almanacs, children's literature, folk tales, nursery rhymes, pamphlets, poetry, and political and religious tracts.
The term "chapbook" for this type of literature was coined in the 19th century. The corresponding French and German terms are bibliothèque bleue (blue book) and Volksbuch, respectively. The principal historical subject matter of chapbooks was abridgements of ancient historians, popular medieval histories of knights, stories of comical heroes, religious legends, and collections of jests and fables. The new printed books reached the households of urban citizens and country merchants who visited the cities as traders. Cheap printed histories were, in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially popular among apprentices and younger urban readers of both sexes.
The early modern market, from the 1530s and 1540s, divided into low chapbooks and high market expensive, fashionable, elegant belles lettres. The Amadis and Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel were important publications with respect to this divide. Both books specifically addressed the new customers of popular histories, rather than readers of belles lettres. The Amadis was a multi–volume fictional history of style, that aroused a debate about style and elegance as it became the first best-seller of popular fiction. On the other hand, Gargantua and Pantagruel, while it adopted the form of modern popular history, in fact satirized that genre's stylistic achievements. The division, between low and high literature, became especially visible with books that appeared on both the popular and belles lettres markets in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries: low chapbooks included abridgments of books such as Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605/1615)
The term "chapbook" is also in use for present-day publications, commonly short, inexpensive booklets.
Heroic Romance is a genre of imaginative literature, which flourished in the 17th century, principally in France.The beginnings of modern fiction in France took a pseudo-bucolic form, and the celebrated L'Astrée, (1610) of Honore d'Urfe (1568-1625), which is the earliest French novel, is properly styled a pastoral. But this ingenious and diffuse production, in which all is artificial, was the source of a vast literature, which took many and diverse ms. Although its action was, in the main, languid and sentimental, there was a side of the Astree which encouraged that extravagant love of glory, that spirit of " panache," which was now rising to its height in France. That spirit it was which animated Marin le Roy de Gomberville (1603-1674), who was the inventor of what have since been known as the Heroical Romances. In these there was experienced a violent recrudescence of the old medieval elements of romance, the impossible valour devoted to a pursuit of the impossible beauty, but the whole clothed in the language and feeling and atmosphere of the age in which the books were written. In order to give point to the chivalrous actions of the heroes, it was always hinted that they were well-known public characters of the day in a romantic disguise.
Stories of witty cheats were an integral part of the European novella with its tradition of fabliaux. Significant examples include Till Eulenspiegel (1510), Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus Teutsch (1666–1668) and in England Richard Head's The English Rogue (1665). The tradition that developed with these titles focused on a hero and his life. The adventures led to satirical encounters with the real world with the hero either becoming the pitiable victim or the rogue who exploited the vices of those he met.
A second tradition of satirical romances can be traced back to Heinrich Wittenwiler's Ring (c. 1410) and to François Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532–1564), which parodied and satirized heroic romances, and did this mostly by dragging them into the low realm of the burlesque. Cervantes' Don Quixote (1606/1615) modified the satire of romances: its hero lost contact with reality by reading too many romances in the Amadisian tradition.
Other important works of the tradition are Paul Scarron's Roman Comique (1651–57), the anonymous French Rozelli with its satire on Europe's religions, Alain-René Lesage's Gil Blas (1715–1735), Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742) and Tom Jones (1749), and Denis Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist (1773, printed posthumously in 1796).
A market of literature in the modern sense of the word, that is a separate market for fiction and poetry, did not exist until the late seventeenth century. All books were sold under the rubric of "History and politicks" in the early 18th century, including pamphlets, memoirs, travel literature, political analysis, serious histories, romances, poetry, and novels.
That fictional histories shared the same space with academic histories and modern journalism had been criticized by historians since the end of the Middle Ages: fictions were "lies" and therefore hardly justifiable at all. The climate, however, changed in the 1670s.
The romance format of the quasi–historical works of Madame d'Aulnoy, César Vichard de Saint-Réal, Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras, and Anne-Marguerite Petit du Noyer, allowed the publication of histories that dared not risk an unambiguous assertion of their truth. The literary market-place of the late 17th and early 18th century employed a simple pattern of options whereby fictions could reach out into the sphere of true histories. This permitted its authors to claim they had published fiction, not truth, if they ever faced allegations of libel.
Prefaces and title pages of 17th– and early 18th-century fiction acknowledged this pattern: histories could claim to be romances, but threaten to relate true events, as in the Roman à clef. Other works could, conversely, claim to be factual histories, yet earn the suspicion that they were wholly invented. A further differentiation was made between private and public history: Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was, within this pattern, neither a "romance" nor a "novel". It smelled of romance, yet the preface stated that it should most certainly be read as a true private history.
Cervantes and the modern novel
The rise of the novel as an alternative to the romance began with the publication of Cervantes Novelas Exemplares (1613). It continued with Scarron's Roman Comique (the first part of which appeared in 1651), whose heroes noted the rivalry between French romances and the new Spanish genre.
Late 17th-century critics looked back on the history of prose fiction, proud of the generic shift that had taken place, leading towards the modern novel/novella. The first perfect works in French were those of Scarron and Madame de La Fayette's "Spanish history" Zayde (1670). The development finally led to her Princesse de Clèves (1678), the first novel with what would become characteristic French subject matter.
Europe witnessed the generic shift in the titles of works in French published in Holland, which supplied the international market and English publishers exploited the novel/romance controversy in the 1670s and 1680s. Contemporary critics listed the advantages of the new genre: brevity, a lack of ambition to produce epic poetry in prose; the style was fresh and plain; the focus was on modern life, and on heroes who were neither good nor bad. The novel's potential to become the medium of urban gossip and scandal fuelled the rise of the novel/novella. Stories were offered as allegedly true recent histories, not for the sake of scandal but strictly for the moral lessons they gave. To prove this, fictionalized names were used with the true names in a separate key. The Mercure Gallant set the fashion in the 1670s. Collections of letters and memoirs appeared, and were filled with the intriguing new subject matter and the epistolary novel grew from this and led to the first full blown example of scandalous fiction in Aphra Behn's Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684/ 1685/ 1687). Before the rise of the literary novel, reading novels had only been a form of entertainment.
However, one of the earliest English novels, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), has elements of the romance, unlike these novels, because of its exotic setting and story of survival in isolation. Crusoe lacks almost all of the elements found in these new novels: wit, a fast narration evolving around a group of young fashionable urban heroes, along with their intrigues, a scandalous moral, gallant talk to be imitated, and a brief, conciseness plot. The new developments did, however, lead to Eliza Haywood's epic length novel, Love in Excess (1719/20) and to Samuel Richardson's Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1741). Some literary historians date the beginning of the English novel with Richardson's Pamela, rather than Crusoe
18th century novel
The idea of the "rise of the novel" in the 18th century is especially associated with Ian Watt's important study The Rise of the Novel (1957). Ian Watt puts forward the idea that novel was a "new form" and associates this with the importance placed on realism by novelists such as Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding. This theory about the novel in the 18th century led to the suggestion that the earlier Romance forms of long prose narrative were either not novels or were at least inferior. However, others including Margaret Anne Doody disagree that the novel originated in the 18th century, arguing that the history of the novel is over two thousands years old, and that in addition the romance tradition continued through the 18th and 19th centuries and still flourishes today. The idea of the rise of the novel in the 18th century is especially associated with English literary criticism, and most other European languages use the word "roman" (Portuguese "romance" and Italian "romans") for an extended narratives. Novelist and critic Albert J. Guerard argues, in The Triumph of the Novel (1976), on behalf of the anti-realist "other great tradition" of the novel that includes Rabelais, Cervantes, Pynchon, Borges, García Márquez, the "Joyce of Finnegans Wake and the Nabokov of Ada", and sees Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel as contributing to a confusion between fiction and "real life", "by its insistence on 'formal realism' as implicit in the novel form in general". Guerard suggests that Watt's book is most useful "for a study of the eighteenth-century novel", but that it "should not be applied to the genre as a whole".
Given these differences in opinion, what happened in the 18th century can best be described, not as the rise of the novel, but the rise of realism in fiction. Indeed, this is what Ian Watt sees as distinguishing the novel from earlier prose narratives.
The new 18th-century status of the novel as an object of debate is manifested in the development of philosophical and experimental novels.
Philosophical fiction was not exactly new. Plato's dialogues were embedded in fictional narratives. Utopias had added to this production with works from Thomas More's Utopia (1516) to Tommaso Campanella's City of the Sun (1602). Works such as these had not been read as novels or romances but as philosophical texts. The 1740s saw new editions of More's work under the title that created the tradition: Utopia: or the happy republic; a philosophical romance (1743).
Voltaire utilised the romance to write philosophy in Micromegas: a comic romance. Being a severe satire upon the philosophy, ignorance, and self-conceit of mankind (1752, English 1753). His Zadig (1747) and Candide (1759) became central texts of the French Enlightenment and of the modern novel. Jean-Jacques Rousseau bridged the genres with his less fictional Emile: or, On Education (1762).
Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–1767) is an experimental work which rejects continuous narration. In it the author not only addresses the reader in his preface but speaks directly to him or her in his fictional narrative. In addition to his narrative experiments, Sterne has visual experiments, such as a marbled page, a black page to express sorrow, and a page of lines to show the plot lines of the book. Jonathan Swift's A Tale of a Tub (1704) was an early precursor in this field.
The romance genre in the 18th century
The rise of the word novel at the cost of its rival, the romance, remained a Spanish and English phenomenon, and though readers all over Western Europe had welcomed the novel(la) or short history as an alternative in the second half of the 17th century, only the English and the Spanish had, however, openly discredited the romance.
But the change of taste was brief and Fénelon's Telemachus (1699/1700) already exploited a nostalgia for the old romances with their heroism and professed virtue. Jane Barker explicitly advertised her Exilius as "A new Romance", "written after the Manner of Telemachus", in 1715. Robinson Crusoe spoke of his own story as a "romance", though in the preface to the third volume, published in 1720, Defoe attacks all who said "that [...] the Story is feign'd, that the Names are borrow'd, and that it is all a Romance; that there never were any such Man or Place".
The late 18th century brought an answer with the Romantic Movement's readiness to reclaim the word romance, especially with the gothic romance, but the historical novels of Walter Scott also have a strong romance element. Robinson Crusoe became a "novel" in this period appearing now as a work of the new realistic fiction that the 18th century had created.
Throughout the 19th century, romances continued to be written in Britain by writers like Emily Brontë, and in America by the dark romantic novelists Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.
The sentimental novel
Sentimental novels relied on emotional responses, both from their readers and characters. They feature scenes of distress and tenderness, and the plot is arranged to advance emotions rather than action. The result is a valorization of "fine feeling," displaying the characters as a model for refined, sensitive emotional effect. The ability to display feelings was thought to show character and experience, and to shape social life and relations.
An example of this genre of fiction is Samuel Richardson's Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740), composed "to cultivate the Principles of Virtue and Religion in the Minds of the Youth of Both Sexes" focuses on the potential victim, a heroine of all the modern virtues vulnerable through her social status and her occupation as servant of the libertine who falls in love with her. Eventually, she shows the power to reform her antagonist.
Male heroes adopted the new sentimental character traits in the 1760s. Laurence Sterne's Yorick, the hero of the Sentimental Journey (1768) did so with an enormous amount of humour. Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield (1766) and Henry Mackenzie's Man of Feeling (1771) produced the far more serious role models.
The virtuous production inspired a sub- and counterculture of pornographic novels. Greek and Latin authors in modern translations had provided elegant transgressions on the market of the belles lettres for the last century. Satirical novels like Richard Head's English Rogue (1665) had led their heroes through urban brothels, women authors like Aphra Behn had offered their heroines alternative careers as precursors of the 19th-century femmes fatales – without creating a subculture. The market for belles lettres had been openly transgressive as long as it did not find any reflections in other media. The new production beginning with works like John Cleland's Fanny Hill (1748) differed in that it offered almost exact reversals of the plot lines the virtuous production demanded. Fanny Hill is introduced to a life of prostitution, learns to enjoy her part and establishes herself as a free and economically independent individual, in editions one could only expect to buy under the counter.
Openly uncontrollable conflicts arrived in the 1770s with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). The titular hero realised how impossible it had become for him to integrate into the new conformist society. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) shows the other extreme, with a group of aristocrats playing games of intrigue and amorality.
Changing cultural status
By around 1700, fiction was no longer a predominantly aristocratic entertainment, and printed books had soon gained the power to reach readers of almost all classes, though the reading habits differed and to follow fashions remained a privilege. Spain was a trendsetter into the 1630s but French authors superseded Cervantes, de Quevedo, and Alemán in the 1640s. As Huet was to note in 1670, the change was one of manners. The new French works taught a new, on the surface freer, gallant exchange between the sexes as the essence of life at the French court.
The situation changed again from 1660s into the 1690s when works by French authors were published in Holland out of the reach of French censors. Dutch publishing houses pirated of fashionable books from France and created a new market of political and scandalous fiction. This led to a market of European rather than French fashions in the early 18th century.
By the 1680s fashionable political European novels had inspired a second wave of private scandalous publications and generated new productions of local importance. Women authors reported on politics and on their private love affairs in The Hague and in London. German students imitated them to boast of their private amours in fiction. The London, the anonymous international market of the Netherlands, publishers in Hamburg and Leipzig generated new public spheres. Once private individuals, such as students in university towns and daughters of London's upper class began write novels based on questionable reputations, the public began to call for a reformation of manners.
Reform became the main goal of the second generation of 18th-century novelists who, by the mid-century, openly welcomed the change of climate that had first been promoted in journals such as The Spectator. The Spectator Number 10 had stated that the aim was now "to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality […] to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffeehouses"). Constructive criticism of novels had until then been rare. The first treatise on the history of the novel was a preface to Marie de La Fayette's novel Zayde (1670).
New journals like The Spectator and The Tatler at the beginning of the century had reviews of novels. New "literary journals" like Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Briefe, die neuste Literatur betreffend (1758) appeared in the middle of the century with reviews of art and fiction. By the 1780s reviews played had an important role in introducing new works of fiction to the public. A later development was the introduction of novels into school curricula and later that of universities.
The acceptance of novels as literature
The French churchman and scholar Pierre Daniel Huet's Traitté de l'origine des romans (1670) laid the ground for a greater acceptance of the novel as literature in the early 18th century. The theologian had not only dared to praise fictions, but he had also explained techniques of theological reading, for the interpretation of fiction, which was a novelty: an individual could read novels and romances to gain insight into foreign and distant cultures as well as into his or her own culture. He noted that Christ had used parables to teach.
The decades around 1700 saw the appearance of new editions of Petronius, Lucian, and Heliodorus of Emesa. The publishers equipped them with prefaces that referred to Huet's treatise. and the canon it had established. Exotic fictions entered the market that gave insight into the Islamic mind. Furthermore, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights was first published in Europe from 1704 to 1715 in French, and then translated immediately into English and German, and was seen as a contribution to Huet's history of romances.
New classics were added to the market and the English, Select Collection of Novels in six volumes (1720–22), is a milestone in this development. It included Huet's Treatise, along with the European tradition of the modern novel of the day: that is, novella from Machiavelli's to Marie de La Fayette's masterpieces. Aphra Behn's prose fictions had appeared as "novels" in the 1680s but when reprinted in collections, her works became classics. Fénelon's Telemachus (1699/1700) became a classic within three years after its publication. New authors now entered the market ready to use their own personal names as authors of fiction. Eliza Haywood followed the footsteps of Aphra Behn when, in 1719, she used her name with unprecedented pride.
The very word romanticism is connected to the idea of romance, and the romance genre experienced a revival, at the end of the 18th century, with gothic fiction. The origin of the gothic romance is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story". Other important works are Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and 'Monk' Lewis's The Monk (1795).
The new romances challenged the idea that the novel involved a realistic depictions of life, and destabilized the difference the critics had been trying to establish, between serious classical art and popular fiction. Gothic romances exploited the grotesque, and some critics thought that their subject matter deserved less credit than the worst medieval tales of Arthurian knighthood, and that if the Amadis had troubled Don Quixote with curious fantasies, the new romantic tales were worse: they described a nightmare world, and explored sexual fantasies.
The authors of this new type of fiction could be (and were) accused of exploiting all available topics to thrill, arouse, or horrify their audience. These new romantic novelists, at the same time, claimed to explore the entire realm of fictionality. New, psychological interpreters, in the early 19th century, read these works as encounters with the deeper hidden truth of the human imagination: this included sexuality, anxieties, and insatiable desires. Under such psychological readings, novels were described as exploring deeper human motives, and it was suggested that such artistic freedom would reveal what had not previously been openly visible.
The romances of de Sade, Les 120 Journées de Sodome (1785), Poe's Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), and E. T. A. Hoffmann, Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815), would later attract 20th-century psychoanalysts and supply the images for 20th- and 21st-century horror films, love romances, fantasy novels, role-playing computer games, and the surrealists.
The ancient romancers most commonly wrote fiction about the remote past with little attention to historical reality. Walter Scott's historical novel Waverley (1814) broke with this earlier tradition of historical romance, and he was "the inventor of the true historical novel". At the same time he was a romantic and was influenced by gothic romance. He had collaborated "with the most famous of the Gothic novelists 'Monk' Lewis" on Tales of Wonder in 1801. With his Waverley novels Scott "hoped to do for the Scottish border" what Goethe and other German poets "had done for the Middle Ages, "and make its past live again in modern romance". Scott's novels "are in the mode he himself defined as romance, 'the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents'". He used his imagination to re-evaluate history by rendering things, incidents and protagonists in the way only the novelist could do. His work remained historical fiction, yet it questioned existing historical perceptions. The use of historical research was an important tool: Scott, the novelist, resorted to documentary sources as any historian would have done, but as a romantic artist he gave his subject a deeper imaginative and emotional significance. By combining research with "marvelous and uncommon incidents", Scott attracted a far wider market than any historian could, and he became the most famous novelist of his generation, throughout Europe.
The Victorian period: 1837–1901
In the 19th century the relationship between authors, publishers, and readers, changed. Most of the early 18th-century fiction had been published anonymously. Authors had offered their manuscripts and received all the payment to be expected for the manuscript. The new copyright laws introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries promised royalties on all future editions. Another change in the 19th century was that novelists began to read their works in theaters, halls, and bookshops.
Fiction was altered by these changes, including the creation of more difficult works. New novels also addressed openly current political and social issues, which were being discussed in newspapers and magazines. The idea of responsibility became a key issue, whether of the citizen, or of the artist. The theoretical debate concentrated on questions around the moral soundness of the modern novel, on the integrity of individual artists, as well as the claims of aesthetes like as Oscar Wilde and Algernon Charles Swinburne, who proposed the idea of "art for art's sake".
In this period the market for popular fiction grew, and competed with works of literature. New institutions like the circulating library create a new market with a mass reading public.
Major British writers such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy were influenced by the romance genre tradition of the novel. The Brontë sisters were notable mid-19th-century creators in this tradition, with Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Publishing at the very end of the 19th century, Joseph Conrad has been called, "a supreme 'romancer'". In America "the romance ... proved to be a serious, flexible, and successful medium for the exploration of philosophical ideas and attitudes." Notable examples include Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
A number of European novelists were influenced during this period by the earlier Romantic Movement, including Victor Hugo, with novels like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862), and Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov with A Hero of Our Time (1840).
Many 19th-century authors dealt with significant social matters. Émile Zola's novels depicted the world of the working classes, which Marx and Engels's non-fiction explores. In the United States slavery and racism became topics of far broader public debate thanks to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), which dramatizes topics that had previously been discussed mainly in the abstract. Charles Dickens' novels led his readers into contemporary workhouses, and provided first-hand accounts of child labor. The treatment of the subject of war changed with Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (1868/69), where he questions the facts provided by historians. Similarly the treatment of crime is very different in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1866), where the point of view is that of a criminal. Women authors had dominated fiction from the 1640s into the early 18th century, but few before George Eliot so openly questioned the role, education, and status of women in society, as she did.
As the novel became a platform of modern debate, national literatures were developed that link the present with the past in the form of the historical novel. Alessandro Manzoni's I Promessi Sposi (1827) did this for Italy, while novelists in Russia and the surrounding Slavonic countries, as well as Scandinavia, did likewise.
Along with this new appreciation of history, the future also became a topic for fiction. This had been done earlier in works like Samuel Madden's Memoirs of the Twentieth Century (1733) and Mary Shelley's The Last Man (1826), a work whose plot culminated in the catastrophic last days of a mankind extinguished by the plague. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1887) and H. G. Wells's The Time Machine (1895) were concerned with technological and biological developments. Industrialization, Darwin's theory of evolution and Marx's theory of class divisions shaped these works and turned historical processes into a subject of wide debate. Bellamy's Looking Backward became the second best-selling book of the 19th century after Harriet Beecher-Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Such works led to the development of a whole genre of popular science fiction as the 20th century approached.
Modernism and post-modernism
James Joyce's Ulysses (1922) had a major influence on modern novelists, in the way that it replaced the 18th- and 19th-century narrator with a text that attempted to record inner thoughts: a "stream of consciousness". This term was first used by William James in1890 and is used (or the related interior monologue) by modernists like Dorothy Richardson, Marcel Proust, as well as, later Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Also in the 1920s expressionist Alfred Döblin went in a different direction with Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), where interspersed non-fictional text fragments exist alongside the fictional material to create another new form of realism, which differs from that of stream-of-consciousness.
Later works like Samuel Beckett's trilogy Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951) and The Unnamable (1953), as well as Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (1963) and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973) all make use of the stream-of-consciousness technique. On the other hand, Robert Coover is an example of those authors, who the 1960s, fragmented their stories and challenged time and sequentiality as fundamental structural concepts.
The 20th century novels deals with a wide range of subject matter. Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) focusses on young German's experiences of World War I (and the more existentialist Thor Goote created as a national socialist alternative). The Jazz Age is explored by American F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the Great Depression by fellow American John Steinbeck. The rise of totalitarian states is the subject of British writer George Orwell. France's existentialism is the subject of French writers Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea (1938) and Albert Camus' The Stranger (1942). The counterculture of the 1960s led to revived interest in Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf (1927), and produced such iconic works of its own like Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club (1996) (with the help of the film adaptation) is a male response to feminist politics. Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Elfriede Jelinek were feminist voices during this period. Novelist have also been interested in the subject of racial and gender identity in recent decades.
Furthermore, the major political and military confrontations of the 20th and 21st centuries have also influenced novelists. The events of World War II, from a German perspective, are dealt with by Günter Grass' The Tin Drum (1959) and an American by Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961). The subsequent Cold War influenced popular spy novels. Latin American self-awareness in the wake of the (failing) left revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s resulted in a "Latin American Boom", linked to with the names of novelists Julio Cortázar, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez, along with the invention of a special brand of postmodern magic realism. .
Another major 20th-century social events, the so-called sexual revolution is reflected in the modern novel. D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover had to be published in Italy in 1928; British censorship lifted its ban as late as 1960. Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1934) created the comparable US scandal. Transgressive fiction from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955) to Michel Houellebecq's Les Particules élémentaires (1998) entered a literary field that eventually led to more pornographic works such as Anne Desclos' Story of O (1954) to Anaïs Nin's Delta of Venus (1978).
In the second half of the 20th century, Postmodern authors subverted serious debate with playfulness, claiming that art could never be original, that it always plays with existing materials. The idea that language is self-referential was already an accepted truth in the world of pulp fiction. A postmodernist re-reads popular literature as an essential cultural production. Novels from Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (1980) and Foucault's Pendulum (1989) made use of intertextual references
See also: Thriller, Westerns and Speculative fiction
The historic advantage of genres is to allow the direct marketing of fiction. While the reader of so-called elitist literature will follow public discussions of novels, the popular production has to employ the traditionally more direct and short-term marketing strategies with the open declarations of their content. The most popular novels are based entirely on the expectations for the particular genre, and this includes the creation of a series of novels with an identifiable brand name. i.e. the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle
Popular literature holds the largest market share. Romance fiction had an estimated $1.375 billion share in the US book market in 2007. Inspirational literature/religious literature followed with $819 million, science fiction/fantasy with $700 million, mystery with $650 million and then classic literary fiction with $466 million.
Popular literature might be seen as the successor of the early modern chapbook. Both fields share a focus on readers who are in search of accessible reading satisfaction.< The 20th-century love romance is a successor of the novels Madeleine de Scudéry, Marie de La Fayette, Aphra Behn, and Eliza Haywood wrote from the 1640s into the 1740s. The modern adventure novel goes back to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and its immediate successors. Modern pornography has no precedent in the chapbook market but originates in libertine and hedonistic belles lettres, of works like John Cleland's Fanny Hill (1749) and similar eighteenth century novels. Ian Fleming's James Bond is a descendant of the anonymous yet extremely sophisticated and stylish narrator who mixed his love affairs with his political missions in La Guerre d'Espagne (1707). Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon is influenced by Tolkien, as well as Arthurian literature, including its 19th-century successors. Modern horror fiction also has no precedent on the market of chapbooks but goes back to the elitist market of early-19th-century Romantic literature. Modern popular science fiction has an even shorter history, from the 1860s.
The authors of popular fiction tend to proclaim that they have exploited the controversial topics – and that is the essential difference between them and so-called elitist literature. Dan Brown does this by discussing on his website the question whether his Da Vinci Code is an anti-Christian novel.
The author of popular fiction has a fan community to serve, so that she or he can risk rebuffing the literary critic. However, the artificial boundaries between popular and serious literature have blurred in recent years, through the explorations of postmodern and poststructuralist writers, as well as by adaptation of popular literary classics by the film industry.
Crime became a major subject of 20th and 21st century genre novelists and Crime fiction reflects the realities of modern industrialized societies. Crime is personal and public subject: criminals each have their personal motivations; detectives, see their moral codes challenged. Patricia Highsmith's thrillers became a medium of new psychological explorations. Paul Auster's New York Trilogy (1985–1986) is an example of experimental postmodernist literature.
Fantasy has become a major area of commercial fiction. A major example is J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954/55), a work that mutated from a book written for young readers in search of openly fictionalised role models into a major cultural artefact. Tolkien successfully revived European epic literature from Beowulf and the North Germanic Edda as well as the Arthurian Cycles.
Science fiction has developed a variety of genres from the early, technological adventure Jules Verne had made fashionable in the 1860s. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) has become a focus for debate about Western consumerism and technology. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) deals with totalitarianism and surveillance, among other matters. Stanisław Lem, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke produced modern classics which focus on the interaction between humans and machines. A new wave of authors explore post-apocalyptic fantasies and virtual reality. William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) became a cult classic and founded cyberpunk science fiction.