19th Century The arise of a book market
In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, which began in the late 18th Century and ultimately would forever change the civilization from agrarian to industrial, also the situation for writers and their audience would change. The book market would change thoroughly thanks to the printing press–until now books had been expensive and exclusive. The printing press would make stories available for a much bigger audience (the lack of literacy would still make reading a matter for the minority, but it would still be a dramatic shift), and lots of new book publishers would go into business. Thanks to increased book sales and bigger economical profit due to the cheaper manufacturing costs an author could–given that the books became enough popular–for the first time earn a living by writing.
A step up for the status of the novel
The status of the novel was considerable lower than the poem until the 19th century. It also remained so in the beginning of the century in which the Romanticism flourished. Many novel writers published their works anonymously whilst the poets could become worshiped celebrities.
But successively the status of the novel did grow and, looking at the siècle in hindsight, many of the biggest names in literature are associated with the prose genres.
In Great Britain there were novelists such as Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. In France there were Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Anatole France and Émile Zola. The great force of culture, Germany, lacks a counterpart in the development of the novel. The big novelists would no turning up until the next century.
The breakthrough of Russian literature
Besides the European countries that had dominated under a long time, the Russian literature became known to a wider audience in the 19th century. One of the first author that reach popularity in Europe was Ivan Turgenev, but many more names has come to be associated with the Russian literature of the 19th century. Writers such as Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov would accomplish wide reputations.
One of the first of the prominent figures in the Russian literature were Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). Yet, he would never become widely recognize abroad and one reason was that his epic verses were hard to translate. Neither would the celebrated playwright Alexander Gribojedov (1795-1829) works become big in other countries.
It was the writers of prose, novels and short-stories, that mainly became most spread internationally. To this day, it is novels (together with some dramas by Gogol and Chekhov) that for many are most associated with Russian literature in the 19th century.
France and the Realism
The novel would become more realistic to its nature in the 19th century and the term realism would by time categorize this tendency (the realism as a movement could be periodical for 1830-1860). In contrast to classicism and romanticism in which an artistic ideal were prevalent, the novel of the realism movement strive for a depiction of the world that was true, true in the meaning that where was an ambition to depict the world as it was without beautification.
It is easy to be confused by a term like realism. Realism had of course existed before in novels and other fictious prose forms. An important part of the 19th century realism in literature was as a reaction against romanticism. It was a departure from the idealistic views and a step in the direction to depict the world from new perspectives, including a social. The movement of realism would also bring an objective view on characters and more detailed ways to depict them and the surrounding milieu.
Some of the authors linked to realism were French. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) wrote among other things Les Misérables (1862) depicting society including criminals and prostitutes living under poor conditions. Stendahl (1783-1842) is most known for The Red and the Black (Le Rouge et le Noir, 1831) which depicted different parts of the society and especially a deep psychological journey into the emotional movements of its main characters.
The biggest name referred to realism was after all Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), it was Balzac that included most of the things that have been linked to the realism in his books. He wrote lots of novel in which a grand gallery of people is present. The scenes in his novels are spread from the rural to urban milieus and includes farmers and citizens from many classes and professions.
The birth of American litterature
Although American literature had existed before the 19th century, this century are considered as the beginning of the American literature history. A tradition of the novel is taking its outset with Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Mark Twain as some of the leading names.
It is also in this century that writers and critics starts to talk about “the Great American Novel”. The longlived term are originally associated with novels as som The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain.
The idea behind the term arosed from the fact the American literature was still in its rudimentary phase and lacked a solid identity. A great work of literature could change that and prove that the new nation in the West could create some fine art as well.