The Rise of the Novel

According to Paul Hunter and Patricia Meyer Spacks, English fiction rose to prominence in the eighteenth century at about the same time that autobiography became important in England’s cultural life, reflecting an interest on the part of the common reader in everyday life and in the concept of self. Early English novels were enormously popular, but they were sometimes the object of harsh criticism. For example, the English author and lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, declared that readers of novels were the young, the ignorant, and the idle.

At the time of this interview, Hunter, a Fellow at the National Humanities Center (1985-86, 1995-96), was professor of English at the University of Rochester. Spacks, a Fellow at the Center (1982-83, 1988-89) and a trustee of the Center, was professor of English at Yale University.

This edition of Soundings was conducted by Wayne J. Pond.

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