Modern but old fiction - the novel - was originally all first-person. It began as genuine letters, and developed into epistolary novels and diary novels*. These in turn gave rise to stories in which the putative letter-writer or diarist was mostly telling a story that they weren't involved in, which then gave us stories in which we have a third-person narrator without an explicit frame story but where there narrator is an opinionated, well-rounded character in their own right - as though we were listening to some guy telling the story he'd heard, only we missed the bit where he introduced himself - and generally omniscient (as though he'd learnt all the facts already). These forms competed for a while (eg epistolary Pamela vs third-person Tom Jones), but the omniscient narrator won out. Then, over time, the narrator became less and less of a character and more and more fixed to a single protagonist. In reaction, I think the beginning of the 20th century saw a brief resurgence of 1st persons and frame stories (eg Conrad's stories are usually told through multiple layers of framing).alynnidalar wrote: ↑Mon 21 May 2018, 20:41@Sal - Ha, well, like I said, I was just making up those theories as I went along. Upon reflection, I agree that I was off-base. I'm not even certain I'm convinced about my theory that first person is more "modern" anymore; the more I think about it, the more 19th century novels I can think of in the first person.
Although, I dunno. Maybe I'm not looking back far enough. Isn't older literature mostly third person? (older than 200 or 300 years, that is) The 1800s isn't all that long ago, in terms of fiction-writing.
1st person, or 3rd framed by 1st, have always been more common in genre fiction, to maintain credibility. Ghost stories, for instance, have always tended to have a 1st person element ("no, really, it's true, i was there!").
Even older fiction? I think European epic poetry typically used a frame story of a poet (which in some cases was the REAL story of the poet!), sometimes very minimal (hark to the tale I learnt from my father!) or sometimes very extensive (going into details about where they heard the story, what they thought about it, etc), and then had the main story third-person. The narrators tended to be more opinionated than modern ones (lots of moral judgement and sometimes digressions) but maybe less opinionated than in the 18th/19th century heyday (less impression of the narrator as a character in their own right, outside of the frame).
*and this gave us one of the most extreme forms of 1st person: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.