To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume II: Pathways through realism
Edited by Svend Erik Larsen, Steen Bille Jørgensen and Margaret R. Higonnet
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXIII] 2022
► pp. 405–421
Realism and allegory
Balzac, Dickens and James
Through Honoré de Balzac’s La Peau de chagrin (1831), Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop (1840–1841), and Henry James’s The Golden Bowl (1904), I examine writing which finds that it must supplement a predominantly referential realism which many realist writers are committed to. Realism seems deficient to convey a sense of spectrality of the material and social world of people and objects, a combination of fascination and unease which nonetheless haunts the most empirical of forms of writing, and which attracts Balzac, Dickens, and James. Three of their works are chosen here for the common motif of the shop full of bric-à-brac and old curiosities, which themselves have a talismanic, or ghostly influencing effect. These ‘things,’ as the writers discuss themselves, are spectral in being fetishes, partaking of the nineteenth-century sense of the commodity, which Walter Benjamin discusses, following Karl Marx.
Keywords: realism, physiognomy, spectrality, automata, allegory, phantasmagorias, commodity-fetishism
- 2.Balzac: The Wild Ass’s Skin
- 3.Dickens: The Old Curiosity Shop
- 4.James: The Golden Bowl
- 5.Realism and the unknown
Published online: 16 March 2022
Balzac, Honoré de
Kendrick, Walter M.
Kerr, David S.
Storey, Graham and K. J. Fielding