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Material conditions: The rise of the novel

Drs Joe Bray and Adam Smith discuss where the novel came from and the factors that lay behind its emergence.

Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was first published in 1813, at a time when literacy and print culture in England underwent a significant expansion. In this video, Dr Joe Bray and Dr Adam Smith discuss where the novel came from and the factors that lay behind its emergence.

Focusing in particular on Austen’s favourite novelist, Samuel Richardson, they highlight how the material form of the 18th-century novel was very different to that which it typically takes today and consider what implications this has for the way it would have been read.

Once you have watched the video, you may like to comment on and discuss the following points:

  • The new opportunities that the novel form offered 18th-century authors.
  • The relationship between these early novels and earlier forms of prose writing that we have encountered on the course.
  • The differences between reading a novel in the 18th century and the 21st.
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Literature of the English Country House

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