The Epistolary Novel and its relevance Today

The epistolary form has long been a way for the young adult narrator to communicate to the audience. It sets up an interesting dynamic between writer and reader and makes the narrators voice more authentic. At the same time it helps mask the irony that occurs when an adult author speaks in the voice of a teenager, ultimately setting up a power dynamic. Does epistolary help or hurt the way the reader perceives a text and its meanings?

  • Interesting topic. If someone were to pursue it, I think it would be important to emphasize (especially in the title) that the focus is almost exclusively on contemporary YA fiction, because the epistolary form as a whole exceeds that narrow scope. Bram Stoker's Dracula is an epistolary novel; Marilynne Robison's Gilead can be viewed as one as well; arguments can even be made that St. Paul's letters from the New Testament are epistolary novels. If your interest is in how adult authors write from a youth's perspective, it'd be wise to not reduce the entire form into that one box. Likewise, there are plenty of non-epistolary instances when adult authors write from a child's point-of-view. For example, I'm always baffled at how effortlessly GRRM is able to write one chapter about complex feudal politics from Ned's perspective, and then write a Bran chapter that feels so genuinely childlike. To Kill a Mockingbird is also a fine example, telling an adult story of young Scout's perspective. – ProtoCanon 5 years ago
  • Yes, I find it interesting that the focus is purely on YA. I thought that this was gong to be something about the lack of relevance as no-one writes letters anymore. I think if someone were to take this topic, it would have to be more clear in the title if it is going to be YA focused. – Francesca Turauskis 5 years ago
  • You assume an interesting perspective on this topic. When I think of epistolary novels, I immediately think of PAMELA, by Samuel Richardson, or DRACULA, by Bram Stoker, and EVELINA, by Fanny Burney. I guess this comes with having been a literature major, and studying the inception of the novel. Yet, the way in which you introduce this topic, I do now think of many contemporary YA novels written in this form, such as THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER,by Chobsky. As for the aspect of irony, I've never really considered this, as well as the masking you mentioned. I do know that with PAMELA, constant questioning as to her perspective on the actions of the novel were perplexing. She was just so naive and jumped from one contradictory emotion to the next. When the book is written in epistolary form, entirely based on ONE character's letters, the reliability of the "narrator," is constantly in question. As with Dracula, the varying voices provide different perspectives as well as a better key to understanding the dynamics of the other characters. Also, Dracula's format provides such an interesting temporal facet due to the reactions of letter writers occurring after events they're writing about have already occurred. Regarding whether or not the epistolary form disrupts the perception of a reader...I would say that lies in the hands of the author. Sincerity of voice and tone is essential in drawing the reader in and leading he/she to a place of trusting the character's recollection of events. Nice topic!! – danielle577 5 years ago

Want to write about Literature or other art forms?

Create writer account