Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Romances and Novels

The Romance is an heroic fable, which treats of fabulous persons and things.--The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the time in which it is written. The Romance, in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened nor is likely to happen.--The Novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to our friend, or to ourselves; and the perfection of it, is to represent every scene, in so easy and natural a manner, and to make them appear so probable, as to deceive us into a persuasion (at least while we are reading) that all is real, until we are affected by the joys or distresses, of the persons of the story, as if they were our own.

Clara Reeve, The Progress of Romance (1785), p. 111. Reeve, while not the first person to do a serious discussion of genre in English, has the most important early attempt to trace what these things called Novels really were; she draws together the bits and pieces that had been essayed before her and systematically investigates the question. One of her points, however, is to vindicate the older genre of Romance as also being a legitimate and important genre in its own right.

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