Defining the genre::Novel


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Defining the genre

Madame de Pompadour spending her afternoon with a book, 1756.

A novel is a long, fictional narrative which describes intimate human experiences. The novel in the modern era usually makes use of a literary prose style, and the development of the prose novel at this time was encouraged by innovations in printing, and the introduction of cheap paper, in the 15th century.

The present English (and Spanish) word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the Italian novella for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself from the Latin novella, a singular noun use of the neuter plural of novellus, diminutive of novus, meaning "new".<ref group = note>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Most European languages have preserved the term "romance" (as in French, Dutch, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian "roman"; German "Roman"; Portuguese "romance" and Italian "romanzo") for extended narratives.

A fictional narrative

Fictionality is most commonly cited as distinguishing novels from historiography. However this can be a problematic criterion. Throughout the early modern period authors of historical narratives would often include inventions rooted in traditional beliefs in order to embellish a passage of text or add credibility to an opinion. Historians would also invent and compose speeches for didactic purposes. Novels can, on the other hand, depict the social, political and personal realities of a place and period with clarity and detail not found in works of history.

Literary prose

While prose rather than verse became the standard of the modern novel, the ancestors of the modern European novel include verse epics in the Romance language of southern France, especially those by Chrétien de Troyes (late 12th century), and in Middle English (Geoffrey Chaucer's (c. 1343 – 1400) The Canterbury Tales).<ref>Doody (1996), pp. 18-3, 187.</ref> Even in the 19th century, fictional narratives in verse, such as Lord Byron's Don Juan (1824), Alexander Pushkin's Yevgeniy Onegin (1833), and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856), competed with prose novels. Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate (1986), composed of 590 Onegin stanzas, is a more recent example of the verse novel.<ref>Doody (1996), p. 187.</ref>

Content: intimate experience

Both in 12th-century Japan and 15th-century Europe, prose fiction created intimate reading situations. On the other hand, verse epics, including the Odyssey and Aeneid, had been recited to a select audiences, though this was a more intimate experience than the performance of plays in theaters.

A new world of Individualistic fashion, personal views, intimate feelings, secret anxieties, "conduct" and "gallantry" spread with novels and the associated prose-romance.


The novel is today the longest genre of narrative prose fiction, followed by the novella, short story, and flash fiction. However, in the 17th century critics saw the romance as of epic length and the novel as its short rival. A precise definition of the differences in length between these types of fiction, is, however, not possible.The requirement of length has been traditionally connected with the notion that a novel should encompass the "totality of life."<ref>György Lukács The Theory of the Novel. A historico-philosophical essay on the forms of great epic literature [first German edition 1920], transl. by Anna Bostock (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1971).</ref>

The length of a novel can still be important because most literary awards use length as a criterion in the ranking system.<ref group = note>The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Award [1] gives the following guidelines: Novel – 40,000 words or more; Novella – 17,500–39,999 words; Novelette – 7,500–17,499 words; Short Story – 7,499 words or fewer. For this purpose, "word" is understood to be five characters plus one space, so, a novel must have at least 240,000 characters-with-spaces, which, in practice, does make about one hundred printed pages, a reasonable length for a novel.The Booker Prize in 2007 created a serious debate with its short-listing of Ian McEwan's 152-page work On Chesil Beach, with some critics stating that McEwan had at best written a novella.Cf. a rather unfavourable review in the Irish Independent: "Ian McEwan's new novel has been greeted with unqualified, sometimes ecstatic, praise from every reviewer in Britain, which may strike some readers here as a bit odd when they read the book. For a start, it's not a novel. It's barely even a novella. In some ways it's more a long short story, built around a single event and involving just two characters—if it was a play it would be a one-act two-hander."</ref>

Novel sections
Intro  Defining the genre  Early novels  Medieval period 1100\u20131500  Renaissance period: 1500-1700  18th century novel  19th century novel  The 20th century and later  See also  Notes  References  Further reading  

Defining the genre
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