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The Evolution of the French Novel, 1641-1782

The Evolution of the French Novel, 1641-1782

Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 383
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    The Evolution of the French Novel, 1641-1782
    Book Description:

    In France between 1641 and 1782 the romance developed into the novel. Mr. Showalter's intensive study of the novel, particularly during the critical period 1700-1720, shows that an important movement toward nineteenth century realism was taking place. To trace this development the author has selected five phenomena-time, space, names, money, and the narrator-and follows their treatment throughout the period to show why romance tended toward the novel.

    To show the working-out of these ideas there is a detailed analysis of one novel, Robert Challe'sLes Illustres Francoises, which can be precisely located in the chain of literary influence. Its central theme of the individual in conflict with society was well suited to the forms available to the eighteenth century novelist. Consequently it appears repeatedly in important novels of the period, showing that the evolutionary process worked to some degree even on subject matter.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7111-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
    English Showalter Jr.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Everyone seems to be agreed that the early years of the eighteenth century were crucial for the novel, but there is much debate about what happened then, and how it happened. Many literary historians contend that the novel was born at this time, the offspring of the right intellectual climate, a bourgeois social system, and individual genius, brought together by chance or by historical determinants.¹ Those who hold to this view usually read English better than other languages, and they have some difficulty explaining away the large body of French and Spanish fiction of the seventeenth century.² A Francophone scholar...

  5. I Romans, Romances, Nouvelles, and Novels
    (pp. 11-37)

    In the introduction to his thirty-year-old but still highly regardedList of French Prose Fiction 1700-1750, S. Paul Jones observed: “It is noteworthy that the wordromanwhich was frequently used in the titles of works of fiction of the seventeenth century has almost disappeared in the eighteenth century. Only four or five works bear the word in the title or subtitle.”¹ More recent scholars echo the remark: “Le souvenir du roman baroque et de ses formes abâtardies hante si continuellement les esprits que le terme de roman n’est presque jamais employé par les romanciers pour désigner leurs œuvres….”² Thus...

  6. II Purposes of the Novel
    (pp. 38-66)

    Efforts to define a genre require looking toward the past. The French novelists of the early eighteenth century, like all their contemporaries, took the question of genres very seriously. Their failure to recognize the novel as a new genre stems from the fact that it was only partly new; its constituent elements could be found in many diverse works of fiction, history, even poetry and satire. Moreover, they were hoping to find a continuity extending back to Antiquity, and this wishful bias further obscured the originality of the emerging “realistic” novel. Even various attempts to describe new fashions in fiction...

  7. III Techniques of Realism in Early Fiction
    (pp. 67-195)

    The techniques of any art are by and large conventional. That is to say, a work of art represents something to its audience by means of mutually agreed upon signs. Since every element in that statement is susceptible, not only of diverse interpretations at a given time, but also of interpretations that change in time, the study of techniques requires a very careful definition of its terms.

    Surely no form of art is more conventional than literature, for its very medium is conventional. There is no apparent logical relationship between the sound of a word and the concept or object...

  8. IV Robert Challe’s Les Illustres Françoises
    (pp. 196-261)

    It seems appropriate, after surveying technical problems scattered among many novels, to look at one successful novel in more depth. The five elements I have been tracing provide only a sample of realistic devices, selected moreover on the grounds of their convenience and clarity. A more thorough examination of a single novel will make it clearer how such devices are akin to less easily isolated elements of realism like description, plotting, and characterization. Furthermore, we will be able to study the crucial point that distinguishes the widespread and even hackneyed appearances of “realistic” writing in unbelievable stories, from the much...

  9. V The Individual Against Society in the Eighteenth-Century French Novel
    (pp. 262-347)

    Challe’s recent rediscovery grew out of researches into the sources of better known novels, notablePamelaandManon Lescaut. Henri Roddier and Claire-Eliane Engel pointed out the obvious plot similarities between the stories of Angélique and of Pamela, of Silvie and of Manon.Mariannealso resembles the story of Angelique de Contamine in several particulars. Whether or not the later writers actually readLes Illustres Françoisesand imitated it matters very little; Challe’s contribution to the genre was not a powerful innovation, but rather a competent exploitation of the available resources.

    Well before Challe’s time, romance had developed internal pressures...

  10. VI The Emergence of the Novel
    (pp. 348-352)

    From Scudéry’sIbrahimto Laclos’sLes Liaisons dangereusesappears a very large span, not only because a century and a half separate the two works, but also because the works differ so radically from each other. Yet there is no moment within that span when a radical change occurs, to produce a permanent difference between the old fictions, now called romances, and the new, now called novels. Instead there is evolution, continuous, albeit at varying rates, throughout the period. If it seems that something entirely new arose, it is because the evolution at several times had the rapidity characteristic of...

  11. Index
    (pp. 353-372)