Manual The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Realisms

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As an element in literature, realism, in its methods and attitudes, could be said to start with the works of such authors as Geoffrey Chaucer and Daniel Defoe Baldick Furthermore, one of the well-known realistic writers in American literature Richard Chase gives a list of some crucial characteristics of traditional realism in the American novel.

Even at the expense of a well-made plot, there must be a selective presentation of reality with an emphasis on verisimilitude. And also characters are more important than action and plot while the subjects are mostly complex ethical choices.

Realism - Examples and Definition of Realism

Characters in 19th realism, resembling real people, also, live in a place that could be real and the conflicts or problems they experience could occur in real life. On the other hand, events in traditionally realist novels are usually plausible, and author avoids dramatic and sensational elements. There are no extreme and unrealistic events happening. The events are similar to the events any reader can encounter in his or her life. The words are easy to understand and there are not many metaphors to make the plot confusing. In fact, it is a contradiction in terms, and what we call realism is often the pretension to realism, the pseudo-realism, which characterizes all literature to some extent In spite of this wide variety of forms in itself, realism has always been the surface in which real life experiences were significant.

Since power of experience has been one of the serious sources of authorization for realism, it has never lost its crucial place in literature.

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It is true that readers are attracted to read this truthful and relevant version of experience in literary texts. They mostly prefer the texts that they can easily believe in and find themselves in the plots of these texts. Because there is always a promise of representation that is never fulfilled, this curiosity will never die. From traditional realism to new realism the significance of experience and its power have not diminished but intensified.

Experience connects the individual with a world underlying laws are thus revealed. It is experience that eventually tells characters such as Silas Lapham, Huck Finn, or Isabel Archer, often in programmatic contrast to their cultural training, what is right or wrong, true or false. Experience can therefore also become the main source for determining, what is important and representative qtd in Versluys While experience helped what is to represent and what is important, in a realist text it also provided the lasting alacrity.

In realist text from 19th century realism to new realism neo realism experience has always been one of the most important distinctions. With this inheritance from 19th century realism, new realism has also used the advantage of having modernism and postmodernism after this tradition in order to have a scope and definition.


Most of the fundamental elements that form 19th century realism are kept in new realism frame but there is also modernism and postmodernism influence on it. Postmodernism and Its Contributions to New Realism On the other hand, the twentieth century witnessed a close connection between the movements of modernism, post-modernism and realism, where distinctions blurred. After the nineteenth century literary movements, modernism and post-modernism lived their golden eras in the twentieth century. Especially after World War II, literature was influenced by the social and political events of the postwar years.

Both modernism and post-modernism have always been confused with new realistic movement despite their distinct places in literature. Postmodernism as a new movement in literature came alive especially in the early s. Ongoing lifetime experiences were put out of the themes of postmodernism by the authors. Postmodernist authors did not want to repeat the crisis that modernism lived. They led themselves into safer areas.

Bradbury also disagrees with the idea that the literary and artistic history of the twentieth century could be written in only two large strokes: modernism and post-modernism. This history of realism also includes various disputes about its veracity, its philosophical possibility, and its relevance. This assertion was also an objection to the acceptance of postmodernism as the major movement in the twentieth century.

Bradbury stresses that postmodernism is not far away from realism, and eventually, the works of postmodernism and the works of other major movements in the mid-century were influenced by realism. Here he draws a literary universe of the twentieth century that could contain multiple movements but this universe does not include realism. In contrast to these assertions, some commentators have announced the demise of postmodernism.

Wolfe also supposes that the implicit contract between author and reader is broken intentionally in the postmodern novel. Instead, Wolfe wants to write prose and return to the social reality. Hence, Wolfe harbingers the birth of new realism after postmodernist movement. He unveils the necessity of the return to realism in terms of renewing and re-commenting on it. In addition to this fact, realism in twentieth century literature assumed the new form and new understanding of new realism with all the characteristics mentioned above.

It has become the medium of new voices in its new form Shechner qtd in Versluys Humanity has to be mentioned in these circumstances inevitably. New realistic fiction appears not completely different from the realistic fiction but it differs with more emphasized human characteristics and other new heritage of postmodernism. Shechner believes that in the last decade of the twentieth century American realism started flowering in some particular names.

So, he sees the rise of new realism as the revelation of the already existent at the backstage. They are the representatives of the era of realism in American literature. Furthermore, by comparing and contrasting new realism to post modernism Novikov expresses where new realism stands. He also reveals the weak points that he thinks postmodernism has: The new realism is, of course, not a new phenomenon.

It continues the tradition of all preceding varieties of realism, beginning with socialist realism and ending with magical realism. One would like to think that it has also absorbed the hard-earned experience of postmodernism, though without excessive fascination for the formal structures of abstract meanings, which lead off into the desert, away from living, colorful, juicy, painful, unpredictable life 66 On the other hand, there have always been comments that are against the understanding of new realism in literature and for the traditional way of realism instead.

Since Balzac, one of the first well- known representatives of realism in literature, the concern of realism has been extending the limits of subject-matter relationship. But this is also evaluated as a misapprehension because this understanding of realism new realism is not adequate to employ the previous traditional features of realism: using details with careful observation and skillful accumulation. Finally, new realism becomes a debatable genre that is argued in terms of lack of vivid settings and complex characters Segel 1.

New Realism The quest for genuine realism in literature is never-ending, and has frequently led authors to revisit the concept. At first the term was used to refer to a movement in the art world, but later it was extended to philosophy and then literature.

In order to understand the place of new realism within the wider scope of realism in literature, various definitions of new realism will be examined. An understanding of post-modernism is essential in any attempt to define new realism. They have played with the semantic features while they let words oscillate between numerous cutting edges. So new realism becomes the literature that utilizes what it inherits from postmodernism while it is still bounded by traditional realistic characteristics.

Philip Roth in Operation Shylock gives numerous examples of this constituent of new realistic fiction. At the beginning of the novel, he begins with introducing the plot and announces his main characters.

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His protagonist Philip Roth finds himself delusional amid his hallucinations. Despite the speed with which I recovered my mental, then my emotional equilibrium and looked to be ordering daily life as competently as I ever had before, I privately remained half-convinced that, though the drug perhaps intensified my collapse, it was I who had made the worst happen, after having been derailed by nothing more cataclysmic than a botched knee operation and a siege of protracted physical pain; half-convinced that I owed my transformation —my deformation—not to any pharmaceutical agent but to something concealed, obscured, masked, suppressed, or maybe simply uncreated in me until I was fifty-four but as much me and mine as my prose style, my childhood, or my intestines..

Besides the impact of post-modernism on new realism, new realism has been influenced by realism. Realism itself has been a system of rhetorical strategies by which it has claimed a special authority in literature.

The Nineteenth-Century Novel: Realisms - eBook

Also new realism simply mirrors reality while offering a new version of it, a version that contains certain assumptions about the nature of the real and knowledge of the real. As experimental world changes, these assumptions change. Literary history has consequently witnessed different realisms with their own changing forms and functions, Fluck qtd in Versluys One of these changing forms is new realism which inherited a lot from traditional realism and was influenced by postmodernism.

For instance, there is a distinction between the role of the author in postmodernism and the role of author in new realism. Within the contours of an ordinary world the author of the new realistic fiction has to implant something extraordinary, avoiding thinness of texture In addition to real life experience depicted in a text, new realist writer should also add unusual — but still plausible — components to have a new realistic text.

The state of appearing to be trustworthy and appearance of truth are challenging elements to employ in literature but they make it more exciting. However, what Versluys offers also expands the original contours of reality and adds some uncommon elements into the structure of the literary text. In Operation Shylock Roth does this as if he is following all these rules and employs them into text ardently.

At the beginning of the book he creates the idea that the protagonist Philip Roth has the same characteristics with Philip Roth, the real author who is out of the book.

see He gives certain details to the readers that they can easily confirm by reading his biography. He uses the double character to ascertain that the protagonist is identically him.