Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Demise of the Letter

In The Celebrated Letters of John B. Keane, Keane opens with a preface on the humble letter, stating that it is “the simplest and most permanent form of communication”.  Furthermore, he sees the epistolary form as a vastly underused resource in the literary world. John B. Keane put together a collection of ‘novelettes’ as he terms them from a series of “stock” Irish characters that includes the farmer, the matchmaker, the parish priest and the T.D. (a government representative in the Irish parliament).  Writers such as Samuel Richardson and Daniel Defoe used the letter as a literary device to give the reader an insight to the character's thoughts but also as a means to further the plot through time and life-like realism.  This resulted in the emergence of the novel as we know it today.  The epistolary was the earliest genre used for the novel.