[LMB] History of novels

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Sun Jan 9 17:30:19 GMT 2011


Elin said ... <snip> So, leaving the matter of pre-printing era long prose
fiction aside, I was still a bit surprised to see you cite Defoe and Behn
but not Cervantes, as I usually see "Don Quixote" mentioned as either the
first true novel, or one of the first, in other books of literary history.
How would you classify that work?

John: Sorry about the misattribution -- and I certainly didn't mean to
slight Cervantes, which I'd think of as pretty much a novel, in the modern
sense, though very much in the transitional period. It's quite romance-y (in
the older mediaeval sense of romance) and picaresque, as are other roughly
contemporary Iberian prose works ; the way in which it could be fairly
directly extended in the sequel points that way also. Still, as I say, I've
no problem with calling it a novel -- it's extending the term wholesale to
pre-print narratives over 2,000-odd years that seems to me unhelpful and
misconceived.

Which isn't to say that the 'old history' Doody was reacting against -- Ian
Watt, mainly -- is perfect, but it does recognise that the printing press
made a fundamental difference, as Doody doesn't.

Cervantes, btw, was one of the earliest, ah, victims of fanfic. Someone
else's DQ Part 2 came out before Cervantes's own continuation, which alludes
to the piracy within its text.

-- 
John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)
Director of Studies in English, St Catharine's College

General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs
www.humanities-ebooks.co.uk



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