the novel

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    A novel is a long narrative, normally in prose, which describes fictional characters and events, usually in the form of a sequential story. While Ian Watt in The Rise of the Novel (1957) suggests that the novel came into being in the early 18th century, the genre has also been described as “a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years”, with historical roots in Classical Greece and Rome, medieval, early modern romance, and in the tradition of the novella. The latter, an Italian word used to describe short stories, supplied the present generic English term in the 18th century. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era; the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605. While a more precise definition of the genre is difficult, the main elements that critics discuss are: how the narrative, and especially the plot, is constructed; the themes, settings, and characterization; how language is used; and the way that plot, character, and setting relate to reality. The romance is a related long prose narrative. Walter Scott defined it as “a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents”, whereas in the novel “the events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society”. However, many romances, including the historical romances of Scott, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a “kindred term”. Romance, as defined here, should not be confused with the genre fiction love romance or romance novel. Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: “a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo.”

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