[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

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

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