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The Rise Of Realism

The Rise Of Realism

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Published by David Jones
An account of changing approaches to realism in literature, from the Victorian novel through modernism and surrealism, to hyper-reality, virtual reality and beyond.
An account of changing approaches to realism in literature, from the Victorian novel through modernism and surrealism, to hyper-reality, virtual reality and beyond.

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Published by: David Jones on Aug 17, 2009
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06/09/2013

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REALISM: From Victorianism To Virtual RealityIntroduction
Realism: "To represent reality as it really is"(Abrams'
Glossary Of Literary Terms
)This project describes shifting attitudes to the depiction of "the real world" inliterature. It takes the 1830s as its starting point and charts the development of severalcritical disciplines. The influence of the dominant media form of each age(newspapers, photos, film, the internet) is examined. Finally, the project investigatestheorists who feel that a "real world"
cannot 
be depicted through language.External links can be found in the bottom right hand corner of each page.
 
Victorian Realism
The Rise Of Realism
An unprecedented emphasis was placed on art representing "the real world" in Europeand America during the Nineteenth Century. For Catherine Belsey, who describes thisas
expressive-realism
, it was a fusion of the Aristotelian concept of art as mimesis(held through the Renaissance and Eighteenth Century) and Romantic conviction that poetry
expressed 
the perceptions and emotions of a somehow remarkable individual(1980, 7-8). Realism regards art that articulates fantasy objects of mental processes as
idealistic
and therefore inadequate. John Ruskin derided art that failed his keycriterion of "truth" (see "Pathetic Fallacy" in Abrams 1991).The rise of realism and the novel are intertwined. The length of the Victoriannovel allowed for a level of detail that was particularly conducive to realism, sorealism became its dominant form. Changes in literacy, the availability of books andconditions in which to read them (see "Books and their readers in Correa ed, 2000),not to mention the rise of the newspaper, provided a platform for art that was asinterested in
social commentary
as escapism. Realist novels like
Mary Barton
caneven be regarded as an early form of 
sociology
.[links: Victorian webhttp://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/victov.htmlMary Barton on Project Gutenberghttp://promo.net/cgi- promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=2153&full=yes&ftpsite=ftp://ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/guten berg/Gaskell Webhttp://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Gaskell.htmlAny Ruskin stuff http://www.brantwood.org.uk/JohnRuskin.htm
 
Key features of realist texts
Ian Watt defined some key features of realist texts, which form the basis of thisextended list:
1) A move away from Classical plots to the development of new ones
Plots are based around contemporary characters, situations and social issues,reflecting the Wordsworthian idea that stories surround us in our daily lives. In thePreface to
Mary Barton
Gaskell asks "how deep might be the romance in the lives of some of those who elbowed me daily in the busy streets of the town in which Iresided?" In the Preface to
 Bleak House
Dickens vows to dwell "upon the romanticside of familiar things". The plot of Hardy's
 A Pair of Blue Eyes
is based around thenew railway system, which also influenced Dickens and Eliot in
 Dombey & Son
and
Middlemarch
respectively.
2) Narratation According To Linear Chronology
Victorian realist novels often present the development of one character, often theeponym, from childhood to death.
3) Emphasises an authenticity of individual experience
Characters rarely belong to wide-social networks. They are often outsiders – orphansor governesses sent away from home.
4) The individual perceives reality through his/her own sensors
So a single character with whom the reader aligns his/her sympathies is essential.These characters are often eponyms, most famously in
 Adam Bede, Jane Eyre, Mary Barton
and
Madam Bovary
. A letter evaluating works offered for publication to thefirm Bentley in 1868 demonstrates how widespread this trend was, in titles such as
 Nelly Brooke, George Grey
and
Guy Lovell Carrington
(Correa ed 2000, 209). Thestrongest portrait of individual sensory experience can probably be attributed to thefirst person narratives of the Brons (see Appendix One). However, theiappropriation of several generic forms – gothic, fairy tale, romance – places themoutside realism. Realist texts, instead, often convey individual experience by shiftingthe third person narrative briefly into a character's
free indirect thought

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