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British Novel

  • Date Submitted: 03/14/2013 10:39 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 33.5 
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British Novel

The novel originated in the early 18th century after the Italian word "novella," which was used for stories in the medieval period. Its identity has evolved and it is now considered to mean a work of prose fiction over 50,000 words. Novels focus on character development more than plot. In any genre, it is the study of the human psyche.

The ancestors of the novel were Elizabethan prose fiction and French heroic romances, which were long narratives about contemporary characters who behaved nobly. The novel came into popular awareness towards the end of the 1700s, due to a growing middle class with more leisure time to read and money to buy books. Public interest in the human character led to the popularity of autobiographies, biographies, journals, diaries and memoirs.
The early English novels concerned themselves with complex, middle-class characters struggling with their morality and circumstances. "Pamela," a series of fictional letters written in 1741 by Samuel Richardson, is considered the first real English novel. Other early novelists include Daniel Defoe, who wrote "Robinson Crusoe" (1719) and "Moll Flanders" (1722), although his characters were not fully realized enough to be considered full-fledged novels. Jane Austen is the author of "Pride and Prejudice" (1812), and "Emma" (1816), considered the best early English novels of manners.
The first half of the 19th century was influenced by the romanticism of the previous era. The focus was now on nature and imagination rather than intellect and emotion. Gothic is a strain of the romantic novel with its emphasis on the supernatural. Famous romantic novels include "Jane Eyre" (1847) by Charlotte Bronte, the prototype of many succeeding novels about governesses and mystery men; "Wuthering Heights" (1847) a Gothic romance by Emily Bronte; "The Scarlet Letter" (1850), and "The House of Seven Gables" (1851), gothic, romantic tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne about puritanism and guilt; and "Moby...

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