Since making some provisional comments on the (historical) novel and its definition the other week, I've been thinking more and more about the history of the novel (and of the book and, of course, of reading itself).
What should be on my reading list, then? Walter Allen's The English Novel, Margaret Doody's The True Story of the Novel, Ifor Evans' A Short History of English Literature and Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, for sure. What else? I'm currently reading Robert Mayer's persuasive History and the Early English Novel and enjoying it thoroughly. Mayer argues:
... that the novel emerged from historical writing. Examining historical writers and forms frequently neglected by earlier scholars, Robert Mayer shows that in the seventeenth century historical discourse embraced not only ‘history’ in its modern sense, but also fiction, polemic, gossip, and marvels. Mayer thus explains why Defoe’s narratives were initially read as history. It is the acceptance of the claims to historicity, the study argues, that differentiates Defoe’s fictions from those of writers like Thomas Deloney and Aphra Behn, important writers who nevertheless have figured less prominently than Defoe in discussions of the novel. Mayer ends by exploring the theoretical implications of the history-fiction connection. His study makes an important contribution to the continuing debate about the emergence of what we now call the novel in Britain in the eighteenth century.