In the last blog, we saw the dominant form for the novel title prior to the Twentieth Century was the eponym - or the name of the main character of the story. To an extent, this is reflective of the tacit understanding of the novel's purpose as form versus a play or a short story or a poem - as one person's moral or literal journey.
It's all change in the Twentieth Century!
In this first of two, we're going to look at the first half of the century, and in the next the end of the Twentieth Century as there's a sea change from the 1980's.
In the Twentieth Century the eponym is old news and almost gone.
Yes, there's a slightly broader range of 'statements of literary intention' but not so much as you might think.
In fact, the title form from 1900-2000 is dominated by one form.
The Reference. (The Deferential Doffing of the Author's Cap.)
The citation or quotation. A referential, deferential, preferential doffing of the hat either to the Bard, the poets, or to the...
Welcome to Titology, or the study of titles.
In this short series of blogs on the origins of novel titles, I will perform a rude taxonomy to classify the species. For my roll call I'm using a combination of the bestselling, best-regarded 'Top 100 Novels' lists from the UK and the USA.
A title is a statement of literary intention.
As a form in itself it has become increasingly nuanced over time, but it's still possible to decipher the motives and meanings behind titles, and quite fascinating. Once armed you can title your book with confidence and sharpen your creative intentions. When we know what we're doing, as authors, we tend to do it rather well. When we don't we tend to do it rather badly. Post-rationalising your intentions in multiple drafts of a novel is a bore, as I described in the last blog.
Now, the modern novel is considered to have started in 1605 with The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes better known as...