Early novels

From ArticleWorld

The novel as a literary genre is considered to be quite a modern one beginning in the 17th century. Early novels,however, can be found as far back in history as ancient times. A novel is fictional prose which has been published in book form and quite a few examples of early work can be found which fit into this definition.

Ancient and medieval

Perhaps one of the oldest pieces of literature is ‘The Story of Sinuhe’ set in the 12th dynasty of Egypt and thought to have been written the about 18th century BC. It tells of the adventures of Sinuhe, who upon learning of a plot to kill the successor to the Egyptian throne, runs away instead of denouncing the plot. The Ancients had a rich tradition of story telling with works by the Greeks Xenophon, Heliodorus and Longus and the Roman Petronius.

There are also works in India, Japan and China which date back to the 7th century, 10th century and 14th century, respectively.

The Byzantine novelists of the 12th century revived the ancient Greek romance novels by copying the form and time period but with more Christian themes. Thus, their stories took place in the ancient Mediterranean with the accompanying gods and beliefs but with the customs and attitudes of the medieval times.

‘The Canterbury Tales’ was written by Geoffery Chaucer in 1390.

Modern early novels

German and Spanish works dominated the 1500’s, with the origin of the modern European novel considered to be the work of Miguel de Cervantes in 1605 with his novel ‘Don Quixote.’ The first English novelist, and female at that, is considered to be Aphra Behn who wrote ‘Oroonoko’ in 1688.