Critical Approaches

'What is this "Life" that keeps on cropping up so mysteriously and so complacently in books about fiction? Why is it absent in a pattern and present in a tea party?'

Woolf, Virginia. 'The Art of Fiction'. Collected Essays, vol. 2, Hogarth Press, p. 53.
This section provides a brief description of some of the critical approaches applicable to literary realism. The approaches do not necessarily exclude one another, e.g. the general approach as expressed by this website incorporates both formalism, as well as aesthetics and postmodern, post-structural and reader-response theory. The most rewarding method is often to combine different forms of criticism; a single approach will likely focus on certain aspects of a text and/or is characterised by particular perceptions or expectations, which means that in order to acquire a broader understanding, like the attitudes of literary realism, one is best served with a combination of perspectives. That said, a singular approach can sometimes reveal particulars that might otherwise be overlooked in a wider, combined approach.

The critical approaches I have chosen to include are formalism, reader-response theory, aesthetics, Marxist, post-structural and postmodern criticism. In conjunction with the last two, I have also included a brief description of contemporary anti-realism.

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Table of Contents


Difficulties of a Definition

Terminology and Aesthetics
- What is in a Word?
- the Real and the Realistic
- Reality and Fiction

a History of Literary Realism
- Introduction
- Early Literary Realism
- Late Literary Realism

What is Literary Realism?
- Approximating a Definition
- Attitudes
- Conventions

Critical Approaches
- Introduction
- Formalism
- Reader Response Theory
- Aesthetics
- Marxist Criticism
- Post-Structural Criticism
- Postmodern Criticism
- Postmodern Anti-Realism

Practical Appreciation
- Madame Bovary
- Everything is Illuminated

Study Proposals




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