Rise of the English Novel

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Rise of the English Novel

By | September 2008
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The Rise of the English Novel
English literature has a long and colorful history. From the masterfully written old English tales of Chaucer to the countless Shakespearian dramas to the poetic verses of Tennyson, England has produced some of the richest treasures of the literary world. Not until the eighteenth century, however, did a type of literature develop that completely broke the traditions of the past and opened the door to a whole new generation of writers. This new genre was appropriately called the English novel, and it helped to change the literary landscape forever. The English novel was not only a genre within itself, but it also formed several sub genres including historical, gothic, sentimental, epistolary and bildungsroman novels. The works within the genre were so diverse that many different types of authors were able to write according to their own styles and preferences. The development of the novel changed literature not only in England, but throughout the world.

The English novel is a type of literature “such as was never heard of in the world before (Longman 3069),” as Daniel Defoe says in his masterpiece novel Robinson Crusoe. While it was not the only new form of literature that was emerging during the eighteenth century, it was the form that best broke from tradition. The novel rejected the norms of the literary past and began to exhibit the originality that was coming to be valued in English culture. The new characteristics of the novel separated it from anything that had ever been done before. During the Renaissance, there had been a growing tendency to place more emphasis on individual experience rather than collective tradition. Writers like Milton, Chaucer, Spenser, and even the legendary Greek and Roman poets had derived most of their plots from mythology, history, legend or previous literature. Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson were the first to take the emerging trends of individuality and originality and apply them...

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