History of Novels

Do you know the history of novels? Who was the first novel writer? Read here to find out!

History of Novels

The Birth of Novels

Are you familiar with the background or history of novels? Where did novels come from? Who was the first author to write a novel? 

In the 21st century, where the novel is considered the most popular form of entertainment, it’s impossible to imagine novels not being around. But prior to the eighteenth century, novels did not exist as a literary form. Prior to novels, authors retold stories that were already well known. And the genre of fiction was expected to just reinvent a story previously told. For example, an author might reuse characters such as Hercules or Adam and Eve and tell a new rendition of their story. 

Daniel DeFoe was the first author documented to break this tradition. DeFoe pulled away from retelling stories and invented his own new protagonists, experiencing their own trials, tribulations and lives. The first documented published work classified as a novel was DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe published in 1719. The novel is about a man, Crusoe, who was shipwrecked on an island and the adventures he experienced.

At first, critics did not know what to make of this new fictional publication. Debate followed as other authors jumped to copy.  What defined this new genre? An imaginative recreation of reality? A historical or scary conveyor of the truth? A harmless amusement? These were all potential definitions of a novel in the eighteenth century.

Despite the varying perspectives and even potential contradictions, there were some key components that emerged in the new fictional pieces. 1. Writers were more likely to show the life of the present day vs life from the past. 2. Characters were made to be believable and relatable.

Thus the genre of the novel was born. 

As we all know, novels are now the most popular form of published genres. There is just something about picking up a story to escape from reality. And one thing that never ceases to amaze me is just when you think every story has already been told and there’s nothing new left out there, some new author finds a way to completely prove that wrong. Just goes to show there really is no limit to the power of imagination!

Happy Reading Everyone!

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