Topics: Literature, Fiction, Novel Pages: 2 (876 words) Published: April 21, 2015
Although early prose fiction prototypes of the novel had been popular with readers since the late seventeenth century, the English novel as such only became a mature and predominant literary form in the mid-eighteenth century. After decades of embattled popularity—embattled because the guardians of aesthetic value saw these works of fictions as a frivolous and corrupting upstart too derivative of French romance—the novel finally won a respectable place in the literary echelons in the 1740s, due largely to the works of two writers: Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. Daniel Defoe's Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1719, was the only earlier prose fiction to earn similar favour. The change in opinion, as well as the last step in the novel's rise to sovereignty, has been attributed to the growing presence of realism as the novel's defining formal characteristic. Before the eighteenth century, prose fiction was a relatively rare phenomenon and aroused controversy about narrative fabrication, a largely religious concern quite foreign to readers today. Nonetheless, seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century readers of, for example, travel narratives were apt to criticize authors for making up tales rather than recording actual experiences. Consequently, authors of the same period typically presented their writings as manuscripts they had found and edited for public consumption. In this way, realism in the novel was synonymous with veracity: it denied altogether its fictionality and, in prefaces and other narrative devices, asserted its reality to the reader. By the end of the eighteenth century, the reading public happily consumed "novels"—those prose fictions understood to be an author's original fabrication with wholly fictive characters and events. Since realism in these works could not suggest anything about their veracity, it encompassed instead the dominant meanings the term has today, described by literary critic Ian Watt in 1962 as...
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