Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2002—2003 Forum on The Book
Perspectives in Humanities (PiH) Fellow
THE CULTURAL STATUS OF THE NOVEL
Many 18th century authors were reluctant to call their works novels; the emerging genre was initially perceived as having only transient value. However, over time a shift in attitudes occurs. Perception of the novel changes from an unrespected label to an underestimated but respectable genre. Huang argues that the British novel's evolution as a genre in the 18th century has been influenced by its relationship to material culture. To study these shifts in cultural value, she takes a closer look at the labels that novelists assigned to their works in prefaces, dedications, and advertisements, as well as how they discuss novels within the text of their works. An examination of circulating libraries' content, as well as the accessibility of physical books in order to understand the literary market, similarly provides insights. This project is also informed by early and current theorizing concerned with the novel.