From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- See literary realism
A psychological novel, also called psychological realism, is a work of prose fiction which places more than the usual amount of emphasis on inner experience, interior characterization, and on the motives, circumstances, an internal action which springs from, and develops, external action. The psychological novel is not content to state what happens but goes on to explain the why and the wherefore of this action. The study of human character demanded the examination of motives and causes rather than the making of moral judgments. To find the cause of action meant probing into the secrets of individual psychology. In this type of writing character and characterization are more than usually important, and they are considered by detractors as plotless. In some cases, the stream of consciousness technique, as well as interior monologues, may be employed to better illustrate the inner workings of the human mind. Flashbacks may also be featured.
The origins of the psychological novel can be traced as far back as Giovanni Boccaccio's 1344 La Fiammetta; that is before the term psychology was coined. Another avant la lettre example is Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605) by Miguel Cervantes.
In French literature, Stendhal's The Red and the Black (1830) is an early psychological novel; it was proceeded however, by the lesser-known Benjamin Constant's Adolphe (1816) and even earlier by Madame de La Fayette's The Princess of Cleves, dating back to the 17th century.