Novels Before The 18th Century

Also Read

      Although, the European novel is generally known to have started since the publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote in 1605, the proper beginning of novel was found in the of the 18th century Europe, as with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Of course, the genre was prevalent in some other literary circles including classical Rome, ancient Greek, French, 10th and 11th century Japan, and also Elizabethan England. In English literature, some works are often referred to as novels, but this depends upon multidimensional analyses. For example, Thomas Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur (1471) is often called the first novel in English. Similarly, there are some other works of the period before the 18th century, which are viewed as novels, such as John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688).

      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 were designed to be the possible thematic aspects of such stories. 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 Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (1386-1400). The Decameron is a collection of one hundred novellas told by ten people, seven women and three men, fleeing the Black Death by escaping from Florence to the Fiesole hills, in 1348.

      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 Mallory’s Morte d’Artliur 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. There were facts of 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.

      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 Cleves (1678), the first novel with what would become characteristic French subject matter.

Previous Post Next Post