Welcome to the novel
Here The Muse Of Literature explores the literary form called The Novel. Structures for several new forms of the novel have been invented by extraordinarily creative and original authors. They illustrate that literary form is still fresh, alive, and living after almost a thousand years of development.
About this feature
A modern novel is a fictitious prose narrative (i.e., a concocted story or imaginary account) of considerable length and complexity portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of actions and scenes.
Some experts allege that the first novel was born in the eighteenth century; others that it began in fourteenth century Italy with a related literary form called the novella. Still others claim that the first novel was written in eleventh century China; some believe that novels were written in Classical Rome. And if by a novel you are referring to the way novels are written today, some believe the novel was born in the nineteenth century.
Opinions vary all over the place for many reasons, mostly because people's definition for a novel varies all over the map.
Because of the public's direct experience with the way novels are written today, it considers the novel to be a stable literary form that has experienced little change in modern times. But literati who have studied the subject realize that the novel's form and substance have evolved continuously since it was invented, and that it's still evolving, even now.
Actually, the way novels are written today has its roots in the fields of Western European medieval and early modern romance as it evolved between the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, and indirectly because of the tradition of Italian novella.
Despite it's linguistic resemblance to the term novel, the word novella, which means new in Italian, is an Italian renaissance word that was not used there to describe anything resembling a modern novel. In renaissance Italy it referred to the first "long short stories;" it has never denoted a novel in the modern sense of that term. In the way it's used now, the word novella signifies a fictional prose narrative that is longer and more complex than a short story but shorter and less complex than a novel, a narrative that's short enough to down in a single sitting.
In truth, no matter how closely it may resemble other kinds of stories, the modern novel is a thing in itself, a unique art form quite apart from any other form of literature. And it's uniqueness is in large measure what makes it great.
The current body of modern novels is an amazing collection that includes brilliant authors and masterpieces, works exhibiting striking beauty and significance that sparkle with artistic excellence. Compared with other kinds of important literary works that tell stories—and there are many of them—modern novels account for an amazing number of the greatest books ever written.
These rules, methods, practices, and other conventions for constructing novels work and work well, not just for writing novels, but also for composing other literary forms. They have made a spectacular contribution not only to novels, but also to literature as a whole, thus accounting for why novels are often confused with other forms of literature.
The nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries were periods of economic and cultural innovation in many parts of the world, perhaps the most unrivalled ones ever to have occurred. Many writers working in these periods believed that their hands were untied by these revolutions; they felt free to devise new kinds of novels and to create new literary genres that mirrored the times and places in which they lived.
These writers were ingenious and had many new things to say. As a result, novel writing has become one of the most creative kinds of writing ever to have occurred at any time and place. But as with other types of creative literature, not all novel writing is great, nor even good; sadly, novels also are among some of the most trashy forms of writing.
The purpose of this feature is to explore these and numerous other aspects of the novel as a literary form—the general nature of the novel, its literary characteristics, its birth and history, and its evolution. It also treats numerous other subjects important for an understanding and appreciation of this literary form that will help readers better understand and appreciate the novels they read. Such subjects include the different kinds of novels that have been written, novel structures and genres, recent developments in the field, and many more.
A novel is a fictitious prose narrative (i.e., a concocted story or imaginary account) of considerable length and complexity portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of actions and scenes.
The modern novel is a literary form that dates back at least two hundred years. Or, if you're willing to accept alternate definitions for the word novel, it goes back much farther.
The novel literary form has its roots in the fields of medieval and early modern romance literature and in the novella, which was the name for a then-new fourteenth century Italian Renaissance literary form that was longer than a short story.
In fourteenth century Renaissance Italy, the word novella meant new. It was appropriated then to describe a new-ly invented, longer kind of literature which was longer than a short story. The same thing happened in eighteenth century England, when the Italian word novella was appropriated to describe a new kind of longer and more complex English narrative. Thereafter it eventually became the source of the English word novel.
Despite its age, today the novel is one of the most creative kinds of literature in the world, one whose literary format and genres are still undergoing significant innovation at the hands of highly imaginative novelists.
The Muse Of Language Arts demonstrates that novel writing is still a fresh game played by contemporary and recent authors. At the feature called Novel Novels, the Muse explores a few of the many ways novels have changed in the hands of a select group of highly innovative novelists; and the Muse explores some of the forces that have impelled this change.
Birth Of The modern novel
The modern novel literary form has just experienced its two hundredth birthday. Two hundred years may seem like too long a time to call the modern novel modern, but modern is a relative term. Considering how long mankind has been telling stories that are not novels, even at two centuries the modern novel is a relatively recent development.
Yes, people have been telling stories for well over two hundred years, for almost as long as anyone can say with certainty—for literally tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of years before the modern novel emerged on the scene, and possibly even before that. So from an historical perspective, the first modern novels were a brand new (or novel) form of literature because the way they told stories was quite different from all those older kinds of stories that had preceded them.
And modern novels are still quite different in the same way today as they were when they were invented. Remarkably, the modern novel's literary form—the novel's structure—hasn't fundamentally changed since it was conceived; it's as fresh and vibrant as ever. Stories being told today with modern novels have basically the same literary formats as existed two centuries ago. Yet those penned in the twenty-first century are just as right for their time as those penned in the past.
What, then, are the literary and linguistic traits that make modern novels truly different from all these other ways to tell stories, and special? What are their technical specs: their literary forms, genres, language characteristics, and other properties? What is it about modern novels that makes them especially effective and meritorious? When, where, how, why, and by whom were they originally conceived?
Are you a modern novel reader?
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