Why is the novel given the literary term "novel?"

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The novel developed from a need to portray real-life characters using fictional situations; thus, stories could be told that had biographical elements without actually being biographical, removing much of the stress associated with recounting life histories etc. Drama remained intact and the ability to tell the story giving as much detail and impact as preferred made the novel very popular.

There are various accounts of the origin of the novel; some say that Don Quixote de la Mancha was the first great Western novel in  about 1612. As early as 1353 Giovanni Boccaccio is attributed with novellas (the shorter version of the novel), the word used to describe long prose writing. Prose became the preferred way to tell stories rather than the traditional "line" of poetry. There is no rhythm but each writer has a usually defined style. Prose is popular as it is more direct, less interpretative. It allows a freedom of expression that otherwise would not be possible.

The word itself derives from the Latin and probably came into use in English during the 18th century from "novella" translated as "new things" and "novus" meaning new. The French equivalent would be "novelle" and "nouvelle." Hence we also use the word novel as an adjective when we describe something unique.


handbooktoliterature eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word Novel is used generally to describe any longer fictional narrative written in prose. Typically, the narratives involve characters who are in the process of development throughout the plot. 

The term developed from the Italian novella, used to describe shorter realistic tales that first appeared in the medieval period. It is also connected to the term roman, connecting it to Romance writing when it was popularized during the Romantic period of the 18th and 19th centuries.