Rise of the British Novel 1688-1815: Nothing more than a Mutation The transition from the oral tradition to print took centuries, and the novel, in a way, came to replace the epic poem as the custom for long and involved stories – or as Clara Reeve puts it in, The Progress of Romance,“Epics in prose. […]” (352). Previously, myths and legends passed down from generation to generation were considered histories. First, the way that “histories”, is used in this theme, addresses the fictional interpretation of past narratives, places, and characters. Second, using the term “common history” or “past”, and “general history” refer to actual history as it had happened in the past. The latter clarification is important, in order to understand why the 18th-century British novel was misinterpreted as a new and foul phenomenon during the past time line. At first glance the early 18th-century novel did not have a highly prestige, because society was used to heroes fighting for the good cause in lengthy Romances. The novel, however, appearing with different conventions and writing styles, was the logical progression from former customs such as, epics, dramas, and of curse fictional narratives – like Romances, which were not factual. In other words, novels were not a new literature genre, as British society had bemoaned, but rather a mutation of the former writing systems. This new form of mutation separated the novel from the Romance as it characterized fictionalized realism of ordinary people, living their ordinary life in ordinary places. Novels presented lower or middle class heroes written in their common language, in their contemporary environment, while finding a way to connect with the fallen or lucky heroes. This was done through credibility and the reality of life that was common and believable for 18th-century society. It reflected what reality was about, when (non) -heroes spoke about their mischiefs or positive happenings, as everybody could relate due to the...
Cited: Nixon, Cheryl L., ed. Novel Definitions: An Anthology of Commentary on the Novel,
1688-1815. London: Broadview Press, 2009. Print.
1 Unless otherwise noted, all references to 18th Century literacy citation come from Novel Definitions (ed. Cynthia Nixon).
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