What were the major developments in modern English fiction in the nineteenth century?  

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A major innovation in the novel in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the "Gothic", a genre in which included such classics as The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. In the nineteenth century, this genre evolved in two directions, as the Romantic novel, exemplified by Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Jane Eyre by her sister Charlotte, and the sensation novel, which included the works of M.E. Braddon and Ouida. While the Gothic was characterized by remote and exotic locations, its nineteenth century heirs domesticated its settings and often substituted minor gentry or the bourgeois for the nobles and monks populating the Gothic. 

A second innovation of the mid-nineteenth was a move towards realism and protagonists in the middle or even lower classes. Although the sensation novel continued to rely on action and suspense and even spawned the detective novel (Wilkie Collins' works are normally considered the transition from sensation to detective fiction), many of the realistic novels gained their effect from close portraits of characters' daily life or inner emotions, as is the case in the work of Trollope, Hardy, and Thackeray, albeit in different fashions. Novels of social justice or reform became popular, including the novels of Disraeli, some of Dickens' works, Sewell's Black Beauty, and many evangelical and temperance novels. 

The end of the nineteenth century was a period of technical innovation, with symbolism and decadence gradually evolving into modernism.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the early nineteenth century, British novelists produced sub-genres of the novel. For example, Maria Edgeworth developed the regional novel (an example is Castle Rackrent, published in 1800). Her work was also one of the first examples of the historical novel, along with the works of Sir Walter Scott. Jane Austen, writing during the early 1800s, developed the novel of sensibility in works such as Pride and Prejudice (1813). These novels were designed to evoke an emotional response in the reader, with scenes and characters that were tender in nature, giving rise to a sympathetic response in the reader. 

During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), novels became the most popular form of English literature, and many featured a sense of realism. For example, the novels of Charles Dickens, such as Great Expectations (1860-1861), presented social problems of the day caused by industrialization and the urbanization of the working classes. Detective fiction, such as that by Wilkie Collins (the author of The Woman in White, 1859) and by Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes stories), also developed during this century. 

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question