Chapter

Was the historical novel at mid-century in crisis?

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/9780199695041.003.0009
Was the historical novel at mid-century in crisis?

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Was there a crisis of the historical novel at mid-century? If so, of what did it consist? There was already a perceived dilemma of fact and imagination, which seemed to some writers—even to Manzoni, for example—to be irreconcilable and to invalidate the nature and purpose of the historical novel. Was the historical novel, then, to become simply a form of historical romance, devoid of its original didactic goals? Or could it still have a serious purpose, particularly if it abandoned competition with ‘scientific’ history and adopted new literary techniques, such as those Flaubert, for instance, was advocating? Did the historical novel have to emancipate itself from the influence of Romanticism, which earlier had been the source of stimulus? The impact of the historical novel had already influenced the development of the novel and continued to do so, since many novels—such as Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch’ and, later, Lawrence’s ‘The Rainbow’—implicitly contained fictionalised histories.

Keywords: technique; style; fictionalised histories

Chapter.  8024 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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