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The eighteenth-century novel.

During the same time that poetry was developing a new emotional tone, another form, that of extended prose fiction, was becoming the most popular literary form. The roots of the novel lay in forms not usually considered literature: periodical essays, letters and diaries, news reports, criminal confessions, and the spiritual autobiographies of Dissenters. In all these subliterary forms, the focus is on the day-to-day experiences of ordinary people in realistic situations. With these roots the novel was clearly distinguished from the romance tale, in which idealized or allegorical characters undertake surprising and fantastic adventures. From its beginning, the novel displayed the textures of family and social relationships and of the material world in which these characters existed. The reader was urged to trust in the authenticity of the story. One of the conventions of the early novel is a preface in which a supposed editor, really the author, tells how the manuscript was found and vouches for the turth of the events recorded. Such claims had two functions: they evaded the still common puritancial objections to fiction as mere lies and they helped the reader identify with the situations and characters.

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Author:McCoy, Kathleen; Harlan, Judith A.V.
Publication:English Literature to 1785
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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