Many early novels were cosmopolitan books, read from London to
Leipzig and beyond, available in nearly simultaneous translations
into French, English, German, and other European languages. In
Novel Translations, Bethany Wiggins charts just one of the
paths by which newness-in its avatars as fashion, novelties, and
the novel-entered the European world in the decades around 1700. As
readers across Europe snapped up novels, they domesticated the
genre. Across borders, the novel lent readers everywhere a
suggestion of sophistication, a familiarity with circumstances
beyond their local ken.
Into the eighteenth century, the modern German novel was not
German at all; rather, it was French, as suggested by Germans'
usage of the French word Roman to describe a wide variety of
genres: pastoral romances, war and travel chronicles, heroic
narratives, and courtly fictions. Carried in large part on the
coattails of the Huguenot diaspora, these romans, nouvelles, amours
secrets, histoires galantes, and histories scandaleuses shaped
German literary culture to a previously unrecognized extent. Wiggin
contends that this French chapter in the German novel's history
began to draw to a close only in the 1720s, more than sixty years
after the word first migrated into German. Only gradually did the
Roman go native; it remained laden with the baggage from its
"French" origins even into the nineteenth century.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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