A Book Report on The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth Century Novel by John Richetti
Yang Yizhuo 1101212856
The Cambridge Companion is a collection of essays contributed by different writers, therefore in order to avoid creating confusion I will in this book report mainly extract the ideas expressed in the book without constantly mentioning the specific works or writers.
1. The term “novel”
Eighteenth century witnessed the advent of the novel and is regarded as the formative period of novel, but the meaning of term “novel” in eighteenth century was by no means the same one that modern readers refer to. “Novel” is just one of the terms concerning prose narratives, other terms being “romance”, “history”, “true history”, and “secret history”. The term “novel” gained its clear sense in the end of eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. Now it has broadened its meaning to encompass long fiction, history or other narrative form. Traditional narrative forms, such as romance, are more fictional and mysterious than real. Because of the influence of Enlightenment thought, the desire for reality drove the readers to seek for a literary form that depicts common people and ordinary life that they were familiar with. So we see truth claims at the beginning of Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe. A great many people even believe the events or places appeared in novels were real. We may hear of that some readers even went so far as to find the places depicted in the Gulliver’s Travels.
2. The novel and social history
Novel in the eighteenth century was not only poplar among the newly rising middle class, but also among the working class, especially the young. Even those who received little formal education could read novels because novels are accessible to common people. People read them for pleasure and the young often appealed to novel for solution when were faced with difficulties, especially when they were in difficulties in love or...