Romantic novel

The romantic novel is the novel produced by the romantic movement. However, the novel was a genre relatively unprofessional by romantic authors, who privileged poetry, theater and essay; In the narrative, they dedicated, above all, to the tale.

The very word romanticism is connected to the idea of romance, and the romance genre experienced a revival, at the end of the 18th century, with gothic fiction. The origin of the gothic romance is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story”. Other important works are Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and ‘Monk’ Lewis’s The Monk (1795).

The new romances challenged the idea that the novel involved a realistic depictions of life, and destabilized the difference the critics had been trying to establish, between serious classical art and popular fiction. Gothic romances exploited the grotesque, and some critics thought that their subject matter deserved less credit than the worst medieval tales of Arthurian knighthood, and that if the Amadis had troubled Don Quixote with curious fantasies, the new romantic tales were worse: they described a nightmare world, and explored sexual fantasies.

The general features of romantic novels are announced by Werther (1774) of Goethe.

Examples of romantic novelists, in the full sense of the word, are:

in German literature, the mentioned Goethe, Jean Paul and ETA Hoffmann; Novalis, very prominent as a poet, produced a single novel, important, but: the unfinished Heinrich von Ofterdingen.
in English literature, Walter Scott, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë and Nathaniel Hawthorne; Also J. Fenimore Cooper, for The Last of the Mohicans, should be included.
in French literature, Chateaubriand, Alfred de Vigny, Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, Alexandre Dumas (son) and George Sand; Victor Hugo belongs to the period, but is far from the romantic spirit.
in Italian literature, Alessandro Manzoni.
Parallel to the romantic movement, the novel of popular consumption was developed, especially with the genre, which, in a way, was influenced by more or less romantic topics.

Colloquially the term romantic novel is used improperly to talk about to the sentimental novel or “Romance novel”.

The authors of this new type of fiction could be (and were) accused of exploiting all available topics to thrill, arouse, or horrify their audience. These new romantic novelists, at the same time, claimed to explore the entire realm of fictionality. New, psychological interpreters, in the early 19th century, read these works as encounters with the deeper hidden truth of the human imagination: this included sexuality, anxieties, and insatiable desires. Under such psychological readings, novels were described as exploring deeper human motives, and it was suggested that such artistic freedom would reveal what had not previously been openly visible.

The romances of de Sade, Les 120 Journées de Sodome (1785), Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818), and E. T. A. Hoffmann, Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815), would later attract 20th-century psychoanalysts and supply the images for 20th- and 21st-century horror films, love romances, fantasy novels, role-playing computer games, and the surrealists.

The ancient romancers most commonly wrote fiction about the remote past with little attention to historical reality. Walter Scott’s historical novel Waverley (1814) broke with this earlier tradition of historical romance, and he was “the inventor of the true historical novel”. At the same time he was a romantic and was influenced by gothic romance. He had collaborated “with the most famous of the Gothic novelists ‘Monk’ Lewis” on Tales of Wonder in 1801. With his Waverley novels Scott “hoped to do for the Scottish border” what Goethe and other German poets “had done for the Middle Ages, “and make its past live again in modern romance”. Scott’s novels “are in the mode he himself defined as romance, ‘the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents'”. He used his imagination to re-evaluate history by rendering things, incidents and protagonists in the way only the novelist could do. His work remained historical fiction, yet it questioned existing historical perceptions. The use of historical research was an important tool: Scott, the novelist, resorted to documentary sources as any historian would have done, but as a romantic artist he gave his subject a deeper imaginative and emotional significance. By combining research with “marvelous and uncommon incidents”, Scott attracted a far wider market than any historian could, and he became the most famous novelist of his generation, throughout Europe.

France novel
The leader of the romantic era is Victor Hugo.

The romance in France at the romantic time knew an important renewal. One can summarily distinguish three great new novelistic forms.

We will first mention the “novel of the soul”, whether in the “first person” (narrator and main character together) or the “third person” (narrator separate from the character). This type of novel represents the subjectivity of an individual breaking with the surrounding world. For example, René de Chateaubriand, Corinne of M me de Stael, Oberman of Senancour… The difference between the individual and the world is then translated by a condition that often can be described objectively or distanced manner (such as helplessness of the hero in Armance of Stendhal or weakness of character in Adolpheof Benjamin Constant ). In these novels, the interest of the reader thus relates to the subjective singularity of an individual who, far from presenting himself as a more or less heroic model, appears as essentially different from the others because of a “disease of the soul “(like Rene’s melancholy or madness in Gerard de Nerval ) which distances him from other men.

A second novelistic novel form is the realistic novel of which the two great representatives are Stendhal and Balzac. At Balzac, the objective world in its diversity and its particularities becomes an essential element of the romanesque representation: the description will then be attached to external details (gestures, attitudes of the characters, clothes and modes of being, decorations… ) which may at first seem insignificant but in which the novelist discovers a hidden meaning, a “harmony” which reveals the masked interiority of the characters. This is particularly the case of the Lily in the Valley, and Lost Illusions. Stendhal focuses on the explanatory dimension of character behavior (especially in the Red and the Black ): he analyzes the different factors that weigh on individual behavior, whether it is personal history, social position, inter-individual relations or even the random course of events. He thus reveals to the reader what the different characters do not know either of themselves (because the Stendhalian individual only knows himself in part) or of others (whose external reactions he only perceives). Realistic novelists, Balzac and Stendhal are thus characterized by their “omniscience”, that is to say their capacity to describe the objective world in its multiple dimensions, of this world that escapes the individuals who are part of it.

The third great novelistic form is that of a fiction that emerges from all kinds of verisimilitude in favor of an imaginary deployment that can go as far as the fantastic. Honoré de Balzac, inspired by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann produced in this spirit: The Skin of sorrow, the Red Inn and most of his philosophical works. Victor Hugo in Notre-Dame de Paris plunges into a different, disturbing world in a dark and terrifying Middle Ages directly inspired by Walter Scott. With Théophile Gautierthe fantastic will be assumed as such, and it will be up to the reader to face an unreal world (for example the hallucination in the Hachichin Club or a dead love in the news of the same name) and especially to give it a meaning that does not will not necessarily be shared by other readers. Thus, this type of novel undoubtedly rests less on the sharing of certain moral and intellectual values (there is neither a “message” to transmit nor a model of behavior to admire) than on an emotional identification where both the rejection (since the reader is confronted with otherness) and fascination (since human passions are nevertheless guessed).

In these three novels, the reader is confronted not with characters close to him as the xviii th century (because they belonged to the same social world or sharing the same values as in the New Heloise Rousseau) but different characters, to a human, psychological or social otherness.

Source from Wikipedia