Theories of the Fable In the Eighteenth Century.
The subject of this good study is the short didactic narrative, the Aesopian fable. The eighteenth century seems to be the only period in which the fable has been considered a legitimate literary genre (2). La Fontaine (who died in 1695) and La Motte (who published Fables nouvelles, including Discourse on the Fable, in 1719) mark the beginning of the period in France. More than one hundred fabulists published there during the eighteenth century. More than fifty Germans were plying the fable art between 1740 and 1800. In England fable enjoyed strong popularity, but not the prestige which it had in France and Germany. (The fable impulse did not reach Spain until the 1780's.) The orderly, analytical eighteenth-century mind was even more fond of theory than it was of the fable. Their theories, then, Noel investigates methodically and carefully. Herder in 1801 stands at the other end of the stream of theoretical treatments begun by La Motte in 1719; Herder laments the decay of the genre. By the early years of the nineteenth century, both commentaries and published volumes of fables become fewer. Interest in the genre rapidly wanes. Fable returns to the realm of children's literature, from which it had risen up. Notes and bibliography.
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