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By taking a close look at materials no previous twentieth-century critic has seriously investigated in literary termsephemeral journalism, moralistic tracts, questions-and-answer columns, wonder narrativesPaul Hunter discovers a tangled set of roots for the early novel. His provocative argument for a new historicized understanding of the genre and its early readers brilliantly reveals unexpected affinities. Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, University of VirginiaWhat did people read before there were novels? Not necessarily just other literary works, according to this fascinating study of the beginnings of the English novel. To understand the origins of the novel as a species and to read individual novels well, we must know several pasts and traditionseven non-fictional and non-narrative traditions, even non-artistic and non-written paststhat at first might seem far removed from the pleasures readers find in modern novels.