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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) by Thomas Nashe

Book Review
The Unfortunate Traveller (1594)
by Thomas Nashe

  The Unfortunate Traveller belongs to the "pre-history" of the novel, and although scholars have recently attacked the idea of the novel being "invented" in the 18th century, the majority view is that the novel, as supposed to different kinds of narrative prose that pre-date the novel, was directly tied to the rise of the audience for a novel, and that this audience first began to exist in England in the early 18th century, part of a larger tide of print matter generated for a general audience.

  According to this argument, narrative published before the 18th century can't be a novel because there was no audience for a novel.  In other words, books like The Unfortunate Traveller, novel-like books published before the 18th century, were read by a small segment of the elite of Elizabethan England, and not widely disseminated to a general reading audience. 

  BUT- the 18th century writers who "created" the novel we know today had all read The Unfortunate Traveller and in this way you could argue that the novel was created by the 18th century equivalent of a critical audience, and then the books we actually still keep track of today were the books that invented the popular audience.

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