Rise of the English Novel

5132 Words Oct 3rd, 2008 21 Pages
The Rise of the English Novel English literature has a long and colorful history. From the masterfully written old English tales of Chaucer to the countless Shakespearian dramas to the poetic verses of Tennyson, England has produced some of the richest treasures of the literary world. Not until the eighteenth century, however, did a type of literature develop that completely broke the traditions of the past and opened the door to a whole new generation of writers. This new genre was appropriately called the English novel, and it helped to change the literary landscape forever. The English novel was not only a genre within itself, but it also formed several sub genres including historical, gothic, sentimental, epistolary and …show more content…
The changing cultural values, the emergence of a large literary middle class, and the greater availability of literature to the public allowed for the novel to become a popular vehicle for literature. In the eighteenth century, British citizens began to question many cultural norms; several revolutions were fought, philosophers questioned traditional beliefs, and science began to take a new shape. While these major changes in society were occurring, the novel brought along a change in literature. The unified society and worldview of the Middle Ages began to change during the Renaissance and brought about a developing interest in “particular individuals having particular experiences at particular times and at particular places (Watt 31).” The culture of the eighteenth century placed an unprecedented value on originality. Philosophers like Hume began to reject universal beliefs, and there began to be more emphasis on essentials in philosophy. This emphasis on detail translated to the works of novelists. The novel represented individuality and placed fewer demands on its audience in order to paint a picture of a realistic world. One of the main reasons for the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century was the increasing size of the literary middle class; the aristocracy and upper-class were no longer the only people who were able to read. The amount of literate citizens increased significantly, Burke estimated it at 80,000 in the 1790’s (36). This was