Picaresque Novels Quiz

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What is a picaresque novel?

A genre of prose fiction featuring roguish but appealing heroes who live by their wits in a corrupt society.

When and where did the picaresque novel originate?

Imperial Rome during the 1st-2nd century CE.

What is the name of the protagonist in the first picaresque novel?

Lazarillo de Tormes

What literary devices are typically used in picaresque novels?

Black humor, satire, and social criticism.

What is the English-language term 'picaresque' commonly used to refer to?

A literary technique or model.

What is a common theme in picaresque novels?

A charmingly roguish ascent in the social order.

Which of the following is a contemporary novel that features picaresque elements?

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

Which of the following is a classic Chinese novel that is considered to have considerable picaresque elements?

Journey to the West

What is a common trait of the protagonists in picaresque novels?

They are anti-heroes who are outsiders by nature.

Study Notes

The picaresque novel is a genre of prose fiction featuring roguish but appealing heroes who live by their wits in a corrupt society. The genre typically adopts a realistic style and has elements of comedy and satire. The term "picaresque novel" was coined in 1810, but the genre originated in Imperial Rome during the 1st-2nd century CE. The picaresque novel saw a revival in Spain during the Spanish Golden Age in 1554. The protagonist of the first picaresque novel, Lazarillo de Tormes, lives by his wits in an impoverished country full of hypocrisy. Other notable picaresque novels include Guzmán de Alfarache and El Buscón. The genre was revived throughout Europe for more than 200 years for the first time since the Roman period. The classic Chinese novel Journey to the West is considered to have considerable picaresque elements. In the English-speaking world, the term "picaresque" has referred more to a literary technique or model than to the precise genre that the Spanish call picaresco. The English-language term can simply refer to an episodic recounting of the adventures of an anti-hero on the road.Picaresque Novels: Examples and Influences

  • Picaresque novels are a genre of prose fiction that originated in Spain in the sixteenth century and features a roguish protagonist who lives by their wits to survive.
  • The genre often includes elements of satire, social criticism, and humor, and typically follows the protagonist on a journey of personal growth and self-discovery.
  • Examples of picaresque novels include "Confessions of Felix Krull" by Thomas Mann, "Under the Net" by Iris Murdoch, "The Tin Drum" by Günter Grass, and "The Sot-Weed Factor" by John Barth.
  • Other notable examples include "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski, "The Year of the Hare" by Arto Paasilinna, and "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole.
  • Picaresque novels have also influenced other works of literature, such as "The Good Soldier Švejk" by Jaroslav Hašek and "The Good Companions" by J. B. Priestley.
  • The genre has also been adapted into other forms of media, such as the Italian comedy film "I picari," the Spanish television series "El ministerio del tiempo," and the video game "Persona 5."
  • William S. Burroughs was a devoted fan of picaresque novels and gave a series of lectures on the topic in 1979 at Naropa University in Colorado.
  • In contemporary Latin American narrative, notable examples of picaresque novels include "Hijo de ladrón" by Manuel Rojas, "El roto" by Joaquín Edwards, and "Las aventuras, desventuras y sueños de Adonis García, el vampiro de la colonia Roma" by Luis Zapata.
  • The genre often features anti-heroes who are outsiders by nature and use humor to navigate their way through society.
  • Picaresque novels often emphasize the theme of a charmingly roguish ascent in the social order.
  • The genre typically includes literary devices such as black humor, satire, and social criticism.
  • "Persona 5" is a video game heavily inspired by picaresque fiction, featuring many picaresque elements including depictions of other characters and similar themes.
  • "The Good Thief" by Hannah Tinti is a contemporary novel that features picaresque elements and follows a young, one-handed orphan who craves a family and finds one in a group of rogues and misfits.

Do you enjoy reading about roguish anti-heroes living by their wits in a corrupt society? If so, you may be familiar with the genre of picaresque novels! Take this quiz to test your knowledge of the history and examples of this genre, from its origins in Imperial Rome to its influence on contemporary literature and media. See how much you know about famous picaresque protagonists and their adventures, as well as the literary techniques and themes commonly found in this genre. Get

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