The Novel
Rising from the mists of the Imagination and
Not, as was once thought, a European
 We basically have the World wide view to thank for this
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.
Remember in 1604 Cervantes sold the rights of El ingenioso
hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha
Extended fictions with modern historical backgrounds were
fashionable on the French international market before
Robinson Crusoe appeared which has traditionally held the
position as the first English novel..
Ancient Novels from the Classical
Periods? No!
 As tempting as it may be to see novels everywhere in the
past—Homer’s The Odyssey as a novel or Chaucer’s
Troilus and Crusade as a novel—the origins of the modern
novel do not exist in the ancient Mediterranean cultures
nor in medieval Europe, neither in the epic tradition nor in
the traditions of shorter fictions.
 In fact, the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Indian epics such
as the Ramayana and Mahabharata were unknown in
Europe in the 1670s; so were the European Beowulf or the
Niebelungenlied – 19th-century scholarship created an
awareness of these traditions. The traditions of fictions in a
wider context are by contrast extremely difficult to get
hold of.
There were things in the mix: ProtoNovels (like novels but not)
 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. Also 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.
More Early Prose Fiction
 The history of prose fiction remains heterogeneous
with parallel developments all around the globe.
heterogeneous = consisting of dissimilar or diverse
ingredients or constituents : mixed
 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 alNafis in the 13th century, and Romance of the
Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th
Heterogeneous: composed of parts of different kinds;
having a widely dissimilar elements or constituents: The
party was attended by a heterogeneous group of artists,
politicians and social climbers.
The Spiritual Biography
 First example is The Confessions by
St. Augustine (written between 391396 AD).
Considered the first autobiography
(first person narrator).
Developed the idea of the
importance of the individual in
relation with God.
Viewed a person’s life as an
example (an exemplum) for others.
Developed the expectation of the
landscape of the human mind.
The Medieval Romance
 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.
What opened the Flood Gates?
Business. . .it’s always Business!
 In a very real sense the genre of the novel is based on the
creation of a new kind of technology which created a new
kind of product—the cheaply made book.
 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.
 Book sellers needed something to print!
The Rise of the Novel as a World
 A wave of new literatures has brought forth novels
with Asian and African authors since then.
 Their novels became already contributions the
history of world literature the 19th century created
and the 20th century 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 Novel - Mount Vernon Nazarene University