Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
New User
ngdale27
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Novels that changed things

I am working on an article that will be about advocacy for social change which relies. ironically, on fiction for its "truths". For example, someone may cite a novel such as one of Louise Ehrdrich's when describing the trauma affecting many Native American communities.

 

In thinking about this I have been pondering the questions of how and how often do works of literary fiction really affect the course of human history (whether that be on a grand or more local scale). I would be most appreciative to hear what others think and, especially, to hear what novels or poems etc. have, in their view, had profound social impacts. I already would acknowledge that the stories of the Bible are perhaps the quintessential example of historical influence. Another that comes to my mind is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle which is generally thought to have impacted the regulation of meat packing in the USA.

 

What others deserve to be mentioned in a pantheon of such historically influential fictional works, and why?

Frequent Contributor
Jon_B
Posts: 1,893
Registered: ‎07-15-2008

Re: Novels that changed things

[ Edited ]

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is often cited as a novel that started the US Civil War.  Of course, the real causes of that war were very complex and are still debated by historians, but there's no question that the novel was powerfully influential in politics and culture of its day, especially in the context of advocacy for social change.

 

 

________________________________________

Need some help setting up your My B&N profile? Click here!

Looking for a particular book, but can't remember the title or author? Ask about it here!
Correspondent
Rosei
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

Another example of social change is marked with The Grapes of the Wrath, by John Steinbeck. I think this is a very important novel, as naturalist as The Jungle, that made US nation think about workers' conditions and their families' survival during the 1929 crisis.

 

 

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Paul_Hochman
Posts: 2,801
Registered: ‎03-23-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

Stephen Crane's "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets", coupled with Lincoln Steffans' nonfiction, certainly aided the urban reform movement in this country.

Correspondent
Permacav50
Posts: 71
Registered: ‎06-26-2009

1984

1984  How often have we all heard the term Big Brother? With modern technology near surpassing science fiction in some areas it's pretty plausible these days.

 

Not to mention politically correct speech reminds me an awful lot of newspeak. Remember, it's thoughtcrime to speak a term that is not in the newest edition of newspeak.

 

Better yet the doublethink, the way some things like sexism and racism are interpreted often times in this day and age are a perfect example.

 

 

 

This is all a work of fiction yet many parts of it found it's way into society whether people realize it or not. Funny how life imitates art sometimes. :smileyhappy:

 

New User
shac1968
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎10-25-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

Go Ask Alice;  Helter Skelter;  To Kill a Mockingbird; Peyton Place; Lolita; In Cold Blood; Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance;  origin of species (darwin)  all for very different reasons

RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
Registered: ‎08-19-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

 


PaulH wrote:

Stephen Crane's "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets", coupled with Lincoln Steffans' nonfiction, certainly aided the urban reform movement in this country.


And Emile Zola was doing similarly in France around the same time.  Undoubtedly his most politically influential work, J’accuse, was non-fiction; but his fiction was also a presence.  Also at this time, working within Romanticism, Victor Hugo was fictionalizing social injustice.

 

Walt Whitman is essentially the poetic embodiment of American democracy.  He was also influential for the beatnik generation writers—Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs—who had their own type of social influence.

 

Athol Fugard’s political plays helped to combat apartheid in South Africa. 

 

Joseph Conrad’s fiction illustrated the grisly workings of the British and French Empires in Africa.  I don’t know how influential his work was at the time, but Heart of Darkness, coupled with Chinua Achebe’s essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,”  continues to propel stimulating discussions on race.

 

And, of course, Bertolt Brecht’s epic form was consciously developed as a form of social expression.  Actually, you might also find Brecht’s non-fiction writing useful if you’re still working out the framework of what you mean by art acting as an “advocacy for social change.”  Brecht consciously developed a personal aesthetic directly aimed at that goal, and was thoughtful enough to put his process into essay form.  Anyway, the exercise may assist in your own exploration of the idea. 

 

You also have the writers from the Harlem Renaissance, who, in addition to helping lay the foundation for the Civil Rights movement, influenced writers like August Wilson who continue to challenge America’s race issues.

 

Oh, duh, of course there’s Voltaire’s Candide.  Admittedly the non-fiction coming from the Enlightenment was probably more influential.  But Candide certainly had a place.

 

Frequent Contributor
Jon_B
Posts: 1,893
Registered: ‎07-15-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

 


RTA wrote:

And Emile Zola was doing similarly in France around the same time.  Undoubtedly his most politically influential work, J’accuse, was non-fiction; but his fiction was also a presence.


 

 

Yes I'd say Germinal especially was poltically influential out of all of his fiction.  And on top of that, it's a great read.

 

 

________________________________________

Need some help setting up your My B&N profile? Click here!

Looking for a particular book, but can't remember the title or author? Ask about it here!
Blogger
L_Monty
Posts: 900
Registered: ‎12-30-2008
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

Gore Vidal's Burr helped to popularize then-recent scholarship on the civil rights transgressions of Thomas Jefferson and probably accelerated the scholarship on it by years, if not decades.

 

Although Dickens himself never provided political alternatives for the problems he saw, books like Oliver Twist popularized an understanding of just how ad hoc and corruptible the mostly private relief systems of the 19th century were.

 

Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands literally changed British naval and general staff planning policy vis-a-vis Germany prior to the First World War.

 

Finally, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest probably did more to turn the general public against electro-shock therapy and lobotomization than anything.

 


Permacav50 wrote:
Not to mention politically correct speech reminds me an awful lot of newspeak.

Maybe you should read the book again.

Contributor
PhilsFolly
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎03-24-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

All Quiet on the Western Front should be on the list.  As an anti-war novel, its message is as moving and relevant today as it was in the decades following the Great War.  The technology of war changes, but human nature does not.

Contributor
PhilsFolly
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎03-24-2009
0 Kudos

Re: Novels that changed things

Sorry, I neglected to finish my original thought.  As an anti-war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front was widely read in Europe and the United States and helped to give a voice to the memories and emotions of many of the veterans.  The pacifism which was prevalent in both the British and French governments following World War I did affect decisions made during the 1920s and 1930s.  While the novel did not directly shape governmental policy, it did serve as a reminder of the horror of war.

 

The novel also inspired later writers, such as Joseph Heller.  His Catch 22, while set in World War II, became the anti-war novel of the Vietnam era and gave a voice to those in opposition to that conflict.

Contributor
PhilsFolly
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎03-24-2009

Re: Novels that changed things

The irony of Sinclair's novel is that it did not achieve what he hoped it would.  As a socialist, he wanted his readers to sympathize with the horrendous working and living conditions he so vividly described in his fictional factory and fictional city.  The majority of American readers at that time were members of the middle class, who, like President Teddy Roosevelt, were more concerned with the descriptions of what went in to their canned meat than they were with the plight of the novel's characters (as they represented the American working class). The passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act did impact the meat-packing industry and the American diet, but Sinclair had hoped for legislation that would improve working and living conditions. In this, he was disappointed.