An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived from Latin from the Greek word ἐπιστολή epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).
The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator.
There are two theories on the genesis of the epistolary novel. The first claims that the genre is originated from novels with inserted letters, in which the portion containing the third person narrative in between the letters was gradually reduced. The other theory claims that the epistolary novel arose from miscellanies of letters and poetry: some of the letters were tied together into a (mostly amorous) plot. Both claims have some validity. The first truly epistolary novel, the Spanish "Prison of Love" (Cárcel de amor) (c.1485) by Diego de San Pedro, belongs to a tradition of novels in which a large number of inserted letters already dominated the narrative. Other well-known examples of early epistolary novels are closely related to the tradition of letter-books and miscellanies of letters. Within the successive editions of Edmé Boursault's Letters of Respect, Gratitude and Love (Lettres de respect, d'obligation et d'amour) (1669), a group of letters written to a girl named Babet were expanded and became more and more distinct from the other letters, until it formed a small epistolary novel entitled Letters to Babet (Lettres à Babet). The immensely famous Letters of a Portuguese Nun (Lettres portugaises) (1669) generally attributed to Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, comte de Guilleragues, though a small minority still regard Marianna Alcoforado as the author, is claimed to be intended to be part of a miscellany of Guilleragues prose and poetry. The founder of the epistolary novel in English is said by many to be James Howell (1594–1666) with "Familiar Letters" (1645–50), who writes of prison, foreign adventure, and the love of women.
The first novel to expose the complex play that the genre allows was Aphra Behn's Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, which appeared in three volumes in 1684, 1685, and 1687. The novel shows the genre's results of changing perspectives: individual points were presented by the individual characters, and the central voice of the author and moral evaluation disappeared (at least in the first volume; her further volumes introduced a narrator). Behn furthermore explored a realm of intrigue with letters that fall into the wrong hands, faked letters, letters withheld by protagonists, and even more complex interaction.
The epistolary novel as a genre became popular in the 18th century in the works of such authors as Samuel Richardson, with his immensely successful novels Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1749). In France, there was Lettres persanes (1721) by Montesquieu, followed by Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (1761) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Laclos' Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782), which used the epistolary form to great dramatic effect, because the sequence of events was not always related directly or explicitly. In Germany, there was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774) (The Sorrows of Young Werther) and Friedrich Hölderlin's Hyperion. The first North American novel, The History of Emily Montague (1769) by Frances Brooke was written in epistolary form.
Starting in the 18th century, the epistolary form was subject to much ridicule, resulting in a number of savage burlesques. The most notable example of these was Henry Fielding's Shamela (1741), written as a parody of Pamela. In it, the female narrator can be found wielding a pen and scribbling her diary entries under the most dramatic and unlikely of circumstances. Oliver Goldsmith used the form to satirical effect in The Citizen of the World, subtitled "Letters from a Chinese Philosopher Residing in London to his Friends in the East" (1760–61). So did the diarist Fanny Burney in a successful comic first novel, Evelina (1788).
The epistolary novel slowly fell out of use in the late 18th century. Although Jane Austen tried her hand at the epistolary in juvenile writings and her novella Lady Susan (1794), she abandoned this structure for her later work. It is thought that her lost novel First Impressions, which was redrafted to become Pride and Prejudice, may have been epistolary: Pride and Prejudice contains an unusual number of letters quoted in full and some play a critical role in the plot.
The epistolary form nonetheless saw continued use, surviving in exceptions or in fragments in nineteenth-century novels. In Honoré de Balzac's novel Letters of Two Brides, two women who became friends during their education at a convent correspond over a 17-year period, exchanging letters describing their lives. Mary Shelley employs the epistolary form in her novel Frankenstein (1818). Shelley uses the letters as one of a variety of framing devices, as the story is presented through the letters of a sea captain and scientific explorer attempting to reach the north pole who encounters Victor Frankenstein and records the dying man's narrative and confessions. Published in 1848, Anne Brontë's novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is framed as a retrospective letter from one of the main heroes to his friend and brother-in-law with the diary of the eponymous tenant inside it. In the late 19th century, Bram Stoker released one of the most widely recognized and successful novels in the epistolary form to date, Dracula. Printed in 1897, the novel is compiled entirely of letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, doctor's notes, ship's logs, and the like.
There are 3 types of epistolary novels: monologic (giving the letters of only one character, like Letters of a Portuguese Nun and The Sorrows of Young Werther), dialogic (giving the letters of two characters, like Mme Marie Jeanne Riccoboni's Letters of Fanni Butlerd (1757), and polylogic (with three or more letter-writing characters, such as in Bram Stoker's Dracula). In addition, a crucial element in polylogic epistolary novels like Clarissa, and Dangerous Liaisons is the dramatic device of 'discrepant awareness': the simultaneous but separate correspondences of the heroines and the villains creating dramatic tension.
An important strategic device in the epistolary novel for creating the impression of authenticity of the letters is the fictional editor.
Epistolary novels have made several memorable appearances in more recent literature:
Aline et Valcour; ou, Le Roman philosophique is an epistolary novel by the Marquis de Sade. It contrasts a brutal African kingdom, Butua, with a South Pacific island paradise known as Tamoé and led by the philosopher-king Zamé.
Sade wrote the book while incarcerated in the Bastille in the 1780s. Published in 1795, it was the first of Sade's books published under his true name.Bloodline (Cary novel)
Bloodline is a 2005 novel written by Kate Cary. It is an unofficial sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Like the original novel, Bloodline is an epistolary novel written entirely in letters, diary entries and news articles. A second novel, titled Bloodline: Reckoning was later released.Coquette
Coquette may refer to:
a flirtatious female
Coquette (film), an Academy Award-winning 1929 film starring Mary Pickford
Coquette (1949 film), a 1949 Mexican musical film
Coqueta (1983 film), a 1983 Mexican musical drama film
"Coquette" (song), 1929 song by Johnny Green and Carmen Lombardo
Coquette Productions, the production company of Courteney Cox and David Arquette
The Coquette, a 1797 epistolary novel by Hannah Webster Foster
HMS Coquette, various ships of the British Royal Navy
Coquettes, several species of hummingbird in the genus Lophornis, and the Racket-tailed coquette in the genus DiscosuraDear Mr. Henshaw
Dear Mr. Henshaw is a juvenile epistolary novel by Beverly Cleary and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky that was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1984. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."Desmond (novel)
Desmond is an epistolary novel by Charlotte Turner Smith, first published in 1792. The novel focuses on politics during the French Revolution.
Unlike her previous and subsequent novels, Smith used Desmond to introduce her audiences to contemporary politics. While critics initially supported this element of Desmond, the radicalism of the French Revolution and the "conservative mood among her audience" prompted Smith to "tone down" the political references in her novels.Doctor Glas
Doctor Glas, an epistolary novel by Hjalmar Söderberg, tells the story of a physician in 19th-century Sweden who deals with moral and love issues.Epistolary
An epistolary (Latin: epistolarium) is a Christian liturgical book containing set readings for church services from the New Testament Epistles. In the Catholic Church, it is usually used at a Solemn High Mass.
Epistolary means "in the form of a letter or letters". As an adjective it may refer to the following art forms:
Fangland is a 2007 novel written by John Marks, a former producer for 60 Minutes. It is a reimagined version of Dracula by Bram Stoker, setting in a post-9/11 New York. Like Dracula, Fangland is written in parts as an epistolary novel through e-mails, diary entries and letters. It received a World Fantasy Award nomination.Give a Boy a Gun
Give a Boy a Gun is an epistolary novel for young adults by Todd Strasser, first published in 2000. The novel describes the events and social circumstances that lead up to, and form the aftermath of, a fictional school shooting. The story is presented in the form of segments of transcribed post-incident interviews with students, parents, teachers, and community members, compiled by Denise Shipley, a journalism student who is the stepsister of one of the shooters. The interviews provide a variety of viewpoints on the incident – some sympathetic, others hostile. Interspersed through the book are footnotes providing statistical information about guns and gun violence.
The plot has some similarities to the real-life Columbine High School massacre of April 20, 1999, although Strasser began research on the book before the Columbine shooting. The book was the first book relating to school shootings published after Columbine.Hyperion (Hölderlin novel)
Hyperion is an epistolary novel by German poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Originally published in two volumes in 1797 (Volume 1) and 1799 (Volume 2), respectively, the full title is Hyperion; or, The Hermit in Greece (German: "Hyperion; oder, Der Eremit in Griechenland"). Each volume is divided into two books, with each second book including an epigraph from Sophocles. The work is told in the form of letters from the protagonist, Hyperion, to his German friend Bellarmin, alongside a few letters between Hyperion and his love Diotima in the second volume of the novel, and is noted for its philosophical classicism and expressive imagery.LETTERS
LETTERS is an epistolary novel by the American writer John Barth, published in 1979. It consists of a series of letters in which Barth and the characters of his other books interact.
In addition to the Author and Germaine Pitt (or 'Lady Amherst', unrelated to any of Barth's previous novels), the correspondents are Todd Andrews (from The Floating Opera), Jacob Horner (from The End of the Road), A.B. Cook (a descendent of Burlingame in The Sot-Weed Factor), Jerome Bray (associated with Giles Goat-Boy and Chimera) and Ambrose Mensch (from Lost in the Funhouse).The book is subtitled "An old time epistolary novel by seven fictitious drolls & dreamers each of which imagines himself factual." The structure is such that when the first character of each of the letters in the book are placed on a calendar according to their dates, and the individual months are turned sideways, they spell out the subtitle. In addition, the marked dates spell out the word "LETTERS."Les Liaisons dangereuses
Les Liaisons dangereuses (French pronunciation: [le ljɛ.zɔ̃ dɑ̃.ʒə.ʁøz]; Dangerous Liaisons) is a French epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in four volumes by Durand Neveu from March 23, 1782.
It is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two narcissistic rivals (and ex-lovers) who use seduction as a weapon to socially control and exploit others, all the while enjoying their cruel games and boasting about their manipulative talents. It has been claimed to depict the decadence of the French aristocracy shortly before the French Revolution, thereby exposing the perversions of the so-called Ancien Régime. However, it has also been described as an amoral story.
As an epistolary novel, the book is composed entirely of letters written by the various characters to each other. In particular, the letters between Valmont and the Marquise drive the plot, with those of their victims and other characters serving as contrasting figures to give the story its depth.Letter collection
A letter collection or collection of letters consists of a publication, usually a book, containing a compilation of letters written by a real person.
Unlike an epistolary novel, a collection of letters belongs to non-fiction literature. Letter collections have a strong link with biographies, autobiographies and historical narrations.Matt Beaumont
Matthew Beaumont is a British novelist and former copywriter.
Beaumont made his debut in 2000 with the comic novel, e. The Novel of Liars, Lunch and Lost Knickers, which consists entirely of e-mails composed by the staff of one advertising office. A recent example of an epistolary novel, it is generally recognised as one of the first e-mail novels.For the BBC, Beaumont created the storyline of the alternate reality game, Jamie Kane (2005).Beaumont is married to novelist Maria Beaumont. They have two children and live in London.Philtrum Press
Philtrum Press is a small publishing house run by Stephen King. This small press operation, operating out of King's front business offices in Bangor, Maine, is primarily run by King's personal assistant, Marsha DeFillipo (who is also the moderator of the Stephen King Website Message Board.)
At least the following have been published:
The Plant part 1 (1982), unfinished, serialized, epistolary novel written by Stephen King
The Plant part 2 (1983)
The Eyes of the Dragon (1984), novel written by Stephen King, 1000 copies, Signed/Limited
The Plant, part 3 (1995)
The Ideal Genuine Man 1997, a novel written by Don Robertson
Six Stories (1997), a short story collection written by Stephen King, 1100 copies, Signed/Limited
"The New Lieutenant's Rap" (1999), a short story written by Stephen King, 500 copies (approx.), Signed/Limited
"Guns" (2013), an essay written by Stephen King, published as a 25-page e-bookPygmy (novel)
Pygmy is an epistolary novel by Chuck Palahniuk. It was released on May 5, 2009.The Book of Renfield
The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula is a 2005 novel written by Tim Lucas and the first of the mash-up horror-themed novels that rose to commercial prominence later in the decade. It is an unofficial prequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Like the original novel, Renfield is an epistolary novel written in series of written documents. It focuses mainly on Renfield, mostly remembered for his minor role in Dracula as a lunatic that ate flies, rodents and other animals, and Dr. John Seward, the administrator of an insane asylum who is trying to understand Renfield's psychosis.The Hippopotamus
The Hippopotamus (1994) is a comic novel by Stephen Fry. Written in part as an epistolary novel, it is largely narrated by the main character Edward "Ted" Wallace. Wallace is an alcoholic washed-up poet and theatre critic who, having been fired from his newspaper job, accepts a lucrative commission from his terminally ill goddaughter to investigate rumours of miracle healings at Swafford Hall, country mansion of Wallace's old friend Lord Logan.The Kempton-Wace Letters
The Kempton-Wace Letters was a 1903 epistolary novel written jointly by Americans Jack London and Anna Strunsky, then based in San Francisco, California. It was published anonymously.