Chapter

Introduction

Brian Hamnett

in The Historical Novel in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695041
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732164 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695041.003.0001
Introduction

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The relationship of history and literature has always been blurred. In the later eighteenth century and during the nineteenth century, concerted efforts were made to differentiate the two. History came to be viewed as separate from philosophy and literature as a distinct discipline, focused on critical assessment of primary sources, with its own institutional structures. At the same time, the novel increased in popularity and significance through a realistic portrayal of character and daily life. The nineteenth-century historical novel emerged from the confluence of these processes, initially stimulated by the issues and conflicts of the years from 1789 to 1815. Despite frequent criticism from early in the nineteenth century, the historical novel, in varying forms, has continued to gain popularity. This book examines the contradictions and dilemmas implicit in the writing of such novels. The serious historical novel attempted to provide insights into human character and experience through time, relating past issues to concerns at the time of writing. This book discusses the contradictions and dilemmas facing the historical novelists, identifies several novels which illustrate these, and argues that the historical novel should be taken seriously and that it has its own history and objectives. The integration of history and fiction, supposedly seamless, was designed, as were history and fiction in themselves, to offer a representation of reality, which connected past and present.

Keywords: historical novel; criticism; contradictions; dilemmas; popularity

Chapter.  6494 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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