Historical Notions of the Novel

According to John Richetti piece, the novel in what we commonly think of it today is a twentieth century notion. Novel what we term as “prose fiction” is a current perception. Today, we view novel as Richetti notes, “long prose narrative about largely fictional if usually realistic characters and plausible events.” The term in the eighteenth century was fluid. There were no set boundaries for what was concerned the novel. It was only toward that the latter part of the eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century with Jane Austen and Walter Scott that readers considered the importance and the significance of this new literary piece. Even in the eighteenth century there were many notions of the novel that differed to our conception of what the novel is perceived today. For example, Richetti notes the line of fiction and fact was blurred. He notes that fiction was presented as fact in the eighteenth century. He notes the issue that arises for most students is, “Why expectations for prose fiction seem to have shifted so clearly during the middle of the century, and why by the end of the century something called the novel very clearly exists in the minds of readers and writers. The novels in the eighteenth century presented the news of the affairs and lives of the aristocrats. These novels were read by readers, in order for readers to gather news about the world in which they lived. Also, the novels captured, as Richetti, states, “the myth of personal possibility.” They normally, told the story of a young man who goes from the familiar of family, in order to make a successful living and create a family for himself. The ideas for the novel can be captured with the social and historical events that had occurred during the time. This was the period of the Enlightenment. Many historians are not sure when the first novels appear. These historians mark Behn and other writers for having been the first novel writers.
An interesting note that Richetti also states is that the novels were called histories. He states that the novels “chronicled the daily experience, conflicts, and thoughts of ordinary men and women. The novel was a very popular form of fiction in England. According to Richettie, “When the novel came to be accepted, it represented the acceptance of the narratives about contemporary life and times of the period.”
Richetti notes the changes in which the novel underwent. For example, he states, “the novel when through many changes and it began as a short tale of romance love, gradually was broadened to include longer fiction of various kinds and then narratives, again to describe the new “realistic” forms that features ordinary people in familiar, everyday, contemporary circumstances.” He notes, “exactly when and where the novel originated is hard to say.” He also states, “the novel is just what histories depicts, the history of a present-day individual in a recognizable social and cultural context. The plot might involve ongoing or even enduring- human issues, and the hero or heroine might be “typical” or representative” of its time and place. The emphasis was on the individual, the local, and the particular.” He mentions, “unlike traditional literary genres, the novel sought to record and privilege the specific details that shaped the daily contingent lives or ordinary people, unlike solutions because human nature was constant across cultures and times, the novel offered varied, circumstantial, and individual outcomes a freedom from formal determination that left texts open to tell whatever individual stories they chose by referring causes and effects to local choices and cultural particulars.”
He notes that the novel was first rejected for many reasons. The main reason he notes for the rejection of the novel was primarily based on “cultural particulars.” These include critical theories of formalism, structuralism which were hostile to historical questions and texts and showed little interest in any text that was not already considered a “great book.”
In think it is interesting how the author notes the changes in which the novel took place, and the difference between how the novel was first perceived to how we understand the novel today.