To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume I: Mapping realism
Edited by Dirk Göttsche, Rosa Mucignat and Robert Weninger
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXII] 2021
► pp. 31–64
What is realism?
Ideas and debates
This chapter outlines – selectively and strategically – major frameworks in which problems of reflection, truthfulness, verisimilitude, and realism have been discussed from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century. Some of these frameworks (especially since the 1930s) have been purposefully developed as theories of realism, others have been cultivated, predominantly by writers, journalists, and critics, in a much richer and more porous discursive environment, in which the impulses of theory cannot be disentangled from the maelstrom of actual literary practices. Part One focuses on Georg Lukács, for it is in his work, and the attendant debates and disagreements, that an entire constellation of questions around realism is first compellingly formulated. In Part Two we continue this discussion but shift the focus to earlier discourses on realism, from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, and, crucially, such that would testify to the ‘impurity’ of theory, to its birth and subsequent existence in the fold of imbricated, at times even competing, live literary practices. Finally, Part Three reflects on the relationship between realism and older and contemporaneous alternatives.
Keywords: Marxist theory, realism, Georg Lukács, genre, society, history, high literature, popular literature, realist effects, moral psychology
- 1.Form and truth: Reconsidering Lukács’s theory of realism in the context of other theories of realism
- 2.The tasks of realism, or the confluence and divergence of artistic practice and
- 2.1Verisimilitude and genre
- 2.2Who are we? Community and culture
- 2.3How to understand the world in which we live
- 2.4Does literature follow the path of history?
- 2.5How ugly, how immoral is the real?
- 2.6High art and popular literature
- 3.The versatility of realism
- 3.1Realism in touch with its neighbors
- 3.2Surface and depth
Published online: 21 April 2021
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