Literary conventions are stylistic markers, literary techniques and devices, and aesthetic effects which function as the rules whereby a text is constructed and received.
The conventions of literary realism serve the following functions :
I should note that the modes of naturalism and magical realism significantly deviate from the standard of literary realism in regards to conventions.
The general stylistic conventions of literary realism may be identified as following :
In literary realism, all subject-matter is valid subject-matter to be treated seriously in a literary context. This is a reliable convention which reflects the understanding that all things are beautiful and the focus of art.
Characterized by a resistance to the overtly lyrical, dramatic, tragic and comical, or a mix of styles which combines both high and low, sublime and vulgar, tragic and comic, etc. into an array where none are predominant. This is a reliable convention which reflects the understanding that the inclusion of or focus on the ideal, extreme or simplistic does not adequately represent reality.
It may also express itself as :
Characters are frequently at the centre of literary realist works, but may also form the background of a more generalized theme or context. The preference is often for so-called typical characters, i.e. not great figures of history or exceptional personalities, such as "Madame Bovary". Virginia Woolf advocates the use of relate-able and recognizable characters, that they may better serve as a conduit for understanding a greater context (Brown 325-326). However, while characters may be unexceptional this does not mean they cannot be remarkable or fascinating.
Social Background and Tapestry
Offers a broad portrayal and experience of life covering many social layers and historical, cultural and social circumstances, representing the complexities of individual existence and human society and the correlation between society, cultural ideas and individuals and their relations.
A referent may be almost anything in a text. Referents need not be single, but may constitute chains of referents. The most notable use of referents in literary realism is to place the text in relation to reality. This may be done by means of a wide range of devices, such as :
The absence or withdrawal of the author from the text in the form of personal feeling, bias or opinion or manipulation of facts and/or potential interpretation by the reader. The author offers no commentary or interpretation of the events, circumstances or characters presented in the text, and assumes that the reader draws his or her own conclusions.
This convention may reflect either the belief that the facts may stand and speak for themselves and that their meaning is apparent, or the attitude that the intervention by the author constitutes a limitation on the reception of meaning. Gustave Flaubert argues that impersonality and objectivity on the part of the author lends to the appearance of the real (Flaubert 94), by allowing the reader form his or her own meaning.
Characterized by causality, i.e. the principle that existence is subject to the system of cause and effect, continuity and chronology, emulating the “natural” flow of existence. However, generally speaking, from the modernist period and onward, these characteristics lose distinction.
The principle of causality frequently denies the occurrence of extreme coincidences or fantastic events, reflecting the resistance to the extreme and/or the presumption that reality is subject to verifiable, quantifiable rules.
A marked tendency to resisting 'sentimentality and gigantism' (Becker 30), happy endings and redemption, reflecting the resistance to the extreme or the ideal. In many ways, the plot in literary realist fiction assumes a secondary role to subject-matter, social background, style and characterization.