Is the novel, a work of prose fiction, generally characterized as set in a stylized or idealized rural world?      

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ancient novel is closely related to the pastoral. At least certain ancient novels, most notably Longus' Daphnis and Chloe, are set in an idealized rural world and are quite stylized. The modern novel, though, is only rarely set in the pastoral world of idealized shepherds and shepherdesses, but instead can have a wide range of settings. Some authors, such as Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy focused on village life, while others, such as Dickens and Joyce were more concerned with urban life. 

A stylized countryside is an element of certain types of fantasy novels, often ones set in a distant past or an imagined world with little in the way of technology. This type of writing is sometimes called "sword and sorcery" fantasy writing. A certain type of mystery novel, sometimes called a "cozy mystery", exemplified by the work of Agatha Christie, also often has an idealized village setting. 

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We are speaking in generalities, but a novel is not typically understood as being set in a stylized or idealized rural world. Usually, we associate an idealized or stylized rural setting with a pastoral romance. The "enamelled world," in critic Raymond Williams' term, of the pastoral romance reflects the tastes of an educated, aristocratic class that had little or no knowledge of the reality of rural life. These people enjoyed idealized tales of Greco-Roman shepherds or medieval knights. 

The novel, in contrast, is associated with the rise of the middle class and with realism (though many novels are not realistic). Novels are, in the view of critics like Mikhail Bakhtin, democratic forms that allow a multiplicity of competing voices to enter in dialogue with each other. This is quite different from the static world of the pastoral.